The practice of graphic design
I've been in this business for nearly twenty years. Twenty years as an Art Director and graphic designer! It's a long time and this job has changed a lot during this time. Once upon a time, we could make miracles with a photograph, a pen and a chisel…now we have computers. I don't know what is better, even though being a dinosaur in this job I think we did more with a chisel than we do nowadays with the cutter in Photoshop. At least then, we had to put our imagination to work; now it's just clip art!
I think that nowadays waves of adverts are inspired by the new Photoshop effects and not because of hard thinking and creation. Creation is magic work; sometimes it takes me two days to create a poster or a logo and some other times it takes me two months. Most of this time I spend thinking and drawing thousands of drawings on hundreds of pieces of paper, napkins and whatever else I find in front of me.
I have spent hours mixing colours, watercolours, oil colours, crayons and looking at the Pantone guide. I need to feel the colours. I said before I am a dinosaur. Then I move to the computer. Usually I move to the computer for the last part of the work, the actual making. Of course, working with a vector or a photographic program you change your basic idea, you improve it and sometimes a second and a third one comes.
Sometime ago a restaurant services company asked me to design a logo for them. What was the best and the simplest idea from a circle that represented a plate and a square that represented a napkin. After I made the final drawing, I had a whole concept in my mind. I could imagine the brochures, the adverts, even the radio adverts. I strongly believe that this was one of the best logos I have designed in the last few years and I'm proud of it. Again, I worked the idea for nearly two weeks doing a series of drawings, cutting papers and trying everything with real plates and napkins.
Then I walk in the city and I see all the posters, the logos, the slogans around me and, for most of them, I have the idea that either I've seen them before or I know the clip art been used.
Art Directing and graphic design took the recognition we all wanted. Suddenly they became fashion and art. They became cool and a solution. Cool because you could be an artist without being able to paint and a solution because you suddenly could have a profession that sounded artistic but you didn't need to do much to prove yourself - the computer does most of the job!
Everybody thinks that they have an artist in them. Art schools are difficult; graphic design schools are easy. You don't have pass exams, you don't have to be able to draw or paint, you just need to have the money to pay the cost of the school. And these art schools teach you how to work the programs and they give you a series of 'rules'.
Dear friends, art directing and graphic design is art. To make a poster it needs creativity, knowledge of materials and a sense of perspective. Good knowledge of any picture and vector program is useful, as much as it is useful to know what brush to use when you paint with oil colours, but it never gives you inspiration or creativity. On the contrary, it keeps you inside the walls that limit you.
I'm not against the use of computers. I use them myself. I'm against seeing the computer as the solution and not the tool.
It took us a long time to make our profession respectful, now is the time to put some rules into the practice of what we like to call the art of graphic design before we lose this respect, and this time it will be hard to earn it back.