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Does Technology Dictate Trends?

From Sign(s) of the time discussion:

Which brings me to a different debate, are trends dictated by asthetics or the technology and tools available? - Griff

The obvious answer would be yes, every time a new technology is available every designer wants to try it out and see what they can do with it. Some might succeed and other will stay mired with the same results. Not bad results. Just same-looking results that end up creating a trend.

I would definitely not say this is a bad thing. Some designers have made the most of new technology. Think Emigre, among many others. Designers who are able to use the technology as what it is: a tool, are the ones who succeed in taking their work beyond a trend. Then there are the designers who see technology as what it is not: results, where they expect the new software or hardware to do the thinking for them and end up with homogenized work that is harder to separate than two alley cats in a fight.

How does technology affect the way we design? Is it only the technology that dictates trends or the nature of people (designers and clients alike) to follow in the footsteps of what is working for others.?

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.08.2003 BY Armin
graham’s comment is:

technology as means allows things to happen-the pen, moveable type, the computer etc. i don't think it dictates things happening-more like the opposite.

i wanted to make some dyeline and pmt prints a while ago, just like i always used to, back in the day. after a couple of days on the phone, i found what was apparently the last bottle of developing fluid in london, and the only place i could find with a dyeline machine said it was being fixed but they probably woudn't be able to find the spares. i felt like someone had just told me the pen was obsolete :(

more than technology, there are things that tend to become like shorthand ways of working-powerpoint/storyboards/reference points/looking at design or advertising annuals for inspiration etc. this is where (although i'm drifting off your topic) the footstep following occurs more frequently and blatantly-things looking like other things is sort of the tip of the iceberg.

On Apr.08.2003 at 03:31 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Let the idea dictate which technology to use, technology should not constrain or drive the idea. Like using Flash just to use Flash. If a napkin and crayon gets the idea across more efficiently, truly represents the idea/company/product, and everything else "good design" is supposed to do then so be it.

In my opinon, the "desktop publishing" revolution aided by the work by Emigre and April Greiman for example, is the only real technological breakthrough or advancement in graphic design I can think of in the last 20 years. I can't think of any other technology that has had the same impact on graphic design.

On Apr.08.2003 at 04:11 PM
graham’s comment is:

agree with kiran 100%.

i was on a panel discussion years back and got a bit told off by another of the participants when i got into what kiran is talking about. the person said/screamed at me that only the best and newest technology was good enough for their clients.

which is nice.

On Apr.08.2003 at 04:28 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Let the idea dictate which technology to use, technology should not constrain or drive the idea.

Yes. In a perfect world.

Let's also focus more on the 'technology starting trends' idea. Like you said Kiran, Flash is one big issue. Flash may not have the importance of desktop publishing but it was a pretty important technology to emerge. The trend of using for flash for flash's sake was very apparent, and those 3 minute intros for every web site are now (thank God) a thing of the past, but it was a big trend and a rites of passage for any dotcom. Flash also affected MTV, with all their flash-looking promo spots, which then sparked all this other flatness trend, which is now being replaceed by gradients, which... you get the picture.

Another example is Photoshop. All the layered stuff the Attik was doing a few years back (thank God too that is passing) would have been impossible to create without Photoshop and the trend would have never started. And don't even get me started on that exploding polygon shit and 3D applications. Talk about a trend initialized by technology.

And on another spectrum, a big technology enhancement was in letterpress and the emergence of photopolymers to replace wood and metal type setting. The re-emergence of letterpress is a huge trend. Just ask Martha Stewart.

On Apr.08.2003 at 04:43 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Ugh. The Concept vs. Technology debate.


On Apr.08.2003 at 05:12 PM
graham’s comment is:

the programme isn't the technology-the processor is. those website intros could have been film based things, traditional animation etc.; but because they then appear on the web doesn't make them products of digital media. that's like saying books are a digital medium because they've been made in quark xpress. maybe there's a general confusion between media/medium (photoshop/flash; the screen/the page etc.) and technology (the computer/pigment/sticks); between the process and intent and where it ends up.

it's because of this that i really don't think technology starts trends per se. does music (as a cultural 'technology') start trends? yes, there are trends, but this form of expression we call music is not responsible for this: it is waiting to be used. technology doesn't initiate anything (yet). people do.

or maybe i'm just a git :)

On Apr.08.2003 at 05:17 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

> general confusion between media/medium

Isn't it a confusion about the context? I thought media was simply the plural of medium.

It's all a big mix. Technology is a tool. It is a medium. It can be the point of inspiration. It can simply be the delivery platform.

On Apr.08.2003 at 07:11 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Agreed Armin, it is amazing how broadcast television, especially MTV, have adopted vector based imagery and animation, although I don't know if they actually use Flash or not. In terms of technology driven trends, yes then one could say Flash is the lastest digital inovation to do so, but in that case it might just be the asthetics of the medium that defined the trend, not the technology itself. I agree with Graham.

Maybe the human mind is the only thing to advance graphic design, sure technology makes things easier (PDF generation right out of InDesign, no more Distiller) but when I look at successful designers (true design not $) , most of them haven't a clue about technology and are still running Illustrator 6 on a Quadra, if they even use a computer.

It's neat to see the re-emergence of a technology, albeit old technology, finding a niche again such as the letterpress as Armin mentioned. It is huge at the momment.

On Apr.08.2003 at 07:22 PM
graham’s comment is:

>Isn't it a confusion about the context? I thought media was simply the plural of medium.

sorry-probably my usual hijacking/mangling of language; i tend to use media for the things one makes stuff with (pencil/camera/clay) and medium for the means by which it is received-t.v./radio/print etc.

and you're right-everything is interconnected.

On Apr.08.2003 at 07:23 PM
Gerald Lange’s comment is:

There is a difference between trends and aesthetics, yes?

I think you do not have to go far back to realize that technological developments lead to changes in aesthetics. The typewriter, the invention of movable type, the camera. The development of DTP radically changed the typesetting industry (and type design) and the graphic industry. Emigre and Greiman explored the potential. It caught on. As the technology matured so did the aesthetic.

The change in "letterpress" mentioned here is not radical. It is simply the combination of developments in photopolymer processing and the emerging DTP. These were hooked up to an older printing technology.

That "letterpress" is now considered a trend is an another matter entirely. Since I've been a letterpress printer for nearly three decades now, I hardly seen it as a trend. But it has certainly been revitalized for a certain group of practitioners due to these technical developments. Except for the initial patterning of the emerging DTP aesthetic, letterpress has fallen back into classical mode.

The Martha Stewart "thing," that process is everything, is not new to late twentieth century aesthetics or to five and a half centuries of letterpress.

On Apr.09.2003 at 09:33 PM
griff’s comment is:

I find it interesting this thread assumed the word "technology" referred to computers (for the most part).

To answer the question, I think it helps to look at leaps in technology well before computers. For example, did constraints/advantages of the printing press change what people considered good design at the time?

Obviously, both technology and asthetics contribute to trends. Unfortunately, I think technology drives 75% of design trends and fashion.

I have a theory that the most impactful designs have the shortest shelf life because they are trendy and takes advantage of the latest fashions (and that is ok). Less impactfull, subtle designs endure time and are less dependent on technology.

I don't think this should be confused with the old technology vs. concept debate, although it is probably related. technology is often the easy way out for lazy designers.

On Apr.09.2003 at 11:30 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

>The re-emergence of letterpress

Here is an interesting tale of someone who got burned out by the technology sector and found themselves searching for something more "real" to do. While the tale is perhaps more related to job happiness, I think it directly speaks to how technology, and its effects on the economy, influenced the design field, moving countless designers into the web arena. The resulting shakeout has lead some designers in the exact opposite direction.

On Apr.11.2003 at 03:15 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Argh, I hate typos, especially my own.


On Apr.11.2003 at 03:16 AM