The Post-Postmodernism Issue

I, Designer

It's the way we design that traps us.
Photo by Rob Hogg
Photo by Rob Hogg
Design is increasingly defined commercially. Not just because the most creative minds of our generation are devoting their talents to shifting consumer goods from shelves but in the very way we design. We are led to believe that we simply cannot design without the latest proprietary software, which is packaged and marketed with brand identities more closely aligned with religious visions or Platonic ideals than with the properties it possesses. The filters and tools of the dominant software have seemingly eclipsed ideas, creative visions, radically simple aesthetics and spontaneous, free, entirely original visual concepts. Keyboards and shortcuts have replaced the mind and soul of the designer. Without the latest software, expensive versions of which are released at regular intervals, we would not be able to design. Without the plug-ins, updates and add-ons, we would be left behind.

We’ve become so addicted to the agility and speed that these ever-improving tools have given us that – like a juiced-up athlete – we’ve lost our confidence. We’ve forgotten who we are and what we used to achieve without half the aid we now rely on.

It’s not just the content we’re designing: many of us know deep down that we are part of the problem, the fuel in the engine of consumer capitalism. It’s the way we now design that traps us.

Jonty Langley

64 comments on the article “I, Designer”

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Anonymous

I am currently a student at an art school with a declared major in Advertising Design. Ironically, I would consider myself an anti-capitalist. However, I am in pursuit of radical change. As a creative-minded person, the only way I can seem to platform my ideas is through visual propaganda. (ie. advertising.) In trying to avoid as much hypocrisy as possible, I try to direct my work towards sustainable products, local businesses, musicians, community events, etc.
Thats why I am thoroughly confused as to what this post is trying to say...?
If the argument ends with "It's the way we now design that traps us." Who is trapped, all designers? I don't think that's entirely true.
Design, at its finest, can be used as a visual structure for society. We can speak to the illiterate through symbols and visuals. That, in itself, seems to be an notable accomplishment for the design field.
Maybe the real trap is the idea that "what you do does not define who you are"? Whoever said that first did not live in the information age where we have endless resources that offer lessons on how to manipulate the minds and emotions of large audiences. What you do does define who you are. ESPECIALLY as a designer. Visual culture and mass media can be utilized to do great things like inform, educate or serve as a platform for social awareness and activism. However, they are currently being used as weapons of mass destruction. We are destroying the minds of consumers by turning brands into gods and continually turning authentic art and culture into pay-per-view events of "urban cool".
Maybe you're just not working for the right things.
Yes, we all need a pay check. But balance the negative with some positive. Do what you have to do to make money and survive but be responsible and use what you know to promote good in your free time.
Photoshop and Illustrator are great tools of visual communication. With them, you can make someone stop and look. Use these software programs to their fullest and grab a hold of the limited attention of the everyday viewer. Pull them in and say something that doesn't end with a logo or product shot.
Just a thought.

Anonymous

I am currently a student at an art school with a declared major in Advertising Design. Ironically, I would consider myself an anti-capitalist. However, I am in pursuit of radical change. As a creative-minded person, the only way I can seem to platform my ideas is through visual propaganda. (ie. advertising.) In trying to avoid as much hypocrisy as possible, I try to direct my work towards sustainable products, local businesses, musicians, community events, etc.
Thats why I am thoroughly confused as to what this post is trying to say...?
If the argument ends with "It's the way we now design that traps us." Who is trapped, all designers? I don't think that's entirely true.
Design, at its finest, can be used as a visual structure for society. We can speak to the illiterate through symbols and visuals. That, in itself, seems to be an notable accomplishment for the design field.
Maybe the real trap is the idea that "what you do does not define who you are"? Whoever said that first did not live in the information age where we have endless resources that offer lessons on how to manipulate the minds and emotions of large audiences. What you do does define who you are. ESPECIALLY as a designer. Visual culture and mass media can be utilized to do great things like inform, educate or serve as a platform for social awareness and activism. However, they are currently being used as weapons of mass destruction. We are destroying the minds of consumers by turning brands into gods and continually turning authentic art and culture into pay-per-view events of "urban cool".
Maybe you're just not working for the right things.
Yes, we all need a pay check. But balance the negative with some positive. Do what you have to do to make money and survive but be responsible and use what you know to promote good in your free time.
Photoshop and Illustrator are great tools of visual communication. With them, you can make someone stop and look. Use these software programs to their fullest and grab a hold of the limited attention of the everyday viewer. Pull them in and say something that doesn't end with a logo or product shot.
Just a thought.

Anonymous

" with a declared major in Advertising Design."

Well, there's the first problem. Pigeonhole yourself into working for "them" and not a vision.

Good luck with that.

Anonymous

" with a declared major in Advertising Design."

Well, there's the first problem. Pigeonhole yourself into working for "them" and not a vision.

Good luck with that.

kat [a] lyst

ok....now I'm going to step forth and classify this article as sheer trash.

"Without the plug-ins, updates and add-ons, we would be left behind.

We’ve become so addicted to the agility and speed that these ever-improving tools have given us that – like a juiced-up athlete – we’ve lost our confidence. We’ve forgotten who we are and what we used to achieve without half the aid we now rely on."

Whose we? This is starting to sound very political. Like a speech with all sorts of lingo and wordage that most people don't know about. First of all, to be successful as a designer, you have to be able to do so WITHOUT a computer. A computer is a TOOL. All those plug-ins, updates and add ons are the same. Anyone can design by hand for print instead of computer. Obviously web design is a bit different. But if we didn't have the web or computers, design could still be executed. History shows this.

Not to mention you are generalizing designers. How about we generalize you with fox news or the Wall street Journal? Not all designers are flying on the coat tails of Adobe and the next big thing. It's that whole necessary evil situation. We have to learn the tools but that doesn't mean follow them. Set your own path

Yea individuality may be hurt in today's society but that's largely because globalization. A completely different thing. Man this article....sucks.

I'm not bitter. I agree being a designer is being at the fore front of consumerism and the Capitalist wheel. But until that wheel doesn't ensure we are able to live...fuck off.

just saying :)

kat [a] lyst

ok....now I'm going to step forth and classify this article as sheer trash.

"Without the plug-ins, updates and add-ons, we would be left behind.

We’ve become so addicted to the agility and speed that these ever-improving tools have given us that – like a juiced-up athlete – we’ve lost our confidence. We’ve forgotten who we are and what we used to achieve without half the aid we now rely on."

Whose we? This is starting to sound very political. Like a speech with all sorts of lingo and wordage that most people don't know about. First of all, to be successful as a designer, you have to be able to do so WITHOUT a computer. A computer is a TOOL. All those plug-ins, updates and add ons are the same. Anyone can design by hand for print instead of computer. Obviously web design is a bit different. But if we didn't have the web or computers, design could still be executed. History shows this.

Not to mention you are generalizing designers. How about we generalize you with fox news or the Wall street Journal? Not all designers are flying on the coat tails of Adobe and the next big thing. It's that whole necessary evil situation. We have to learn the tools but that doesn't mean follow them. Set your own path

Yea individuality may be hurt in today's society but that's largely because globalization. A completely different thing. Man this article....sucks.

I'm not bitter. I agree being a designer is being at the fore front of consumerism and the Capitalist wheel. But until that wheel doesn't ensure we are able to live...fuck off.

just saying :)

Mike Madsen

I can see where this article is coming from, but I think some clarification is in order. THINKING on the computer is what is killing good ideas. Any design major knows damn well what I am talking about. That person whose work always LOOKS amazing, but has little or no conceptual substance. Not doing any sketches at all and simply going into Illustrator expecting to get ideas as you go along is going to give you a glitzy but brainless and ultimately bland result, every time. The best designs are generally well-thought out and visually planned (usually using traditional methods) before the designer ever touches a computer. And without traditional drawing skills, knowledge of color relationships, and an eye for composition, any designer would be lost.

Mike Madsen

I can see where this article is coming from, but I think some clarification is in order. THINKING on the computer is what is killing good ideas. Any design major knows damn well what I am talking about. That person whose work always LOOKS amazing, but has little or no conceptual substance. Not doing any sketches at all and simply going into Illustrator expecting to get ideas as you go along is going to give you a glitzy but brainless and ultimately bland result, every time. The best designs are generally well-thought out and visually planned (usually using traditional methods) before the designer ever touches a computer. And without traditional drawing skills, knowledge of color relationships, and an eye for composition, any designer would be lost.

720moxie13

Jonty has a conceptual design here...
An unfocused rant on consumerism via attack on visual stimulation. The tools we use for design now are indeed ever changing, but through no fault of the user. If we were to rely solely upon the pen and paper for our needs, there would be genius filered and less fluff to sift through to find what some would call truth in meaning.
Our love/hate relationship with digital media is a driving force behind his words. At each updated version there is a new tool that makes the job easier, but I wouldn't know. I don't design.
I criticize.
If the only way creations are accepted by the public is through the newest and most updated version of software there would be more proof for this argument.
It's the things that we design for that trap us. If the standard is to use shortcuts to rapidly produce images that rapidly produce responses to an audience looking for the next fix, the problem lies in what is being sold, used, not the tools used to create.
Be more specific in your definition of "commercial", Jonty. An artist will design using the most comfortable medium. A drone will use the easiest.

720moxie13

Jonty has a conceptual design here...
An unfocused rant on consumerism via attack on visual stimulation. The tools we use for design now are indeed ever changing, but through no fault of the user. If we were to rely solely upon the pen and paper for our needs, there would be genius filered and less fluff to sift through to find what some would call truth in meaning.
Our love/hate relationship with digital media is a driving force behind his words. At each updated version there is a new tool that makes the job easier, but I wouldn't know. I don't design.
I criticize.
If the only way creations are accepted by the public is through the newest and most updated version of software there would be more proof for this argument.
It's the things that we design for that trap us. If the standard is to use shortcuts to rapidly produce images that rapidly produce responses to an audience looking for the next fix, the problem lies in what is being sold, used, not the tools used to create.
Be more specific in your definition of "commercial", Jonty. An artist will design using the most comfortable medium. A drone will use the easiest.

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