Today, more than at any other time, the pressure to produce distinctive work that conveys a message in a compelling way is extreme. And that’s not all—graphic design has gotten bigger. The design profession has broadened as the boundaries between creative disciplines have blurred. For most graphic designers, the computer has become their primary tool, but they also share the desire to break away from the limitations inherent in software programs. The internet and technology have advanced graphic design, and at that same time they have also sped up the stylistic obsolescence of design solutions – what appears cutting edge one year is old hat the next.
In the past fifteen years, graphic design has evolved from a primarily static medium—books, posters, brochures, display advertisements, etc—to one that is increasingly about virtual movement and playful interaction through screen-based graphic user interfaces. This doesn’t mean that print is dead. Technology has made book design and publishing easier, cheaper, faster, and in some cases better than ever before, hence the proliferation of short-run publications showcasing the work of independent writers, photographers and designers—like this one.
In the future, design will continue to become more fragmented and specialized. Early in their careers, designers will need to determine an area of specialization. On one hand, this means that designers will find it increasingly difficult to work across disciplines. On the other hand, this development opens up more possibilities for collaborations.
As I reflect on the themes of graphic design over my career —the hype of the information super highway, the blind embrace of technology, a bigger is better attitude, the demise of practicality, the chase of the next big thing, the battle between artificial and human intelligence — I hold to a rather romantic vision of the future and a return to classical design virtues: to ideas, methodology, creative imagination, skilled craftsmanship, aesthetics, human awareness, social responsibility, and critical thinking.
After forty years of professional practice, I look forward to what’s next. The challenges and opportunities have never been greater. How I worked in the beginning of my career shows little resemblance to how I work now, or how I will work in the future. Of course, the changes that have so dramatically impacted the design profession are not unique – all businesses have experienced change. Change is inevitable, and in business, if you can’t embrace change, you die. I prescribe to the belief that meeting life’s challenges head-on leads to the greatest rewards, and that problem solving is not a restrictive act, but a liberating one. There is nothing like having the freedom to create the future.