June 5, 2017 isnoth5_wp

The trouble with technology & the death of graphic design

Ever since I’ve joined the digital marketing world, part of my day-to-day job is writing social media content plans for clients. Since online marketing is meant to be a lot more cost-effective than mainstream media, almost all of these clients do not have the budget to pay for a so-so designer, never mind a really talented one. So when it comes to putting together the copy for posts, optimising meta data and creating attention-grabbing visual media, I’m often left to my own devices. Which means that tools like Shutterstock’s Editor, Piktochart infographics and iMovies come in pretty handy.

Forget creating enticing animations and Brand AV’s when you can just Facebook Live from the office. What about Brand Guidelines and Corporate Identities? In a world of mass media consumption, why bother? 

It wasn’t until I came across an article a designer friend of mine shared, that I realised there is a wider problem at play. While these online tools may help me pull together a passable social media content plan, are they, in turn, killing the graphic design industry? You no longer need to be able to design clever icons or create beautifully crafted brochures. Forget creating enticing animations and Brand AV’s when you can just Facebook Live from the office. What about Brand Guidelines and Corporate Identities? In a world of mass media consumption, why bother?

Simply download some stock images or icons. Get some marketing intern to spend a few hours fiddling around on some free online software. And voila. You have a perfectly passable piece of content. It’s not going to win any awards or win over new customers. It’s not going to increase sales or delight and engage your audience. In fact, it’s not going to do anything for the business. But since no money was spent creating said collateral, and budgets are tight any way, that’s okay, right? Especially if you just need something quick and simple to hand out at a festival or trade event. Something to grab the attention of the thousands of people passing by. In short, something would-be customers can remember you by…

Are you starting to see the problem here?

In a world where so much information is constantly being thrown at us, great design, beautifully crafted headlines and smart creative strategy cuts through the clutter. Mediocre just isn’t good enough. So why is it that so many companies are willing to risk mediocre marketing?

In a world where so much information is constantly being thrown at us, great design, beautifully crafted headlines and smart creative strategy cuts through the clutter.

You wouldn’t let your GP perform a triple bypass surgery. You’d go to a team of specialists – a cardiac doctor to perform the surgery, a nutritionist to help you reduce cholesterol and a marriage counsellor to appease your better half who has been nagging you to “eat less salt” for the last 5 years. While I’m not saying traditional advertising is the same as the life-saving work of underpaid, overworked doctors (although the tight deadlines, long hours and ever-shrinking budgets are strikingly similar), you get my point.

Unfortunately for me, until the clients I work for are willing to invest in their marketing budget, my choice is simple: continue to use tools that are other, more skilled individuals’ bread and butter, or risk losing a client which is my bread and butter.

While saying “R.I.P. Design Industry” may be a tad extreme, there’s no denying we are operating in an ever-shifting, constantly changing space. But I still believe there is a place for talented, inspiring designers out there.

As for my fellow writers, best beware. With artificial intelligence and machine learning part and parcel of everyday life, we’re probably next.

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