The Internet: A Designer’s Best Friend!

“Be careful what you wish for. You’ll probably get it.” –Proverb

I am sure most have heard this phrase before. Its a twisted ominous warning that conjures up times of receiving what one wants only to suffer unforeseen consequences. 

The digital revolution has given us more than we could imagine: free stuff, free stuff and more free stuff. Radical technological changes have changed how we live and see the world through the personal computer, smartphones, digital tablets, flatscreen TVS, social media and the like. All professions and all forms of education have been affected. What makes all of this technology so special: The Internet. I still remember when the internet became available in the mid 1990s. Since then, Star Trek technology looks like modern day prophecies: Universal Translator (there’s an app for that), Touchscreen Tablet Computers, Holodeck (virtual reality), etc.

But how has the ‘Internet of Things’ affected the field of Graphic Design?

Graphic Design has longed prided itself on technical craft. Closely associated with printing under the banner of Graphic Arts, a graphic designer had to learn to see what others do not see or care about: kerning (space between letters), leading (space between sentences), margins, etc. There was a printer’s written language of symbols that designers used in the pre-computer era when one need something printed but had only pasted together mock-ups.

But all of this is gone courtesy of the personal computer. As technology has improved digital printing, offset printing is becoming a dinosaur. It is more cost effective and more efficient to get a high quality digital printer minus the plates and mixing inks. The internet has made it easier to send projects, large and small, to printers using email or uploading to a printer’s website. Ultimately this has saved time for the average designer.

So, how has the internet been a designer’s best friend?

  1. Research: In the pre-internet era, designers used the library to research for a project. This could mean combing through books, reviewing past and present magazines and even viewing old newspapers. Today, you can find almost anything by searching Google. This gives designers more instant visual choices for research (assuming you have a fast internet connection) and can speed up the research process.
  2. Fonts/Clip Art: There was a time when clip art and fonts, low and high quality, could be purchased on CDs in stores or from catalogs. Today, this has largely disappeared although you can still find clip art on stock photo sites. Although a lot of fonts are free, there are some websites that still sell fonts or limit your use of them. (I’m not sure how this is supposed to be enforced.) Since the internet makes it easy to find, share and download (or illegally download), designers love this.
  3. Photos: There are still highly sought after photographers who have distinguished themselves with a particular style. But I bet less and less of them are actually doing darkroom work. The rise of inexpensive online stock photography, inexpensive cameras and smartphones along with web search engines has made it easy to buy photos and/or shoot them on your own.
  4. Templates: Microsoft created pre-designed compositions for its programs (Word, Powerpoint, etc) so one would not have to hire a designer. This approach has also extended into website design with the creation of free and inexpensive website templates. These templates allows designers to produce quickly without knowing any coding.

In branding and design for small businesses like myself, the internet has becoming a legitimate source for research. When I am producing a  Logo Research Report for a client that needs rebranding, the first place I start is the internet. When this report is finished, it will show 6 things:

  • The strengths and limitations of the present logo
  • Logo and color trends in their specific industry (nationwide)
  • A national survey of logos in their industry identifying common patterns (color, logo types, etc)
  • A regional survey of logos in their industry identifying common patterns (color, logo types, etc)
  • A local survey of logos in their industry identifying common patterns (color, logo types, etc)
  • An evaluation of the common patterns found in the logo surveys

The Creative Brief is a document created from information gathered from meetings, interviews, focus groups and readings approved by the client. This can include interviewing staff, board members, donors, potential demographic target, etc. The creative brief is a good balance of quantitative and qualitative research.

The internet can fall under quantitative or qualitative research. It depends what you utilize. For example, a video can be considered qualitative. A scholarly paper would be quantitative. Because of this flexibility, some projects may not require expensive marketing studies which is a big help for designers who do not work at large agencies.

What are some other ways that the internet has been very helpful to designers?

Next commentary: The Internet: A Designer’s Worst Nightmare!

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