← Chapter 3 — The user, the learning curve
The questions that drove this thesis have been addressed from my personal experience. I feel very strongly about my field becoming functional utility because I believe in the power of a visually shaped message. It confuses me that the majority of the graphic design I observe in the public, executed by professional shape givers, is not more interested in it's position in relation to the politics of the tools it is created out of. During my training in art school, I used to get frustrated with my peers and I coming to similar visual resolutions to the assignments we had. It became clear after a few of these occurrences that, while we might have had different interests and background cultures, we were receiving the same assignment, from the same teachers, out of the same workshops; and we responded to these assignments with influences from the same lectures, the same blogs, same magazines; then we resolved them with the same tools (and similar methods in said tools, as we had been thought these tools together) on the same computers. Finally we all went to the same print shop and did our final cuts and bindings in the same ‘technical’ room, before assessments. I'm explaining this frustration because I think a lot of what was happening during graphic design school is happening in today's professional design world too. Trends will be trends and influences weigh differently from place to place, but my reoccurring feeling is that a lot of the bits of graphic design I see nowadays tastes the same as the next. It feels similar. It's not unthinkable that these designers would have had similar influences, or followed similar trends, but the taste and the feel I'm talking about comes from composition and from shapeliness. It's like all this design was made on the same grid, or had to abide to the same template. It's like all the production had to conform to the same guidelines, bordering on the line of subliminal. My cynical belief is that this is true, because it is an almost sure bet that these designers have worked within similar environments, within similar influences, with similar design tools, on very similar computers. The consequence of all design looking the same is that it all gets read the same way. Serving the same pictorial facture over and over means that the audience views in comparison, not in difference. This shortcuts to a view of graphic design that is a regularised transaction.
I think the similar compositions and similar shapes come from the defaults and presets the used tools have. Somehow the mould and the cast are identicals, and that ends up being just OK. I'm quite confused and disenchanted by this state of affairs, but I do believe that interesting graphic design can be restored. It can be rebuilt by looking at what it involves to make graphic design today. The re-identification as crafts-people as opposed to sequencers is the first point. Understanding how craft has changed, how tools have changed it, and what it means to practice with abstracting / abstracted tools and understanding the politics that surround these tools is a second point. Seeing that ‘industry interests’ are not to be taken for granted, and that efficiency and speed actually have costs. The costs constitute the third and broadest point of this thesis, about learning curves and their payoffs.
In short, I am not holding the position that every human must learn computer architectures and programming languages. What I am saying is that interfacing methods should be helpful, reveal their parts, toggle between heterogeneous and homogeneous displays, and that trust their users as equally smart as the software builders. I do not believe that everybody must be on similar technical levels of understanding computer technologies either, but I do think that a broader and better understanding of the types and the layers of abstractions that are needed for computers to function is increasingly important. I also believe that the need for a certain digital literacy extends beyond professional practitioners. The powers of information technologies, information systems are all around us and the examples that show us how their use and existence embodies specific politics, become forms of governance, arise daily.
← Chapter 3 — The user, the learning curve
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