Digital Technology, Is It a Curse or a Blessing for the Graphic Designer?

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Are you a Graphic Designer? Do you look forward to your next trip to the Apple Store? It’s safe to say that Digital Technology has become an obsession in the world of design. Macbook’s, iPad’s, digital camera’s and printer’s. All sounds pretty normal to us and most of the time we take our hi-tech gadgets for granted. But around 100 years ago things were very different. Digital technology hadn’t been invented and graphic designers had to use very different ways and methods of design. So was it any easier then or as the digital technology of our world progressed has it became easier for graphic designers?

Computers today are one of the most important pieces of equipment for graphic designers and they rely heavily on the latest software and features. So what would it have been like back in the early 1900’s when computers hadn’t been invented? One of the first ever computers was the Z1 originally created by Germany’s Konrad Zuse (See Fig. 1) in his parents living room in 1936 to 1938. It was considered to be the first electrical binary programmable computer. [1] Then there was the Eniac (See Fig. 2) which was invented by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania and began construction in 1943 and was not completed until 1946. It occupied about 1,800 square feet and used about 18,000 vacuum tubes, weighing almost 50 tons.

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Although the Judge ruled that the ABC computer was the first digital computer many still consider the Eniac to be the first digital computer. [2] Then there was the invention of the PC. The PC is one of the most used types of of computers around the world. In 1975 Ed Roberts coined the term personal computer when he introduced the Altiar 8800. See Fig. 3) Although the first personal computer is considered to be the Kenback-1, which was first introduced for around $750 in 1971. The computer relied on a series of switches for inputting data and output data by turning on and off a series of lights. [3] The Altiar was first featured in the January 1975 edition of Popular Electronics magazine. It is considered by many to be the first mass produced personal computer, although they were called micro-computers in those days. [4] Today laptops are a widely used piece of equipment.

There easily transported and carried about which makes them perfect to bring to meetings and bring along while travelling. The computer considered by most historians to be the first true portable computer was the Osborne 1 (See Fig 4). Adam Osborne, an ex-book publisher founded Osborne Computer and produced the Osborne 1 in 1981, a portable computer that weighed 24 pounds and cost $1795. The Osborne 1 came with a five-inch screen, modem port, two 5 1/4 floppy drives, a large collection of bundled software programs, and a battery pack. [5] In 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT (See Fig. ), a 32-bit version that was truly an operating system of its own–it didn’t require DOS at all. Meant for networks and high-end users, NT traded ease of use for administrator controls and security. Stiff hardware requirements and compatibility issues kept it out of the mainstream. [6] So will the PC be around forever? I highly doubt it. The way things are moving and the rate that it’s moving at suggests to me that more advanced pieces of technological equipment will take over and the PC will long be forgotten about. Unfortunately it’s the sad truth. Design has been transformed by the personal computer.

The invention of the PC gave people and design professionals equal design opportunities and made it achievable for a non professional to create good design. Most people had to use the typewriter to create printed documents before the PC came about. The typewriter had a lot of limitations. You couldn’t change the font or font size and you couldn’t include pictures. The come about of PC’s makes it possible to do so and therefore makes it easier for people to communicate better. However if the PC is not used properly then communication could actually be impaired even if they have an abundance of graphic options.

Just like the way a calculator gives you the ability to calculate a tangent it still does not make you understand fully how geometry works. So therefore having the latest software on a PC doesn’t make the person a design expert and knowing the ins and outs of design. Although it gives the illusion of doing so. The Macintosh computer was released in January of 1984. [7] (See Fig. 6) As one of the first type designers to exploit the potential of the Apple Macintosh in its pre-designer days, Zuzana Licko transformed the pixel from low-resolution imitation to high-style original. 8] Rudy Vanderlans (See Fig. 7) was one of the other designers first to adopt the Macintosh as a tool for they’re designs. In an interview with Vanderlans he had this to say “We were unhappy with our regular jobs, we saw an opportunity to start our own company, and ran with it. It was a tediously slow process that would make for some very boring reading when retold in detail. Let’s just say we were very naive, and we worked very long days.

And ultimately it was all propelled to a higher level by our early adoption of the Macintosh computer as a design tool when it was first introduced. [9] They widely used the macintosh computer as the main tool for the design of their magazine, Emigre. (See Fig. 8) Advantages of todays digital technology for design would include the usage of the internet for research becoming much easier with internet being available in most homes and businesses today. (See Fig. 9) High broadband speeds allow quick and easy access to the web when needed which is a vital tool needed for most Graphic Designers today. With the advance of digital technology also comes the advance of printing methods. In addition digital cameras (See Fig. 0) have become a vital part of todays digital technology and provides graphic designers with the tool to take their own high quality photographs and images for there designs. There are many more advantages of the digital camera. For one, digital photographs are extremely adaptable. You can email them to friends and family, put them on a web site, burn them to CD or DVD, store them on your computer, and use them for slide shows which can be viewed on your TV or computer monitor. They can of course be printed, and not just as standard 4×6 pictures.

They can be used to put together personalised calendars, greeting cards, and even be printed on objects like coffee mugs, key-fobs and shirts. [10] (See Fig. 11) Furthermore the technology of the internet brought along the idea of online blogs, websites and galleries. This is a major advantage for graphic designers as it gives them an opportunity to target a wider audience and to increase the awareness of their design work and services. It also helps a lot if they are looking to set up their own business. However there are some disadvantages to having online galleries and blogs.

Mainly to do with copyright. Graphic designers design work, if not marked right people from around the world can very easily take them for their own personal use without the actual designer getting any recognition or money for it. Digital technology is moving quickly and everybody knows that a new computer is out of date as soon as you’ve bought it. Yet here I’m writing of a more subtle obsolescence. It’s not that the parts don’t work anymore it that something better has come along and if you need some of that something better you often have to have all of it. 11] Disadvantages of the advance of digital technology can include things like the knowledge and skills of some graphic designers becoming out of date and they can find them self not knowing how to use a lot of the new software. As time moves on companies and businesses will expect graphic designers to keep up-to-date with the latest software and have the latest equipment. However this can be write difficult for a lot of graphic designers to do due the high rate of digital technology advancing. One of the greatest technological advancements in the last 50 years has been the development of printers.

Printing has changed the pace at which we can communicate which means ideas, products and services can be marketed quicker than ever. There are many forms of printing which have cropped up over the years, some are now obsolete, others are still used for niche areas, and some such as digital printing are just taking off! [12] The offset process (See Fig. 12) came to be the most popular form of printing during the 1950’s as plates, inks, paper, etc. improved. By the late 1950’s, offset printing dominated all other printing processes because it provided sharp clean images. [13]

In the last two decades inkjet printers (See Fig. 13) have developed a lot. However they’re weren’t seen in stores until the 1980’s. Back in the 1970’s printer companies realised that inkjet technology was set to be the way of the future. Companies were then challenged with the idea of creating an affordable inkjet printer while still providing quality printouts. In 1977 Siemens invented a more popular type of inkjet printer. They were less expensive however they were slower than the continuous inkjet printers. At the present digital printing is used a lot by graphic designers.

The main reason for this is that they are ideal for creating incredible imagery for business card, signs, photographs, flyers, posters and more. You need to see the results that can be achieved by digital printing to believe it. (See Fig. 14) As a visual communication student I know that digital technology is a very important and vital part of the work I do. I use inkjet printers, iphones, digital cameras, apple mac desktops and Macbooks. I would use my macbook and the software that I have on it like Adobe Photoshop (See Fig. 5) and Illustrator for most of my design work and I probably would find life very difficult without these luxuries. I am very used to having my digital camera to use for most of the images that I use in my design work. The digital camera was first established in the last quarter of the 20th century. The first recorded attempt at building a digital camera was in 1975 by Steven Sasson an engineer at Eastman Kodak. [14] (See Fig. 16) I think that if all digital technology was suddenly banned and became unavailable to me I would struggle and no longer take the technology thats available to me for granted.

As I can understand myself Apple inc. is vastly moving forward, increasing propularity and developing, but is the obsession with Apple becoming greater? Since the creation of the company Apple in 1976 by Steve Jobs. (See Fig. 17) Whether or not Apple fans are cult-like, there is no doubt that a strong sense of devotion to the brand is there. At the core of the devotion could be “a sense of self. ” The brand taps into what’s truly important to people. It’s about more than just the technological bells and whistles, it’s a lifestyle, experts say. 15] People queue for hours waiting to get the newest product from Apple. They’re obsessed with keeping up-to-date with the latest Apple products and software. In addition professional graphic designers also generally like to own Apple products. One of the main reasons for this is the design of the Apple products being so simple, stylish and modern. The packaging and the actual products themselves are very attractive to the eye. (See Fig. 18) Therefore graphic designers appreciate the design of apple and want to own equipment that reflects there design taste and professionalism.

Apple notebooks are free of stickers, screws, vents, buttons, switches, and graphics. What this leaves is a system with little to look at other than the screen in front of you, which is as it should be. (See Fig. 19/20) The benefit of the entire product development cycle being done under one house is that Apple creates a system that truly feels as though it was created by one person. [16] I recently interviewed a local graphic designer Michael Toman and asked him what he thought of todays digital technology and how it affects him as a designer.

He said ‘I use digital technology for all my design work and rely heavily on equipment such as my apple mac and digital SLR camera’. He also stated that ‘without todays digital technology I would find designing things a lot more difficult and challenging’. However he also said ‘at the start if the 20th century when digital technology was a thing of the future, graphic designers were free to be creative and artistic using various techniques whereas today graphic designers tend to chain themselves to their computers’.

In the next 10 years I would expect the world of digital technology will dramatically change and improve. Things will become much more advanced and hi-tech and no doubt it will effect the way graphic designers design and create things. I think it will become much easier for people to design as the possibilities will become much greater. Although things might become so advanced that designers might not be able to keep up to speed with it. Designers will probably have to learn how to use the new software and equipment which and not all might want to do.

Personally I like to learn new things and increase my skills but not everyones like that and generally people have a tendency to stick to what they know. In the near future whenever I progress to being a graphic designer I think that digital technology will be a blessing for me. I find that as the technology for design increases and develops it makes it easier for us to create the things that we imagine in our heads but just aren’t quite sure how to actually produce them.

Overall I think that I have determined whether digital technology is a curse or a blessing for the graphic designer. After the research that I’ve done I feel that most definitely the digital technology of todays world is a blessing for the Graphic Designer. It helps the designer improve and develop. It helps them keep up-to-date with the up and coming work and also helps gives them possibilities that they would only have dreamt of. Digital technology is a designers best friend.

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Digital Technology, Is It a Curse or a Blessing for the Graphic Designer?. (2017, Mar 06). Retrieved from

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