Design and technology: Designers can become overwhelmed or even dismissive of the possibilities of technology

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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With the exponential growth of technology and all the devices it brings into our lives, designers can become overwhelmed or even dismissive of the possibilities. We have a tendency to repeat routines, reopen old files and ground ourselves with what is comfortable. We take on favorite typefaces and use them ad nauseam. We recondition the same color palettes and treatments of line and pattern in order to assure ourselves that our work is on point. We become so comfortable with our design habits that it can take quite a bit to break us of them, so when a new technology is introduced, or a new interface surfaces, we are quick to ignore it. We wait for others to tackle the problems first. We run the risk of becoming followers instead of pioneers.

In the grandest sense, design is about solving problems. Designers want to communicate the message of their client in a concise, effective manner. Whether this is an advertisement or a brand identity, we look to identify problems and develop solutions. Although technology is presenting us with new canvases on which we paint these messages, the fundamentals are still the same. There exists a collection of rules that can be followed to create effective designs. This is exemplified by the typefaces that have been around for hundreds of years and are still utilized by modern designers. Baskerville, Garamond and Bodoni are only a few examples of typefaces that have been transferred from metal plates to film to digital and are still being used extensively by designers around the world. These typefaces, and several others, have survived transitions of media and society and are still some of the best available. The designs are effective enough that they have been used in countless applications to great effect. They are consistent and clean. They are legible, but contain characteristics that are pleasing. They are fundamentally good typefaces.

By understanding an underlying quality to all work exists, and prioritizing fundamentally good design as Claude Garamond, John Baskerville and Giambattista Bodoni did when they created their typefaces, we can see that design can be universal. It can be appreciated without language and can cross cultural divides. It is with this mentality that designers should approach the oncoming wave of endless technology. And even though applications and formats of this technology are always changing, the point remains the same: technology exists to enhance our lives in some fashion.

Whether this is productivity, fun, social connectedness or home networking, technology is intended to enhance our lives. When a designer develops something within one of these new technologies the focus is still the same: clear, concise messages. A way for the user to easily achieve whatever goal they are looking to achieve must exist. That is why designers must appreciate all the new formats, screen sizes, aspect ratios, avenues of delivery and so forth that technology allows us. These new developments are not overwhelming or irrelevant, they are the same old problems that we have been solving since design began. We are simply communicating a message to the user. These limitations should not be seen as such, but rather opportunities for us to develop our fundamentals. By being aware of what may be coming and by being willing to take a risk, we can pioneer the new frontier of technology instead of piggybacking on someone else more brave than ourselves.

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