I’m really not a fan of Photoshop.
That statement probably sounds like blasphemy coming from someone who calls himself a graphic designer, but it’s the truth. People really go crazy over this program. It can do anything and everything – it can make a color photo black & white with one click; it can help you turn a cloudy sky into one filled with sun rays and blue skies; it can make a photo look as if it were painted. And that, among a list of other features, is why I really dislike Photoshop: it sucks the creativity right out of design.
People tend to think that technology is advancing design. A decade ago, who’d have thought every designer could have access to a host of programs that could turn them each into their own little art studio? Sure, Photoshop makes the life of a designer or a designer-wannabe very easy but it’s made “design” more of a technical process than it is an artistic one. Remember when graphic artists and designers had to actually posses some artistic skills? They had to be comfortable with using these archaic instruments known as pencils, erasers, pens, paint brushes and more to actually create their work? Nowadays, graphic designers really aren’t anything more than IT experts of Creative Suite. Ask a designer if he or she knows how to paint; sure, they’ll answer, as they point out the proper commands to press in Corel or Photoshop. Ask them to draw a line; their first instinct is probably to open up a computer program to do so rather than to take a pen to paper. When did designers lose sight in creativity?
I came across an article in How Design discussing lasting design. Is anything that we create these days truly lasting? Some may argue the point that most things designed aren’t meant to have a long-lasting shelf life. We designers are given the task of creating something to help promote an event coming up; we’re told that effective design will drive an audience to an event or business, that design helps sell the product. Sure, that’s all true, but why aren’t we striving to create and design things that have lasting value? It feels like the more technically-inclined we become, the less impact our design has. Think about that President Obama poster/art created by Shepard Fairey. What made it have lasting impact? It looked crafted, handmade, personalized. Sure, there’s now a Photoshop tutorial on how to do the same to any photo but when that piece of design work first came out, people took notice because of how man-made it was. It looked like someone actually took time out of their lives to put it together, choose the colors, consider all of the elements of what makes a good artistic composition.
I feel that Ric Grefe, executive director of AIGA, hit the nail on the head in a 2007 issue of How Magazine when he described what he feels makes a design have lasting value:
“I guess lasting to me is design that is able to continue to do three things. No. 1: It’s true attribute is clarity. Even today it communicates something clearly. Secondly, design can also be emotional – it can trigger an emotional response. The third is context. It captures the moment. Any of those three elements can make a lasting impact and still feel intriguing.”
I think we need to stop worrying about designing for the moment and become more concerned with designing something that’s going to tell a story and have life years, if not decades, from now. Why waste your time stressing over creating something if you have no desire to see it live on past its usefulness? Imagine creating an ad that clearly promotes an event or product but is timeless and will have people continuously revisiting it for years to come? Why not consider what emotional impact and reaction a piece of work will have as you would consider the colors, composition and other basic elements of good art?
I think we all need to step away from the computer. We need to stop relying on programs like Photoshop to do all of the creative work for us and instead take creativity and the design into our own hands. Sure, we all design for a living and do other creative work that we get paid for at the end of the day but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and produce work that we’re proud of, feel an emotional connection to and work that goes beyond the original intent and aim.