How technology has changed the design industry

How difficult can it be to design a brochure/newsletter/marketing piece when there are so many easy to use tools and guides available?

Has technology helped or hindered the design industry?

5 Jan, 2015

These days it’s easy to become a designer right?

Loads of ‘easy to use’ programmes and ‘How To’ guides make it simple for anyone to put a brochure/newsletter/marketing piece together – how difficult can it be with so much help available? Technology has not only changed the design industry with the way designs are accomplished but it’s also changed the perception of ‘design’ from a hard-earned skill to something you can learn in an afternoon off.

Female graphic designer at deskAll this is well and good, but actually, there is a lot more to it than reading a design manual or playing around with some interesting fonts, and to get to the bottom of what I’m saying we need to look back… way back in fact. We need to go pre-technic!

In the beginning, there was only drawing and artists equipment and drawing boards, plus a typesetter (usually quite grumpy) who sat in a darkened room and stoically interpreted the designers ‘mark-up’ to fire out reams of typesetting sheets for the art worker to paste onto a board following the designer’s concept. Not only did we have to draw our ideas out, but we also had to know all about type markings, message layers, leading the reader and Man printing typesetting sheetsTypesetter adding text blocks to design boardvisual concepts, as well as being adept with typography – font usage, sizes, kerning, leading, adjustments and alignment, etc. We actually learnt this by gaining knowledge from even further back – typesetting in its earliest form – yes those little metal pieces that were laboriously put into a typesetting block ready to be manually inked up and roller printed. All a very long time ago – however I can honestly say that a lot of the basics that were shown to me back then still come into play today – and that knowledge makes for a better understanding of design.

How many designers from this generation have that skill? The answer is – not many. Why? Because this generation has developed its ‘artistic’ skills via the art of DTP (Desk Top Publishing) which does it all for you. It all began in the early 1980s, when DTP software such as Publisher, PageMaker etc became available, however, they were quickly outshone by the release of Quark Xpress software in 1987. Designers had the biggest shock of their lives when all of a sudden the drawing board was replaced with a MAC which housed this new programme. There were no PCs for designers in those days – only MACs would do. We were given a manual, and by and large, we learnt on the job how to interpret our ideas and concepts into pages and products. It was all pretty alien to start with and the side effects were a lot of stress-induced headaches, but pretty soon we got to grips with QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Photoshop, and bingo – a new age of designer technology was born. By 1990, QuarkXPress 3 had become the software of choice for publishers worldwide. With the 1997 release of QuarkXPress 4, QuarkXPress quickly became the world’s most widely used professional page-layout software.

Of course, that was a long time ago, now we all use the Adobe Creative Suite comprising of In-Design, Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat (the latter being the most amazing addition to the suite by enabling files to become generically opened and interactive). In 2014 Adobe decided to go Cloud Based which now means that we have to subscribe on a yearly basis to use the programmes that are essential for our job, no longer can we buy a programme and use it indefinitely.

So has technology enhanced or hindered the design industry?

I think it’s massively enhanced it by enabling creative ideas to become tangible in ever-speedier time frames. It’s exciting to see thought processes translated into imagery or layouts but equally important is the use of interactivity and motion. Video is generic now and it’s very easy to make the most basic idea come alive. Where it will go is an exciting journey which anyone with a creative mind is happy to embark on. Keeping up with trends is easy too – it’s all online waiting to be grabbed. But used wisely and intelligently and with the best creative influence – the design industry is a stunning institute that has no boundaries only unexplored terrains.

Got anything to add?

Drop us a line below if you have any design experiences you’d like to share, or indeed if you’d like any advice on design yourself…


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