Monday, July 04, 2011

Factors Influencing the Direction of Graphic Design

Photo courtesy of jeltovski of

As stated in the latest Graphic Design USA magazine, Kevin Budelmann, the new president of the Association for Professional Design Firms (as well as a partner in Peopledesign), is calling for a unified message on the future of design from the likes of AIGA, DMI, IDSA, IxDA, GDC, RGD, SEGD and his own APDF. Budelmann states: “As the organization’s new president, I plan to deepen the APDF focus on design entrepreneurship. I plan to extend our collaborations with other leading design associations, and help define a future path for the design profession.” He believes, since these organizations share a common core philosophy, greater convergence is in their mutual best interest in a multidisciplinary world, and unity can only help to elevate design.

This got me thinking. What are some major factors that are influencing the direction of graphic design, to which design organizations really need to tackle. I've identified at least 3 major trends that need addressing.

Lowering barrier of entry

The computer is a great tool. But too many people mistake this tool for being the impetus for great design. Therefore employers, clients, and even entry-level designers associate graphic design with a dependence on software.

This creates an atmosphere of lowered value because design becomes an issue of software knowledge rather than experience, intelligence, and creative thought. So, anyone — whether talented or not — can learn software, therefore anyone can be a designer. Just pony up the money for software and training or just use pirated software and you are good to go.

I'm not making the claim that today's designers don't need software. But, rather, good designers are aware that software is not responsible for the effectiveness and aesthetic value of good design. Design is the combination of good communication, skill, and creative thought.

Global competition and economics

Crowdsourcing sites are popping up everywhere, like acne on a teenager's face. The reason, is that it's a successful model for building revenue — for the site owners. Because of economic stress, the computer, and the internet, designers from all over the world with different political and economic restrictions can now compete against each other. And competition based on price is the new black for many companies looking to save money.

But the problem is that graphic design becomes a commodity which can be bought, sold, or traded for food. And if not understood, can become a money-loosing proposition. But when it's understood, graphic design is more like a thought capital investment.

However, it does seem that low-cost design (other than you get what you pay for) is becoming a niche, rather than a definer of the graphic design field. But that remains to be seen.

Changing culture

Cultures are becoming more blended. There is an unprecedented access to diverse nations, cultures, and peoples due to the internet. I know for me, less than 20 years ago, my conversations about design were very limited to family, neighbors, and friends. And most of them would give me a blank stare. But now I've been in discussions with people in different lands all over the world, who actually get what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, designers who design for other lands are finding out that cultural nuances and barriers affect how they need to design. And this is something to consider when a company decides to do crowdsource design.

Where all this leads, I don't know. But it will be an interesting ride. And design organizations would do well to help designers strategize, and elevate the field of design while they're at it.

1 comment:

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