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Category Archives: magazines

Back in mid-2003, HOW Magazine contacted me to write about the “Future of Design.” The article was printed on page 160 of the October 2003 Issue of HOW, in a now defunct section called “Design Sign-Off.”

The reason for revisiting this article is because it was just pointed out to me that HOW Magazine just published an entire issue based on the topic of the “Future of Design.” In order to see how these ideas held up from 4 years ago, I’ve reprinted the article (along with an edited section that wasn’t in the printed article which talks about virtual reality glasses).

Feel free to add your thoughts to this piece in the form of comments.

And away we go!

The New Pilgrims

Printed in HOW Magazine, October 2003

There’s a monumental transformation occurring in our industry. The old agency models are being exorcised by new, innovative practices. The Internet hasn’t gone away, it’s just getting wiser. Communication lines are shorter as the Web transforms into a sharing environment rather than a one-way broadcast. The necessity of print media will be reduced by virtual reality and digital books, only to be maintained with a push from the design industry toward more sustainable practices and paper choices.

The days of the specialty Web shop are quickly ending. Before, a client’s brand was dispersed from identity firm to Web studio to print agency until the original and all-important message was lost. Now, creatives are embracing video, print, sound and interactive media at the same time with the ultra-powerful “processing toolbox” that sits under their desks. The computer has given very small creative groups the agility to control every aspect of a client’s precious identity, all with a noticeable lack of “packet loss” that occurred among specialty agencies.

With the new designer’s mastery of the psychological aspects of interaction design and the ubiquity of broadband wireless connectivity, the Internet of the future will have to simplify for the masses. (Edited Copy from original article) – With a larger global audience, communication through VoiP Video Phones, or Reality-Enhanced glasses, allowing someone to maneuver through a busy city street with floating arrows indicating the direction to a desired location, or to know the names (and possibly dating status) of people they pass will be transmitted to the human retina from the glasses and appear to be floating in the space ahead while moving through the crowd. – (End Edited Copy from original article). The term “designer” will continue to expand into multiple disciplines and dimensions where we’ll be expected to produce what we envision. This will occur not only in interactive experience and print, but in product design and architecture. Design’s role in the world will become even more important, helping local audiences understand global issues and vice versa.

Electronic inks and digital books will provide a paper-like reading experience that lets users access information anytime, anywhere. Graphic designers will write, produce, direct and share films and video games, envision and build architectural monuments, and generate virtual landscapes for friends and family from multiple global locations to gather together. Where you live will be as important as your online “lair.” Geography lessons will occur in Roman temples on Tuesday and in the virtual Congo on Thursday. In time, virtual and real worlds will blur and communities will populate, sustain and thrive: the new pilgrims in a very eclectic landscape.

Furthermore, the print industry must shift toward reusable papers and soy-based inks. The book Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, discusses sustainable materials that work naturally within our environment rather than damaging it. The design community must expect printers and paper mills to uses and produce polymer-based paper and printing processes that don’t release toxins into our air, and must lobby the government to make these materials accepted and affordable to everyone.

As time goes by, the goal of a graphic designer will be to master and invent new forms of media, working in small collectives that will communicate with others. The Internet has already made it conceivable to set up channels that allow designers to share ideas. Watch what happens the day a designer in Singapore sends a logo for a music festival in Tokyo to a designer in Iraq who passes her thoughts to a designer in Arkansas. Imagine: The glorious global cross-pollination of ideas.

Dave Fletcher is a Founder and Creative Director of theMechanism, a maxi-media firm in New York City and London. He wrote extensively about “The Future of Design” in an October 2003 article in HOW Magazine, entitled “The New Pilgrims.”

According to Smashing Magazine, theMechanism’s recent design for Waggener Edstrom Consumer group is “Inspirational, Usable & Elegant”. They also threw around words like “profound” and “enduring” too.

We wholeheartedly support and trust their judgement.

From Smashing Magazine:

We all love beautiful, usable and impressive web designs. To achieve them, web developers need to focus on many aspects, but basically it all boils down to the question, how well the content is presented and how easily the information can be perceived. Harmonic color schemes are as important as solid and consistent typography. Precise visual structure and intuitive navigation are essential for both usability and accessibility. In fact, mostly it’s a keen attention to small details which gives web-sites a profound and enduring nature.

We’ve selected some more of them. Over 60 elegant, usable and impressive designs with a well thought-out color scheme, typography and visual structure. Their beauty lies in the way the information is presented. Their usability lies in the way they communicate presented data. That’s what makes them different.

Have a peek at all the inspiring designs from various firms right here.

PC World’s Eric Butterfield recently tried to damage the freshly birthed iPhone by putting it through a series of “stress tests.” While I predict that soon enough, a bevy of companies will be offering tasty carbonite sheaths to coddle your $500+ investment – for now – watch this video to see how the rapturous little device is holding up to Butterfield’s physical persecution and torment…

It’s official. We’re now dwellers on a quirky little globe where offbeat and talented graphic designers are gleefully given the keys to the pop-culture kingdom and clench them firmly between their ego and hind quarters. Such is the case with Lemon’s recent article and photo expose on graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve enjoyed hearing Sagmeister’s rapturous “I’m a little awkward with English, so let us giggle together…” mutterings at several design conferences du jour. About 6 years ago, he also turned his snout skyward to the concept of profitability and business in general through the brilliant PR play — “I’m retiring.” — implying by such an announcement that his absence would actually leave a gap in our simple and mediocre graphic worlds. However, shortly after his retirement ended (a year later) an excellent tome about the fella’s work was released, showing us all that his “retirement” wasn’t actually a real “retirement” at all (it was really book writing time). In the end, Stefan’s “adieu” was nothing more than a calculated PR stunt. He subsequently utilized his “triumphant return” to graphic design as a means to tour the design conference circuit, reminding us all once again (in case you missed it in Ad Age or on the lips of any creative magazine editors’ lips that he had had retired for a whole year) and delivered a speech about the joys of a year off — a patronizing speech — which reminded more than a few designers (myself included) that “famous designers” clients’ are stupid enough to wait for genius. Oh, and he also had that pretty new book to sell…

While throughout his career, his work been praised by several magazines and graphic tomes, in the latest issue of Lemon, Sagmeister is granted a level of sainthood usually reserved for the likes of Reed, Jagger and Byrne: three of the artists for whom he’s produced some interesting work.

I have always enjoyed his work and more importantly, the work of those who influenced him. It just seems to me that there is an odd shift that’s occurred in the creative profession where too many of us have become bedazzled by any designer thrust into the spotlight by your design magazine of choice. It happens every 10 years or so, first with Paul Rand and David Ogilvy, later with Pushpin wondertwins Glaser and Chwast, and more recently with surfer turned designer David Carson and Sagmeister. The list of talent is endless, but if it sounds like graphic design’s personalities are becoming more like our favorite TV reality star personalities, you may not be far from the truth…

In other words, any magazine like Lemon calling a very talented designer like Stefan Sagmeister a “hero” is pushing it. Adding a photo exposé of Sagmeister as James Bond surrounded by adoring women is berserk. If the act of being worshipped instantly makes one into a hero, we all need to reconsider what breeds the Saint. Most of our self-imposed stars are talented personalities, not superhumans.

I suggest that we all begin to look inward for our “hero” and outward for affordable fuel to keep our internal fire lit.