The changing role of design

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For those of a certain age and era, entering into the world of graphic design was an exciting one, full of established trades, conventional equipment and traditional values. This was an industry where you had to start at the bottom and work your way up to the top, with job titles from artworker, to camera operator, to visualiser and typesetter. You developed your skills to the maximum, using tools and equipment with names that have now gone into the history books and sound like something out of Harry Potter. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies provides a great trip down memory lane to see the tools that were once used.

These jobs had real hands on skill, everything had to be done by hand; lettering, layouts with magic markers, typesetting that fitted the space required, we even had proof readers in the design department to make sure work was spelt correctly and made sense, no really it’s true!

With the time and dedication it took using these tools, a full page ad for example, would take at least a week, and a 24 page brochure would take at least three months, with a shelf life of 12 months before you thought about the next one. With this, deadlines were far more forgiving than they are today.

Design reinvented

So where are we today? With modern technology converting the way we work and to tighter deadlines, have these old skills now been lost to the computer? Or have they just been reinvented?

Like with every other industry, we too have had to change the way we work to embrace modern technology. Today, creatives need to be much faster, slicker, and with instant gratification. With clients, these skills are now a demand.

The Brits come up top

According to the world design rankings 2014, the British are still one of the worlds best when it comes to design and the industry. The UK is still, so it seems, employing the same proportion of skilled workers that it did 30 years ago, however instead of an artworker, senior or junior camera operator or visualiser, we now have the generic ‘Mac operator’.

From Typesetter to Mac Operator

A Mac operator in my eyes is a very lucky person. They have the opportunity to try and test all the ‘old industry’ skills but without the three years training to find out if you liked it or not. Mac’s offer a wealth of programmes that can do in seconds what used to take hours, with instant access to a world of design ideas not just your small studio ones.

We now have digital and web, a new set of jobs skills that did not exist 30 years prior, another area that give us ‘creatives’ a chance to show what we can do with the never ending raft of apps and programmes. Universities and colleges are turning over digital and Mac operators in abundance, all with new ideas and dreams that can be turned into potential profit for an increasingly demanding industry.

It’s true times have changed. The jobs titles have changed, the tools have changed, but the drive, dreams and creativity have not. For the new creatives that start off in this adjusted industry with wide and excited eyes, it has in fact got bigger and better in to my way of thinking. All those jobs are still there but with new titles, and the tools and equipment we use still do what they did 30 years ago, just more advanced. And yes, they still have names that sound like something from Harry Potter.

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