This is a picture of me from a college trip to Prague in 1996. Published here in full without comment or edit.
This is my dissertation from 1997. Published here in full without comment or edit.
Over the last decade Graphic Design has changed forever, promting Lewis Blackwell to report, (1) ‘the emergence of designers as ‘content providers’ rather than simply packagers of other people’s messages’. How and why has this change occured ?
Change - make different. No-one will disagree that graphic design has changed forever. Only a fool will argue it will never change again.
This essay will explore why graphic design has changed, and how designers have emerged as ‘content providers’. Generally documenting the huge changes in the attitudes, thoughts and actions of current designers. Starting with why design has changed, leading in to how it has changed, then concluding the essay will essay will reference journals, books, music. C.D. roms, as well as internet sites and exhibitions, encompassing the multi-dimensional nature of the subject.
(2) ‘My Sony is about to burst’ (ANTI-ROM 96), now unplug and read on.
The invention of the home computer in 1975 was the tiny start of massive change in graphic design. The computer was to revolutionise everything to do with graphic design, first the process, later the thinking.
(3) ‘In 1984 PostScript and the LaserWriter turned the publishing industry upside down.’ (SEYBOLD 96)
The birth of desktop publishing packages meant that there was no need to employ a designer for simple jobs such as letterheads or business cards. This could be done on any personal computer. The development of such programmes has meant that the non-designer can create anything from logo types to fully blown magazines. The huge increase in computer sales over the last decade has seen the accessibility of such packages soar. Today everyone who owns a computer possesses a programme with the power to (in layman’s terms) be a graphic designer.
A little more money to put into slightly more sophisticated technology, and many owners of home computers have set up as graphic designers. There are now thousands of small ads offering to produce letterheads and business cards for low prices.
And whilst the ideas behind such business literature may not be of the same quality as a trained graphic designer, the output quality certainly would be.
This has meant that now we are faced with the reality that a small office and several thousand pounds of technology is able to deal with the graphic design needs of a small business. There is now a large number of these businesses in operation. They have taken a great deal of work off the graphic designer, and are starting to undertake more complex jobs. They offer the customer accessibility and low prices, and have given the traditionally trained designer serious competition.
(4) ‘Technology has given more responsibilities to fewer people - you’ve more to do. ‘ (SEYBOLD 96)
The increase in computer sales and our general craving for new technology has led to the rise of the internet, a global communications system which is promised (and probably) will change our lives forever.
Now with this, access to over 50 satellite channels and a new terrestrial channel, coupled with the trend for computers to be involved in everything we do has led to a huge increase in the information we have to deal with on a daily basis.
Radio One on November 4th 1996 reported the American discovery of a disease nicknamed ‘informationitus’. Suffers of the disease experience symptoms of nausea, tiredness and dizzy spells. This is due to an overload of information, particularly that received from the screen.
Recently there has been widespread criticism of the technological boom, or rather our sudden fondness for it.
(5) ‘Governed by love we have for useless, twisting, our new technology’ (JAMIROQUI 96)
This technological overload has created a need for communication that can stand out from the hoard of visual images and information that greet us daily.
(6) ‘The recession knocked the design industry for six.’ (SAVILLE 96)
The recession of 1989 sent many design companies to the wall, made others drastically reduce in size and limited the colossal fees of the corporate ‘80’s.
Every other industry was also feeling the pinch. This made them revaluate the need for costly design or even design itself. Why should they spend thousands of pounds to a design consultancy, when someone with a personal computer could do it in house? More than a change of attitude, there just wasn’t the money to fund expensive design groups.
Graphic design, often seen as the epitome of Y.U.P.I.E. culture, was brought down off it’s pedestal and would have to change to survive.
At the Mind The Gap conference in Holland, earlier this year, Peter Saville (one who enjoyed much success in the 80’s) acknowledged the effect the recession has had on design today. He stated that the larger design companies of the 80’s had fallen,
(7) ‘returning the focus of industry to smaller studios and creative values.’ (SAVILLE 96)
Designers have had to refocus to survive, and have had to change not just the way they work but the way their companies work.
(8) ‘Don’t work harder - just better’ (SAATCHI & SAATCHI 94)
As a planet we are now better educated than ever. More students are studying design with 15 000 graduating last summer in the U.K. One theory, voiced by Peter Saville regarding graduates, is that because of declining sales of new fine art, due to the recession, fine art graduates are looking for design jobs. The work of these artists/ designers is starting to filter through in the adverts and annual reports of large clients.
Graphic design is a new profession that only in the 80’s, lost the name ‘commercial art’. A whole generation is starting to emerge who have grown up with the term graphic design and these make up a large proportion of consumers today. consumers who understand and enjoy that they are being targeted. consumers who willingly play along with the marketeers. Consumers who are able to interpret complex, concepts, and are more visually aware than ever before.
Graphic design has had to change to survive. It has also changed because it has been given the opportunity to progress.
Certain factors outside of design have forced it to change such as the recession or the desktop publishing boom. Other factors such as the increased visual literacy of the general public and the need for clearer communication have been the step on which graphic design has raised itself. Graphic design is a very young discipline. It has only just reached the end of it’s first chapter. This was concerned with solving the problems of visually communicating a message on a flat surface. The second chapter is concerned with communicating in a more holistic way. A way which involves the receiver more, and requires more of the receivers input to work.
To notice a change in graphic design one of the first areas to look is advertising. Advertising is a fast paced, quick turnaround world where new ideas and a fresh approach are often more important than the validity of design solutions.
Due to increased competition and a need for communication to stand out from the crowd designers are involving the audience more. Getting the viewer to work harder. One popular method is interactivity.
Interactivity does not just mean multi-media, it means the involvement of the viewer in order to complete an advert. Interactivity can be applied to traditional media, for example, a scratch and reveal panel in a magazine,or an advert which has to be folded together in order to be read (Haagen-Daas and Sony).
But it is more commonly applied to television. A good example is the now frequent, telephone number at the end of an advert which you either need to ring to complete the advert, or to obtain extra information.
One of the first successful examples of this was Howell Henry Chaldecot Lury with the Tango ads of ‘95. The viewer was teased with tales of people addicted to Tango. at the end of the ad the viewer was given a help line number for addicts. On calling the participant was asked told that they had been Tango’ed themselves.
Involving the viewer in the advert, by having them carry out an action as as a direct result of the advert gives it added force and dimension. It builds the image of the product in more than just visual areas.
This method of interactivity has since been successfully used by companies such as Mazda. In 1996 Mazda asked, on 48 sheet posters,a question about their products.For example which was better their 323 or Volkswagen’s Golf. For the 323 dial XXX for the Golf dial XXY. The results were published a few weeks later.
A good example of a different kind of interactivity are the Army adverts of 94. One advert shown at prime time told the viewer that they had to get up early in the army. It then asked them to watch at 6am to see the rest of the ad, which was shown at 6am the following day.
It is no longer a surprise to see a full car stuck to the side of and advertising hoarding, along London’s Cromwell Rd. One extreme example of 3D advertising was in Germany, where a 69 year old lady was suspened from the side of a billboard to illustrate the power of a hoover.
This is truely multi-media.
There has also been a trend in advertising for complex often abstract concepts.
(9) ‘A idea can be a colour / a texture’ (WOOD 96)
The current Orange adverts, whilst at first may not seem that complex, are a very brave step for something as commonplace as a mobile phone. The ads simply show a blurred orange star motif spinning round, whilst a voice over explains the product. It is totally abstract to mobile phone advertising yet it stands out from the hundreds of other mobile phone ads.
It is proof of the increased visual intelligence of the general public that this advert is so successful. As abstract images do not lead the viewer down one straight forward path they are very complicated images to interpret and accept.
Such concepts are also finding there way into corporate identity.
(10) ‘The traditional Wolff Olins view of corporate identity is a static monolithic thing, that is no longer in keeping with the way the world is now. The world is constantly shifting and changing.’ (GARRETT 93)
We are seeing a move away from the precious identities of the 80’s, British Telecom and Midland Bank being examples. The new Channel Four identity is four circles. Four circles that appear at different sizes and thicknesses each time. Yet they are still instantly recognisable as Channel Four. Ten or Fine years ago such an ambiguous idea would have been laughed at. Now it seems natural. The MTV logo is another which is instantly recognisable yet appears differently each time you see it.
We are now used to viewing images on the screen. We are becoming used to dealing with concepts that are constantly shifting but have a coherent theme running through. We are becoming used to time based ideas.
Design companies (or groups as they are now called ) are changing their very structure.
(11) ‘Tomato is a cross between a space, and a space structure. Not a company in the conventional sense, nor an orthodox collective.’ (TOMATO 96)
By the very fact that a modern design house now needs musicians, video artists, 3D visualisers and others, something has had to change. Because design has lost a lot of its traditional form so has the office. New technology has meant that we all work differently anyway and this is one area where there is still a lot of change to take place.
Companies are also forming for different reasons. Referring to Saville’s quote concerning fine art graduates, design groups are now forming whose sole goal is no longer big bucks.
(12) ‘Anti-Rom was formed as an opportunity to create multi-media outside the constraints of the workplace and as a critique of the hastily established faux truths of the new media.’ (ANTI-ROM 96)
We are seeing a move towards design groups working independently and clients coming to them for ideas rather than the other way round.
(13) ‘Where agencies normally follow a brief, with the client setting the pace and agenda, Tomato just go on being Tomato, and it is for clients to decide if they want participate.’ (COLLINS 96)
The designer is becoming a content provider rather than a packager of others ideas. Graphic design has changed to embrace the new technology and the ever increasing visual sophistication of the audience. It has become more holistic in its nature, using more media to communicate and realising that we live in a 3D world with five senses.
It has become concept based and these concepts have become more complex. It is using interaction to make it’s messages more memorable and m,ore fun. It is moving away from the client led ‘80’s into a slightly more chaotic designer led age.
Graphic design has not changed, it has progressed. Graphic design is still about communication.
Graphic designers have changed.
Graphic designers are becoming ‘content providers’ rather than packagers of other ideas.
The world around us has changed dramatically in the last decade and it is continuing to change at an alarming rate. And it will always be changing.
Designers have had to change; to incorporate new technology, to communicate to a more educated, more demanding audience. An audience that has seen the old tricks before.
Designers have had to change; because people have learnt to value them differently and to be more suspicious of them, because they have polluted the world with information and yet they still need to provide more.
Designers have had to concentrate on the idea more than ever before, as a great idea can cut through a thousand images and a thousand words. And a great idea is still what shakes this business, and is still what we are all looking for.
A great idea is what keeps me interested in graphic design.
A great idea is, and always will be, the apple which tempts me into the garden of graphic design.
If interested in this subject the reader should actively digest the world around them, and in particular be sure to take information from all medias. It is impossible to list specific material as it will change daily.
Creative Review June 96 - December 96 Vol.16 No.’s 6-12 Centaur Publications
Emigre Summer 96 No.39 Emigre Inc.
Emigre Winter 93 No.29 Emigre Inc.
Mac User 2 August 96 Vol.12 No.16 Dennis Publishing Ltd.
Vogue December 96 Vol.162 No.12 The Conde Nast Publications Ltd.
BLACKWELL L 95 The End Of Print Lawerence King Publishing
IMAGINATION LTD 95 Imagination Imagination Ltd.
PERKINS S 95 Experience Booth Clibborn Editions
WALTON R. 95 Typographics 1 Hears Books Intenational
WOZENCROFT J 88 The Graphic Language Of Neville Brody Thames And Hudson
WOZENCROFT J 94 The Graphic Language Of Neville Brody 2 Thames And Hudson
JAMIROQUI 96 Travelling Without Moving Sony
REECE A 96 So Far Forth & Broadway
Creative Review June-December 96 No.s 12-18 Centaur Publications
Independent 1995 Newspaper publishing Ltd.
Fuse all at WWW. TYPE. UK
Guardian Online WWW. GUARDIAN. UK
JAM; A crucial mix of music, style and media 12 September-15 December 1996 Barbican Art Gallery
(1) BLACKWELL L (96) England 6 Holland ? Creative Review Vol.16 No.11 pp30
(6) SAVILLE P ibid pp30
(7) SAVILLE P ibid pp30
(9) WOOD G (96) ibid pp30
(2) ANTI-ROM (96) Jam Exhibition Barbican Art Gallery
(11) TOMATO (96) ibid
(12) ANTI-ROM (96) ibid
(3) SEYBOLD J (96) Inventing The Future Creative Review Vol.16 No.11 pp39
(4) SEYBOLD J (96) ibid pp42
(5) JAMIROQUI (96) Virtual Insanity Travelling Without Moving Track 1
(8) SAATCHI & SAATCHI (94) British Telecom Advertisement
(10) GARRETT M (93) Design Will Eat Itself Emigre No.29 pp6
(13) COLLINS M (96) Salad Days Vogue Vol. 162 No.12 pp109