Understanding new technologies for graphic designers could mean their job

May 7, 2013


Personal growth

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The title of this post sums up what many creatives today are feeling–their careers are being challenged by the unrealistic pace of technology and the ability to keep up. Having worked in the advertising industry for 18 years, I graduated college with a BFA majoring in graphic design. At that time, Apple was becoming the industry standard for designers and Adobe was just getting started as the go-to software company. My classmates and I were learning the very first versions of Photoshop, Illustrator and, Quark Express (not an Adobe product), because InDesign didn’t exist and its predecessor, Pagemaker, was a weak competitor. To give today’s designers a clue of what I’m talking about, Photoshop hadn’t even introduced layers yet.

Skip forward 10 years, 2005, the iPhone still had two more years before it’s introduction and websites were still considered untraditional media. Everything was mostly print and a designer’s life was moving at realistic pace. Learning new trends and adapting to software changes are part of a graphic designer’s job. However, today’s changing pace has tripled since the two generations prior. What use to take 10 years to radically change the industry and advertising media platforms, now takes 2-3 years.

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Since the introduction of the iPhone and it’s multi-touch screen, 6 years ago, and the iPad, 3 years ago this April, we have seen a dramatic shift in how consumers access information and how they engage with advertising. Terms like engagement strategies, mobile, interactive and integration now fill the brainstorming rooms of many ad agencies and now even classrooms within college environments.

So what does all this mean? What’s my point? Because what I’m saying isn’t news to anyone. And mostly to those I’m addressing–graphic designers, art directors and creatives alike. Well, it means that we are going to start seeing people infiltrate our industry that may not have had that much experience nor traditional training. However, they are use to the pace of change and will typically be more comfortable with the technology as a user. Their expectation of an ever changing world will be more aligned with the pace of the industry. Watch out old schoolers!

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Key take aways:

1. Be honest about your current capabilities. Are they up to par? Or better, are they above par?

2. Make a plan to adjust your capabilities based on your honest answer to the above question. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Set goals that will help you accomplish your new growth.

3. Create a list of possible scenarios that will help to accomplish meeting these goals. For example:

     a. Workshops, seminars, conventions, or summits

     b. Online/offline learning – tutorials, textbooks, etc.

     c. Take some night classes at a local art college that will help you be more marketable (this might be dependent upon where your honest answer lies to your current capabilities.

4. Take the necessary steps (commit) to personally growing yourself to reach your desired goals.

5. Repeat steps 1-4. Let’s face it, this is your career and it will require ongoing personal growth. It will continue at a faster pace and will increase in the future.

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As the Graphic Design Coordinator of a local art college here in Nashville, Nossi College of Art, I am very aware of these changes and the challenge to not only change curriculum to meet the industry demands, but to find quality instructors who are capable of teaching our students. Even accreditation standards are having to reinvent how they look at qualified professors/instructors coming into the education system.

When I attended college in the early 90’s, the only real focus was creativity. I didn’t have many instructional courses that centered on learning technology. Today, there are just as many instruction courses within our curriculum as there are courses that utilize learning towards application and strategic execution. Of course, there will always be, and for good reason, the fundamentals of design, color, composition, and the history of art to be reckoned with as a young creative student. However, today’s graduating credit hours are packed with technical learning that almost trumps creativity. Creativity will always be the priority of the college in which I am an educator. The day this becomes obsolete will be the day I resign as a teacher of design. And I think I share this concern with many others in the education business.

So, what’s the good news? It’s that we now have an array of new opportunities to be clever, consistent and transparent (real) in design thinking and communicating a brand’s message in unique ways. Grass roots is being replaced with gorilla and multi-media is being replaced with media channels or integrated campaigns. And a campaign’s length is now much shorter and its name is being replaced with words like experiment and beta testing.

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This is very exciting times for creatives. Students are now teaching instructors new ways of interacting with the technology they have been using since childhood. Which makes for some very engaging classroom learning situations where students feel it’s less of a structured learning environment then a shared learning experience based on relevance. To think that my 3 year old grandson will probably never play a CD or DVD and will never use a “land line” telephone are becoming real. Wait, did I say, “land line”? Replace that with keyboard.

As a designer, being challenged at a faster rate falls in line with what should be our motivation for new thinking and adaptability to what gets us excited–the changing ways to create and communicate. This does come with a price. However, the name of it isn’t anything new. It’s called personal growth. How we define this term is however new. Personal growth may have been something you did occasionally within your workweek. And to some, this is still something they don’t do or, unfortunately, their company doesn’t aspire to. Today, personal growth will become a much more robust ingredient to business culture. Workshops, seminars, conventions, which are seeing huge industry growth, and, yes, even going back to school, will be the new standard.

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At Nossi College of Art, we introduced one of the first Interactive Graphic Design programs as a two year associates degree. And if you are a returning student, you already have a degree in this field of study and you can apply existing credit hours to fundamental learning, you can earn that degree in less time. We are seeing adult professionals coming back to school to invest in their careers either on their own or with the encouragement by their current company. With flexible night courses they don’t even have to leave their current employer. We even allow our alumni to return and retake courses with new technical learning for FREE! The college also invests in other shorter term commitments, like a new 6 week social media sympossium offered this spring to the Nashville community. Including well known industry leading professional speakers each week.

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It is exciting times we live in. Fear can kill any new endeavor, especially a creative one. The key is wether you are continually investing in your personal growth as a designer with the pace of the industry, which is totally based on the increased speed of technology that consumers are engageing. Don’t get left behind. Your talents are still valuable. How you use them, based on new technologies, will be the new standard.

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7 Responses to “Understanding new technologies for graphic designers could mean their job”

  1. LJ Says:

    Interesting article. My brother teaches a lot of new technology at the college he works for and has to learn the newest versions so he can teach them. He’s 64 and has to constantly update his skills to pass them on to the students. 3D design is becoming more commonplace as well. We have the same timeline but I don’t have the degree to go with it Bruce.

    The demands for learning on your own are very high if one wants to keep pace, but the costs for the newest version of the latest software can be prohibitive for some. I took on a new client creating houses and landscaping for swimming pool design and had to learn a lot fast, but the rewards are trickling in.

    Fun work, and I get to recreate a client’s property to show the pool in their interactive environment. Great sales tool and it can be a challenge to make some of the elements of the houses the software is limited in executing well. I learned a lot of 3D design by experimenting with Google Sketchup, free and fun. Being left behind is a real possibility if one doesn’t embrace change and keep learning.

    • caretocreate Says:

      Great comments LJ. Sounds like you’re not afraid to challenge yourself with new learning. Yup, software can be expensive. I think Adobe just released their new version CC. And I hear it’s going to be an extensive upgrade with additional costs. I recommend to my students to use the Adobe Creative Cloud, http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html?promoid=JQPER. It’s a more affordable monthly membership and you don’t have to pay for the upgrades AND you have access to ALL their products for the same membership cost. This is actually the way the industry is moving. Software companies are changing at a faster pace also. What use to be one release a year is now two. People just can’t afford nor companies. So this keeps Adobe as the go-to software that everyone is using and everyone current with their new releases. As far as 3D, have used Modo? http://www.luxology.com/modo/. This is what we teach in our 3D classes. It’s a lot easier to learn than say Maya, http://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-maya/overview and a lot less expensive. Another is Cinima 4D, http://www.maxon.net/products/cinema-4d-prime/.

      Anyway, good luck out there and stay on top of it.

      Bruce

    • caretocreate Says:

      Thanks for the comment LJ. Sorry for the much delayed response. Its been a busy last two months. Yes, personal growth is an investment. Both in time and costs. But if you keep up, it’s not as bad than if you’re trying to catch up. Sounds like you’re passionate about learning. Sometimes we run into something we never knew how much we would love doing it. That’s the cool thing about being creative – we’re easily distracted. lol

  2. Brad Miller Says:

    In the second paragraph you write”Pagemaker, was a week competitor.” The work should be “weak”.

    Good article. My stuff is full of typos, so I hope this comment comes off as helpful and not some sort of complaint. Feel free to delete it.


  3. I just came across this site and found this very interesting article of yours. Nice write up, graphic designing is certainly in demand at the moment and will still be until probably new innovations arrive but who knows it might continue to grow through the upcoming years.

    • caretocreate Says:

      Thanks for your comment to this article. Yes, in order for design to be relevent in the future, we will continue to adapt to new trends in technology.


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