Technology—A Passing Threat

[February 2021] I wrote this short piece in graduate school—my first year—when I thought I would still be a graphic designer when I finished school. I think much of this came to pass in terms of technology as a tool—although the typesetters, film separators and other craftsmen probably wouldn’t agree. We also had no idea what was going to happen a decade or two later where the threat of technology hasn’t passed at all as we have seen with the rise of extremism amplified through social platforms

The increasing availability of technology to artists has made many artists worried. In the field of Graphic Design, professional designers worry that computers will enable the client to do their own design work thereby putting the designer out of work. This creates the notion that the machine will turn every man into an artist. Initially, as computers are cheaper and able to do more, this seems to be happening. Having seen the ease with which art and design is produced, clients are acquiring their own computers and are designating their secretaries  ‘in-house’ designers. These actions are threatening to the graphic designer – especially the bad and mediocre ones. They are being replaced by untrained non artists who may or may not be producing better work.

Eventually this trend will pass. Clients and designers alike will realize that although they can create with ease and speed, the inherent artistic talents and creativity of the graphic designer are missing. “Although we can call the computer ‘the ultimate machine’… it is a device that is capable of making decisions only on the basis of tests and if/or questions, not conceptual or creative considerations. Like photography, it is both a tool and a medium.It is capable of linking the concept of information and art together, bringing into range completely new aspects of image processing, simulation, control, fabrication, and interaction.”[1]  In other words, a computer, like any other tool, doesn’t make a bad designer good. It just makes him  fast. The great designers will become even better given the complexities and choices that the new technology offers and this in turn is passed on to the client. This phase will weed out the bad designers and will show clients the creative possibilities that happen when great designers and computers are combined.

Technology, initially will have a negative impact, but ultimately it will become a positive force in the art and design world as artists realize the creative potential that is available through the union of art and technology. It is going to open up a whole new way of creating and experiencing art.

Originally written Fall 1992

[1]Lovejoy, Margot, “Art, Technology, and Postmodernism: Paradigms, Parallels and Paradoxes,” Art Journal, Fall 1990, 261.

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.