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Computer = Fart, or Digital Immersion Is Not Design

I witness a bevy of design students leap to the computer whenever a project is delivered into their hands. From the Apple’s input devices, they wind up at Google for research or sit pining over which software will suit the problem’s needs—or their premature vision. A large complaint from those in the industry, who hire young designers, is that designers can’t think, and when I see them head to the computer I have to agree. They’re looking at bits and bytes for answers when they should be doing research or collaborating. How do we reconcile the fact that the next generation of designers will be very computer savvy, raised on iPods with an expert knowledge of Photoshop by the age of 17? Perhaps they’ll have a leg up on us, being able to brainstorm with the computer easily and efficiently. Still, nothing changes the fact that the computer ≠ design.

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PUBLISHED ON Feb.19.2006 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Steve’s comment is:

As a relitively young designer I can't count the number of times I've wanted to research and brainstorm a project but have been told to 'just get it done' by clients or project managers. The worst is when they have what they want in their head and you are purely being used as a tool to implement it, regardless of usability problems or fundamental design flaws.

On Feb.19.2006 at 10:29 PM
Randy’s comment is:

I came to design through computer and music, having designed my fist web site in 8th grade, 1997. It's been a long period of growth and understanding since then and where have I arrived? Super-savvy and making use of myriad software solutions to just about every bit of my process, but through it all I've naturally arrived at what all the old schoolers are insisting...an early leap to the computer should not and in many cases cannot be a part of the design process.

Without sounding self-grandizing, I sincerely believe that any designer worth working with is on that knows this to be a truth. It takes self-control and critical analysis of one's own working methods to undertsand and do what consistently works best. Good designers will find that it starts with a pencil.

Until a computer truly models the real world in all its nuances, any form of "brainstorming" on the computer is limited by the abilities we know or understand the machine and software to be capabe of. Sure, some nice solutions come out of that, but I'm certain the same mind behind those solutions will produce more unexpected and keen results with the more physical first steps.

On Feb.19.2006 at 11:08 PM
pk’s comment is:

jason: i have to say a bit of your post makes you sound as if you believe that the young designers themselves are solely at fault in this situation. let's not forget that just-in-time printing and auction-style design sites have expanded so rapidly over the past few years that design is now a commodity purchase for a lot of low-level purchasers.

design is now a highly segmented market with a frighteningly short view of its own industry structure. as a result of that lack of self-awareness, our new entries are very much in a sink-or-swim scenario as they compete for work without knowing which audience to target: they must be fast, they must have glitz, and they must be cheap.

On Feb.20.2006 at 12:29 AM
Su’s comment is:

Jason, this needs some serious polish. It just doesn't make sense, and it smacks of the irritating down-the-nose glance still being given to digital work with increasingly flimsy justification. Not that I'm necessarily accusing you of same, but there's a familiar stench here. Research and collaboration don't equal design any more than digital immersion, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

For one, you start out complaining about these students going to Google to do research, but then later seem to suggest there's no research at all going on. Which is it? Or is it that they're not doing research the way you'd want them to/think they should, and it's therefore invalid?

Am I missing something, or are you somehow skipping over that the real problem is that most people don't know how to research at all? Do you seriously think that if they can't find something by typing a phrase into Google and letting a computer do most of the legwork, throwing them into a library is going to do a damn thing?

Here's an idea: I know there's a lot of students reading this site. How about you guys let us know what sort of instruction you're being given by your teachers on doing research. I'm willing to bet it ranges from none to barely.

There's nothing wrong with using Google in and of itself; what's wrong is relying only on Google. Of course, proper research would suggest you not rely on any single source, regardless of medium.

(Sidenote: I'll refrain from describing the research you would seem to prefer as rummaging through bits of dead plant matter if you keep from referring to some fantasy land of "bits and bytes." Deal? Information is information, very few people actually read binary, and just about any book you've purchased recently started out as said bytes; don't be an ingrate.)

"How do we reconcile the fact that the next generation of designers will be very computer savvy [...] with an expert knowledge of Photoshop by the age of 17?"

Now, this is just denial speaking. If this is acceptable to you in some far-flung future, you might want to have another look out your window an reasses.

On Feb.20.2006 at 12:35 AM
Chris Palmieri’s comment is:

"Good designers will find that it starts with a pencil."

I've heard this line over and over again, and I just don't buy it. A pencil is only a tool, just like a computer is only a tool.

Designers can get lost in a pencil stroke as easily as they do a photograph or a pixel.

I know plenty of talented designers who don't or can't draw freehand (including some of my professors from school), and plenty of crappy designers who have excellent drawing skills.

The danger is not in any one tool, it's in knowing which one is appropriate for whatever point you're at in *your* workflow.

On Feb.20.2006 at 12:51 AM
will’s comment is:

computer never equals design. and i think most of us understands that. tools are not the design. rulers aren't, pencils aren't, and printing presses aren't. the creative process will always be in the mind, even if our tools are capable of inspiring those processes, it will never replace it.

being one of those design students who began their training on the computer, and whose work will no doubt revolve around it in the future, i can see (at least from my perspective) where you're coming from.

but in a way, i think we, the latest generation of design student, are jumping to our computers the same way previous design students were jumping to their sketchbooks. it's just another place to gather and conceptualize our ideas. not that we've abandoned the sketchbook, but i dont think this shift to the computer necessarily means less thinking.

i think that, to our generation, and even more so to the generations that follow, paper just feels like a foreign thing. "putting things down" on paper will become less likely, but i don't think that reflects the dumbing down of design, we've just moved our thoughts to another place.

hell, maybe that's a good thing. from what i can tell, we've wasted enough trees in this industry as it is.

On Feb.20.2006 at 01:02 AM
Steve Seeley’s comment is:

I've never really been able to understand why people still don't view the computer as a tool. Just as a pencil is a tool. A pencil ≠ design either. Design happens in in the mind. Does it matter how you record those ideas?

Sometimes it's fastest to draw something on paper, other times you can open up word and write down a bunch of terms related to your project which then can be emailed to your collaborators in a matter of seconds. Other times you can draw basic shapes to start to block out an idea a lot faster and more efficiently in Illustrator than you could with a pencil. I think that when it becomes a problem is when you just jump into the visual aspect and start creating a "finished" looking piece of work without a concept behind it.

This however isn't limited to a computer. You can just as easily start designing something on paper before doing proper research and brainstorming. I think what's important is to teach young designers that these initial steps should not be skipped and that concept is always key. Maybe instruction on how technology can be used effectively for reasearch and collaboration will help the situation. Its obvious the computer is not going away, so why not take advantage of what it does well?

On Feb.20.2006 at 01:10 AM
Clement’s comment is:

I've been lurking on this site on and off for over a year now and I feel compelled to, um, speak up.

I don't think starting a design project on a computer necessarily constitutes an inferior process. Although I'm a graduate student in my thirties, I spent last year in the undergraduate division of my school. I took a sophomore-level basic typography class in which our final project was to design an original 26-letter alphabet based on classic Roman forms. I started with pencil sketches but there were a couple of other students who went straight to Illustrator, and their letters were legible, followed the teacher's guidelines, and simply worked (and one was even beautiful.) If you see it in your head, does it matter which tool you use? If anything, one could argue that software proficiency leads to greater efficiency.

Also, sometimes the process of fooling around in Photoshop (the digital equivalent of pencil doodling) can lead to an idea or provide a spark or raise a question or uncover a path that a designer might not have thought of otherwise. As far as I'm concerned, ain't nuthin' wrong with that.

And what's wrong with doing research via Google? If a young designer is designing a CD cover, say, for blues music from the Mississippi and s/he goes to Google to learn more about the geography and sociology of the time, I think that's judicious use of the tools that are available to him. If a young designer's turning to Google to ape what other people have done before, maybe as art directors we can give him some guidance. Which leads me to my next point.

What Steve wrote is something I can relate to. How many young designers, fresh out of school, get to brainstorm and come up with concepts? I don't have the answer, but what I do know is that when I started out I was quite familiar with what a napkin sketch from a Design Director looked like. Part of the onus lies on us--if we want young designers to be less tool and more brains we should give them projects that challenge them intellectually. Of all the places I've worked at, there were always talented young designers who were regarded as production designers.

On Feb.20.2006 at 01:22 AM
Karen Huang’s comment is:

Computer ≠ design is like saying typing ≠ writing.

It's obvious, it's tired, and it's seriously "duh!"

On Feb.20.2006 at 01:23 AM
Steve’s comment is:

Computer ≠ design might not be entirely accurate but I think Jason makes a point. As a young designer I recognize the faults in myself and my peers that he has described, although not all of what he said strikes me as entirely true. I'll explain how I see it.

Computer ≠ design is right in the sense that software and machines can't accomplish work for you. It can also cheapen good work. It leads people to always use type faces designed by other people, or to depend on materials from stock cds, so on. This isn't a sin but it doesn't really make the final product sing every time. I can't recall how many guys I've gone to work with and they've had their trusty wacom, powerbook, and stack of stock photo/decal/whatever dumb crap dvds ready. And while traditional design isn't for everyone, why wouldn't you try it? Digital is cool, but there are hundreds of amazing qualities it's very difficult to achieve with a computer yet easy with a sketch book, scissors, inks, or some spray colors. You can do so much cool stuff which is fully transferable to a computer.

As far as research goes, I think a lot of us are way over confident and think we've got the skills to throw some sweet stuff together in no time. I don't know about others my age (19) but the few I've worked with have been total asses that way. I don't know why, but they want three things primarily: For the design to be solely their idea, to make it in as little time as possible, and to ignore the clients ideas. It causes annoying conflicts and really shitty work.

I think it's the individuals fault if they're being asses about design. If the person is being lazy, not collaborating, or not researching when given the chance, they should know it's a bad choice even if school or clients make them feel rushed. Why would it be a good idea in almost any other business, but not design?

For the record, I'm not much better or worse then my peers, I just have a different idea of how to do things.

On Feb.20.2006 at 03:18 AM
Nix’s comment is:


I feel you on this discussion, but also somewhat agree with what Su had to say regarding Google-trash-talk and 17-year old Photoshop experts. I'll offer this in addition:

1. I say this as one degreed, practicing designer critiquing another: It is surprising to find you writing such a critical article on research and suggesting an almost anti-digital approach to design when the pieces you show on your personal site reference no other era of design but the postmodern and an occassional 45-degree bauhaus layout. After reading your comment, I expected to view your portfolio and find letrasets, woodcuts, intaglio, illustration, etc. I like what I see and think your work is good, but can you offer some good examples of researched work not entirely on an Apple by you?

2. I do believe that some of these "kids," as you may consider them, have an advantage over the more traditionally trained designers, which SOME of them deserve credit for:

— knowledge of the thousands of display fonts and good use of such typefaces.

— "raised on iPods" (this statement itself is somewhat ridiculous, since anybody calling themself a designer can only have had an iPod for a few years now, not raised on them) indicates the upper-hand that the younger generation of design graduates have in understanding the newer technology, the newer music, the videos, and yes, even some of the print work. Digital Kitchen, Logan, and Buster, cutting-edge motion studios, use some of these kids.

3. Back to agreeing with you — my design master in college was and still is a critical, inspiring director who could tell when we just used stock photography, a trendy sans-serif font or color scheme. I have taught design myself, hoping to follow in his path, and have ultimately come to realize how hard it is to drill into students' heads "You have to research on the web, off the web, off the computer, out of the city, with people who don't speak your language, etc etc."

Finally, I am simply worried that the computer itself has allowed so many non-designers to pick up page-layout and digital art programs, that desktop publishers are taking the jobs… unless that young designer searches google for an hour, finds what they need, puts an effect to in PS, drops an Emigre or Fontshop typeface over it, and sends it off. Maybe that's just America though?

On Feb.20.2006 at 04:22 AM
that one girl’s comment is:

Oooh! Will you write an article on researching for design projects...or start a book list, or something? Every design site I frequent goes on about the importance of research to a concept, but none of them say how to do it or where to go. I didn't learn this in school (but my degree focused on fine art, which would explain it).

On Feb.20.2006 at 08:02 AM
marko savic’s comment is:

I'm sorry that this is fairly long-winded, but it's a hot topic for me.

Here's an idea: I know there's a lot of students reading this site. How about you guys let us know what sort of instruction you're being given by your teachers on doing research. I'm willing to bet it ranges from none to barely.

Here at York/Sheridan we get demonstrations on how to use the library homepage (the internet) to search for books based on keywords, view digital copies of books and journals; how to use e-resources to find peer-review journals(the internet); how to use google effectively (the internet); internet citation websites; wikipedia is high pronounced (the internet). We aren't necessarily taught research methods, although we had a course (I'm in second year) this year entitled Research in Design which brought plenty of insight into how we look at design as a social/cultural phenomenon, with Emmison & Smith's Researching the Visual as our primary text. While we're given these tools (all on the internet) to do research, we're not being taught how to use all this information to build/strengthen our concepts. Although, we did an exercise this term on creating a Concept Map using CMapTools. Following the concept map, we're constructing a website on the topic, and later an interactive animation based on our research.

Formally, though, research is supposed to be included as part of our process & development stage of "the design process" in studio courses. But again, we're only presented the tools to do research, and not being formally taught how to connect ideas together beyond research papers.

They’re looking at bits and bytes for answers when they should be doing research or collaborating. How do we reconcile the fact that the next generation of designers will be very computer savvy, raised on iPods with an expert knowledge of Photoshop by the age of 17?

I think many people commenting so far have taken this out of context. I think Jason is implying that when faced with a design problem, students don't think about it conceptually. Instead, there's a computerized or aesthetic solution but no defining concept. I don't think this is a computer=tool specific comment, as I'm sure this happened every time there was a great shift in design technology. When you older, practicing designers went to school, how many of your peers truly thought conceptually, and how many of them simply created an aesthetic solution to a problem? How many of them grew out of this mould when they graduated/started working? Were there complaints that the then new crop of designers didn't know how to research, think or communicate? It's not a new problem, its the one education is there to solve.

The comment, raised on iPods strikes me as quite potent, because I've found the physical structure of our design studios at York/Sheridan to be really isolating. Rows of computers where you can't easily see someone else's work, frosted glass doors, and with iPods creating more defined "personal space," its very tough to be collaborative. Strangers rarely talk to eachother within the labs, especially going up or down a year. If you are discussing your work with others in the lab, theres always going to be someone who scoffs at your noise making, and puts their headphones on with dramatic flair to make a point: design labs aren't for discussion. Which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

This leaves a lot of us to work at home on our laptops. We converse about our design work via MSN and LiveJournal. Critique eachothers PDFs via e-mail. We still work in the labs, but thats to feel like we're getting things done, not for the collaborative environment.

It would be great if the design labs were more casual, structured in a way that allowed collaboration and discussion. But they aren't, so we're adapting and creating new ways to work.

On Feb.20.2006 at 08:48 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I also think one of the biggest misconceptions is that "Google" is bad research. Google is a search engine, it contains no information — it is an index on steroids, easier to use than any index in a library. Using the web (through Google) for research can be pretty helpful, specially if you don't mind subscribing to encyclopedia britannica or other sources that have as much information for a small fee — Google is not bad. Plus, as a designer you are usually working "in the now", making the top Google results even more relevant than a three-decade-old index card that no one has thumbed.

The biggest question though, is what constitutes good research?

Is research reading a focus group report? Reading about cavemen? Man on the street interviews? Google?

The best research one can do is keeping your ears and eyes open every single day… you'll be amazed at how much that can inform any given project. And you don't need a library card or a high-speed internet connection.


And the thorniest question, is what constitutes good process?

Which is as useful as asking which is the best way to Rome.

(All roads to lead to Rome, btw).

On Feb.20.2006 at 09:10 AM
fatknuckle’s comment is:

Armin, I thought all roads lead to Cleveland...

Not to counteract my luddite principles but isnt it just a shift in the working methodology, something that has gone on with the advent and progression of technology since the beginning?

I'm an avid sketcher, and for me personally I like the feel of the paper and pencil. I simply feel more attached. But I am also the first to admit that I have gone directly to the silver box to hash out ideas.

If you are comfortable with the tool, be it pencil, paintbrush, or mouse then you need to work in a manner that is comfortable to you.

As for research on google, why is that any different than going to a library or perusing the local Borders?

To each there own.

On Feb.20.2006 at 09:57 AM
Koleslaw’s comment is:

When the industry states that young designers can't think, the critics expose their own faulty premise. By definition, a designer is a visual communicator- a visual thinker. So maybe the problem isn't the computer, technical knowledge, or anything related to the process of design. The problem is defining design itself.

What I sadly and oftenly see is a pool of definitions being spewed. Because of the limitless ideas to what design can be, each newer definition confuses the original meaning it was based on. For example, the ubiquitous illusion of digitized vomit as high design. Surely, this contradicts the rare gem, where tools (including the computer) are utilized to enhance a visual idea. The sort of design based on illustrating an idea, solving or ameliorating a problem. Bob Gill said it best- "The only way that graphic designers can hope to compete with the dazzling special effects... is by going to the other extreme. We have to go to reality. We have to take a careful look at the real world."

Yes, we all can agree that the computer is a tool:

tool ≠ design

tool + pretty ≠ design

good idea + tool = design

On Feb.20.2006 at 10:13 AM
DC1974’s comment is:

After a short stint in design school (after 3 years in a liberal arts education, studying anthropology) my impression was that the U.S. design education was and is "anti-intellectual." It was speed and computer tools over learning to brainstorm and research. It was design a CD case for your favorite song, over research methodology. So I quit. And moved into film and finished my education. Perhaps there is more of the out of box thinking and research and collaboration in the higher years and MFA programs. But that's seems backward to me. Perhaps its the marketplace that demands trade-school like programs and not serious conceptual thought and research. Or perhaps it was just a school under pressure to fill its classrooms.

On Feb.20.2006 at 10:19 AM
Zach R’s comment is:

As a young student, I find myself thinking about tools and their influences on work all the time.

Computers have a very particular way of working. All software has biases and suggests you do things certain ways. As David Byrne says about PowerPoint, it's a hammer that tells you what kind of house to build [gross paraphrase]. But I think the same thing happens with all software, even Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut, et cetera. They all put certain options closer than others: how to draw a shape, how to set type with 120% leading, how to bevel, stroke, emboss, extrude and apply a rainbow gradient.

It's possible to get what you want with software, you just have to be cognizant of these biases, or start on a wide open sheet of paper and figure out the computer part later.

I find myself doing the latter. The poster series I'm working on now is all vector illustrated, but looks as if it just as easily been made with cut black paper. No obvious mangling of Bezier curves because it started with paper. That's just what's been working for me.

As per research, there's similar things going on. If you look up keywords in google, the pitfall is that you'll get a very fine tuned set of responses, with little room for your noodle. In a library, and Wikipedia too, I find myself exploring other things on the shelf, a few stacks down. This has also proven to enrich my ideas.

So I too am skeptical of computers, for very specific reasons. To be an expert at Photoshop can mean two things: that you know how to make a 300 pixel ouside bevel with a chiiseled edge, or that you know not to.

On Feb.20.2006 at 11:22 AM
thunk’s comment is:

I'm afraid this will also be rather long-winded. Please bear with me...

Here's an idea: I know there's a lot of students reading this site. How about you guys let us know what sort of instruction you're being given by your teachers on doing research. I'm willing to bet it ranges from none to barely.

The course which I'm studying places a great deal of emphasis upon theory and research – throughout the three years are Visual Culture Theory classes which result in essays, presentations or research projects, all leading towards the dissertation in the final year. Now although we have these classes, we are not 'instructed' in research methods as such – 'advised' would be a more suitable description.

For instance:

  • the VCT programme has its own website with links to each individual tutor's lectures and notes, along with guides as to what is expected and how to present it correctly in the final format. Two tutors also have their own site, Limited Language, which uses the internet as a platform for generating writing about visual communication.
  • Each brief, lecture, and essay question has a list of suggested reading as a starting point to delve deeper into the particular topic of interest.
  • The college has a (very) large library, and you are able to borrow books from the other colleges in the University (a further four).
  • So the research material is there for you.

    This is where the problem lies, however. VCT is not the main class we are taking – it's graphic design. And although the topics discussed in both classes inherently cross over, it is not always seen like that. VCT is one class, graphic design is another.

    If you have no interest in the more 'academic', critical side (which you cannot argue VCT is nothing but) then you complete the assignments as a matter of course – not because it is something you are perhaps genuinely interested in, but because it makes up a percentage of the course.

    Fail VCT, and you don't pass the year.

    Research also plays a large part in the marking of the graphic design briefs; we are expected to have a fairly large body of 'evidence' to prove we have done more than chuck out a design for no reason; we are expected to be able to justify our decisions with reasoned, researched answers. Again, we are provided with reading lists as starting points and expected to find other texts (or examples of work) that support our decisions. Like VCT though, if you're not interested in this particular aspect, then you do enough to pass the 'research' section of the project.

    The emphasis, as with VCT, is on self-motivation. And in order to be self-motivated, you need to be interested. And if you're not interested in the 'academic' critical writing/research, then what?

    On Feb.20.2006 at 11:37 AM
    r agrayspace’s comment is:

    I think Armin pretty much nailed it.

    It's about the process. Process includes research (both analog and digital methods), ideas (sketching in analog and digital) and execution (you guessed it...analog and digital).

    Those that do this with care and intelligence will be what could be commonly agreed to as "good designers". They will not have trouble standing apart from the crowd. They include seasoned designers and some of these new kids "raised on iPods".

    Those that don't get it and focus too heavily on any one of those pieces of the process will thus be "bad designers" or more to the point "hacks". They are not difficult to spot.

    Some of them will find success. "Good designers" are not intimidated by this. It can be assumed that the people that hire "hacks" are likely to be "hacks" at what they do as well and are better off being avoided.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 12:13 PM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    In response to some of the comments above: Life is about choices. And you have to prove yourself.

    + If you don't like your school, transfer to a better program.

    + If you feel like your degree didn't do much for you, find a mentor and learn from them, or take an internship at a great design firm

    + If you don't know how to work with clients, or push back, then don't. Get a fulltime job and learn as you go.

    Why would you expect that a creative director would hand you amazing projects right out of school? You have to prove yourself. So you have a degree…�great! So do a zillion other supposed graphic designers these days. It doesn't matter what program you came from. The most important things are you work, dedication, passion, and attitude. And the ability to sketch.

    My take on this post is that you need to be able to sketch your concepts with a pen and paper. It is great if you can visualize your ideas with a computer, seriously. When you are in your studio, with your technology handy, use whatever you are most comfortable with to get the job done. But the ability to flush out your ideas on paper will serve you well when that's all that you have available.

    And above all, quality over quantity.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 12:59 PM
    Timothy’s comment is:

    If a junior designer working for me went straight to the computer after being briefed and began designing, I would have a problem with that. But for research, I think that's fine. Unfortunately, very rarely have I worked somewhere where research didn't mean buying a brand-new design annual, or flipping through the ones you already have.

    At least with google, you can go down various wrong turnings (in fact it's hard to avoid doing so), and end up being inspired by something outside of graphic design.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 02:04 PM
    Zoelle’s comment is:

    For me, the computer has lead me to create fast food design. I take in what the client wants and translate it into a solution which makes them happy. I have sacrificed good design to some extent by relying on the conveniences afforded me by my computer. A few years ago I was drawing and painting regularly. I would fill notebooks and scraps of paper with ideas that I would scan and send to clients. Now I’m just efficient. I send clients jpegs or pdfs of work that could be final and then I make the type bigger and alter some copy at their request to make it final. (this feels like a confession)

    In college I was an illustration major with nearly a design minor. I spoke with several design principals during my first year of college. Over and over I was told that one of the biggest shortcomings of design graduates is the lack of drawing skills. This directed me to chose illustration because I felt that it created a larger visual vocabulary. I was able to incorporate my illustration skills into my design work. Those skills have since atrophied.

    A couple years ago I went to a figure drawing class at a local college. As I drew I became increasingly critical of myself. I became convinced that I had suffered a stroke some time in the last few years. So I did what most people do, I didn’t go back. This thread has really awoken in me the need to rediscover my roots. I need to schedule time to draw and paint. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 03:13 PM
    Ravenone’s comment is:

    Okey dokey. Time for the 20-something artgeek to speak up. First off, I'm agreeing with this. Computer knowledge doesn't equal design or art knowledge. Like many things, it's a TOOL. It takes knowledge to be able to use it propperly; and it's not the tool's fault if it's being improperly used.

    Is this the students fault? Or is it the teachers for insisting in snap decisions without giving the student time to think things through?

    Part of it's also our society. America is a need/want based society, and what it wants, it wants NOW. Quantity and Speed vs. Quality and Accuracy, IMHO. This doesn't bode well for the future, I think. Running around at break neck speed eventually... breaks your neck.

    On the topic of Research-

    I've noticed in a great many of my college classes, how to research ISNT taught. It makes me want to cry; I learned research skills in Biology class, and love 'em. My research skills are my friend; and sometimes they can save time by pointing out problems other people've had with the same solution you're trying to use for the problem you're trying to solve.


    On Feb.20.2006 at 03:31 PM
    r agrayspace’s comment is:

    Seriously do we need another pen vs computer argument.

    Is one more right than the other?

    Are we know type snobs AND sketching snobs?

    On Feb.20.2006 at 04:24 PM
    Thomas Jockin’s comment is:

    oh pish posh,

    forget this anti-computer ranting, go cry to Morris if you want to do that.

    the promblem is that most deisgners lack anything interesting to say. A pencil or a keyboard isn't going to help that promblem.

    heart= excellent design. nothing more, nothing less.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 04:32 PM
    m. kingsley’s comment is:

    First Jason, you're in the fifth month of the semester and you haven't spoken to your students about various methods of sketching and coming up with concepts?

    (He said with a raised eyebrow)

    Second, a reference to the iPod doesn't make an old topic new again. Speak Up's archives have hashed and rehashed this topic before here…

    ...and to a lesser degree:













    and Here.

    Old vs. new, hand vs. machine is a topic as old as the cotton gin and John Henry. We fretted about the computer 15 years ago! So perhaps we can all move on to greener pastures.

    Besides, in the past 50 years, nobody has said it better than Aunt Bee — as seen on Neil Young's t-shirt.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 04:40 PM
    leslie’s comment is:

    When my ideas seem stale or formulaic I create a collage using both hand done and computer generated art. (I probably would not show this to a client because they expect somthing to look finished.) This is only one method of working through the bad to get to the good. When something is just a "sketch" it invites futher exploration because it doesn't look finished.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 05:11 PM
    David E.’s comment is:

    Sometimes sketching is necessary, sometimes it's helpful, and sometimes it's really just a waste of time. It would be nice if all my projects required that level of conceptualization, but they don't.

    Eventually everyone learns how to get things done in the most efficient way, but at a student level I think everyone should be doing sketches for every project. Students projects are almost always opportunities to develop great concepts, and they're not going to learn to develop them if they're not forced to create thumbnails sketches.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 07:28 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    Old vs. new, hand vs. machine is a topic as old as the cotton gin and John Henry. We fretted about the computer 15 years ago! So perhaps we can all move on to greener pastures.

    This discussion will never disappear unless technology does, so if I were you I'd offer something constructive or simply get used to the argument coming up over and over again. We're not all as experienced as you, kingsley. Lighten up.

    Judging by the comments above, people still dwell on this matter, and some of us approach the design process from the outset sans computer. And I've been surprised to read about some things that I hadn't considered, like student's recognition of type faces and that the computer is a more environmentally friendly tool that uses and wastes less paper. In all, we have some fresh perspectives here.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 07:39 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    Perhaps its the marketplace that demands trade-school like programs and not serious conceptual thought and research. Or perhaps it was just a school under pressure to fill its classrooms.

    DC, can you expand on this point? Or perhaps others would like to comment freely...

    On Feb.20.2006 at 07:42 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    And I've been surprised to read about some things that I hadn't considered

    Consider that maybe you've just defined the problem here yourself.

    The great majority of times this comes up, there's little more being said than "Pencils good, machines bad," usually with bonus cheap swipe at technology in general. It's been done. Nobody actually thinks that computers equal design; what's your point?

    I doubt Kingsley's comment was intended to be shut up so much as, "Bring something else to this tired discussion."

    When I saw this item pop up in my feed reader, I clicked through and was genuinely surprised, and ultimately disappointed, not to find a continuation link, because to be blunt, your comment about premature vision applies here, too. There's a lot of flailing about at easy targets(What do iPods have to do with this?), and very little being said.

    What does "can't think" mean? Provide examples. Explain why (you think) heading to a computer is—it would seem inherently—bad. Some of us don't sketch. Ever. Never have. Your suggestion to means nothing to us. Sell it to me. Why is using Google bad? I covered this above from at least two possible directions. What's so great about collaborating? I'm fairly antisocial, and rarely show people anything before it's largely done, admittedly due in no small part to anxiety of influence.

    That's five complete topics pulled out of your one-paragraph post, and I could probably dig out one or two more. You can directly explore any of them or the ones you refer to from the comments, preferably one at a time, and have actual discussion. If you throw scattershot objection to all of them at once, you just sound like you had a crappy day in class.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 11:45 PM
    Josh’s comment is:

    I am with DC on that some schools sort of float away from developing a conscious, conceptually based designer.

    The program I graduated has always been known as producing the "hardest working" graduates, which i think is sort of a slap in the face, but none are Pentagram partners so who knows. Yet i think there is validity to the idea that my program's focus seemed to be on program knowledge and not stronger idea development. Many people balanced out in the end, but when it came to senior project, developing an actual concept with research backing it seemed like climbing Everest.

    As far as the market goes, the perception of our jobs as designers could be comparable to the work done by auto mechanics based on the urgency of our customers. Just fixing it to run for a little while, but not really investing in total repair.

    I see alot of jobs being offered in my local area that seem to require nothing much more in terms of creative than a Photoshop jockey that can make some zany business card for bar/lounge and be able to set type in columns for the utterly boring suburban city magazines. None of those positions really require much beyond a trade school education.

    I think one of those graduates designed this identity.

    As for the focus of the initial post, I would just concentrate on developing the best potential students you can. As for their methods of researching and planning, as long its not counter-productive to the employer and their client what harm is there if the "young" designer doesn't pick up a pencil.

    On Feb.20.2006 at 11:48 PM
    gregor’s comment is:

    a couple of things I think have some valid input here. 1st off is you're the teacher and your students run off to google or ponder 'appropriate' software. Guide your students into what you as the professional believe is the best methodology for them to be a success as designers.

    do computers equal design? yes and no. a computer with a designer in front of it can very well equal design (kinda sorta) and yes, one may conceptualize digitally, but that does not necessarily mean that designer is a critical thinker. keeping the design process in the realm of the digital is missing several key steps or factors in the design process.

    kinglsey is on the mark that it's been hashed and rehashed here on SU as well as elsewhere, but I'll agree that it's not a dead issue and what perhaps needs to be said is how conceptualizing plays out in different tiers in the industry, ranging from tier 1 to the sole freelancer.

    in an ideal world of my specialy area (packaging design), steps could include, market research >> pencil & paper >> xacto knives, letraset pens, swatches,etc., for story boarding >> protoypes >> digital comps >> live SLAs >> focus groups >> conclusions >> final designs. In reality only a percentage of projects have the budget for this. more often, generalized assumptions on the target audience >> pen & paper >> prototypes >> final engineering & design is the course taken.

    the course of action differs tremendously depending on whom I'm working for: national or international retailer, tier 1 agency, regional agency, mom & pop studio, small/emerging or start-up brand.

    but it all rolls back to methodology and that every designer should have the fundamental skills to take the course of action that budget/time/client need allows: which is where educators play the decisive roll - teaching that methodology. from there we're back to here.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 01:25 AM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    Some people don't mind doing work that isn't creative. Others pine for constant challenges. It's up to you what kind of work you want to do; and the method of achieving results matters little in the end if the work is good. In fact, who cares how you get there as long as it works for you. I personally love to sketch, doodle, write, and brainstorm on paper. But if you like to do it on your computer, go right ahead.

    All that matters in the end is the work.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 01:26 AM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    All that matters in the end is quality of the work.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 01:29 AM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    good lord, sorry about that ~ i have no clue how it posted the same message like 7x

    On Feb.21.2006 at 01:31 AM
    kb’s comment is:

    At ECIAD our profs are very pro-pencil. They tell us to stay away from the computer until the very last minute, or it will dominate our designs. For most of sophomore year we've been drawing, learning calligraphy, cutting + pasting, using letterpress and photocopying. It's a very process-oriented, conceptual program. We have to turn in huge piles of process notes for every project, which count almost as much as or more than the final product. I saw some of my fellow students' work before they came to school, and it looked like a clever Adobe algorithm had generated it. (Ok, I confess, mine looked like that too.)

    Yet there is a problem with the almighty pencil: Our deadlines are so tight that when we are now expected to produce things on the computer, there is rarely time to conceptualize thoroughly beforehand. The finished product has to be technically very polished. Many of us are novice computer users (yes! even 18 and 19 year olds!) which makes it even harder. And we get minimal technical education in our classes.

    The biggest complaint of our graduates and of employers who hire ECIAD graduates is that they don't know the software, tech specs, and can't work fast enough. No one complains that we can't think. We're trained to be art directers, but nobody hires a 22 year old art director with zero professional experience. Our teachers say that this kind of education will help us stick with design and go farther in our careers, (I tend to believe this) but in the short term it's extremely frustrating and discouraging. Nobody loves us!

    So we haven't solved this problem, but it is definitely in the front of everyone's mind here. It's the number-one topic at all student (and probably faculty) meetings.

    I'm not arguing that everyone is like us. There are an enormous number of students and young designers who design-by-computer-default. I'm sure some of my classmates will revert to this once they graduate, due to the pressures and restrictions of the design market (or laziness). However, it's unfair to characterize all young designers this way. It's just plain wrong to say we all don't know how to think, when we'd love to have the chance to think.

    One final note. Please grab a pencil and paper and write this down. Not all young designers are good with computers. And anyway, ipod savvy does not equal InDesign savvy; Type savvy equals InDesign savvy. Good thinking equals good design.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 03:19 AM
    Sean’s comment is:

    This seems to be an intentionally lopsided point of view. Most kids out of school have little proper design skills. Everything they learn is oftentimes from washed out print designers. They leave school with horrible computer skills as they're forced to learn it on their own after school hours. You view is a popular one for print designers who can't make the change to interactive.

    Either way, I would like to see the 17 year olds who are skillful with a computer go to graphic design school. They should be taught computers first and then the art later. The same should be true of painting or any other artform. First you master the brush, then you create with it. This was how the old masters did it. Remember: Wax on, Wax off.

    So there's your counter point you cartoonish wuss.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 11:18 AM
    Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

    In regards to tools:

    Just as form follows function,

    our skills are developed or evolve

    in order to accomplish the task.

    Instead of tightly rendered comps,

    we use PDFs or Jpegs instead.

    Therefore, it should be no surprise

    that certain hand skills are bound

    to become extinct.

    Having used the computer as a tool

    for design from the very beginning,

    I find I can often sketch better

    on the computer because my mind is

    sharper than my hand.

    With that said, I am making an effort

    to develop my sketching skills because

    ultimately it will help with such

    categories as logos, icons, and the like.

    With that said, having the ability to

    sketch doesn't mean one can conceptualize

    any better than one who uses the computer.

    But it will allow one to better convey

    his ideas and illustrate them convincingly

    to others.

    Not everybody will see this as a worthy

    goal or even agree with the above.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 11:28 AM
    Rebecca C.’s comment is:

    I'm young. I know Photoshop. Sometimes I'm given a deadline 2 hours away. Sometimes I don't have time to draw, then scan, then fix. Sometimes I'm TOLD to "add a drop shadow / bevel / color / glow / Photoshop it." I have my standards and ethics to guide my work & process; I like playing in Photoshop and that doesn't make me a bad designer.

    And the thorniest question, is what constitutes good process?

    Whatever my process, if it works for me (see above caveat per ethics), and the work shows it, it is no one's business how I do it.

    To be an expert at Photoshop can mean two things: that you know how to make a 300 pixel ouside bevel with a chiseled edge, or that you know not to.


    On Feb.21.2006 at 12:37 PM
    LS’s comment is:

    Another student's point of view on research: nearing the end of my jaunt with the education system, I have noticed that lately teachers/professors are placing stricter guidelines on research as a result of the internet. For instance, students are only allowed two internet sources and require a minimum of three texts, site analysis, interviews and oh, throw in one or two scholarly journal articles as well.

    Compared to the old high school days, when everyone first discovered you could just print out three sources off the web with ease, this is a very different direction. So, at least in Ontario, the trend of Google as a primary research tool will not be around long enough to spoil a whole generation of students. The teachers have caught up (or, at least, they are now working on the problem).

    I should probably add that I was the geek in high school who was basically in love with the library. Oh that Dewey Decimal system...

    P.S. Mark Savo: I have had the complete opposite experience in the computer labs (though I agree that the TEL labs can be very sterile). Its too bad you were not around for the glory days of designers in the CFA.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 01:27 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    In my experience, I've generally noted two different types of designers.

    One type of designer is able to work problems and conceptualize designs and ideas internally — the sketchpad is in their heads. Brainstorms, research, pencil sketches, computer sketches are mostly just notes to themselves. When he or she has fully baked the idea, it comes out on the computer relatively finished in initial form.

    The other type of designer is a "designer of discovery" (a friend's term, not mine). This type of designer thinks more visually, meaning that they have to see it on paper or on screen — a process which requires working and reworking external sketches while at the same time, formulating concepts and ideas to go along with that visual thinking. Most young designers who immediately hop onto the computer are hoping to be successful in this "think while doing" type of discovery process. In my opinion, this is the more risky and much more difficult feat to master successfully.

    I think what you're saying here, Jason, is that by immediately jumping on the computer — students are by-passing the effort to conceptualize more internally, by sketching, brainstorming, taking more time to research and formulate ideas. Not everyone can "design by discovery," which often requires more time than sketching first.

    I agree.

    There's also the fact that as a young designer, you need to be able to show your work to your art director while in progress. Your AD will want to see initial ideas and messaging, rather than layout details or fonts. It's much more difficult to do that when the first thing you do is jump on a computer.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 02:29 PM
    nick shinn’s comment is:

    It's important to teach the traditional skills in the traditional media, at some point in formal education -- probably near the beginning.

    That's because our history is part of the discipline, and the discipline is practical.

    Digital media simulates a lot of analog techniques, so it grounds students to have some experience of the source -- to get their hands dirty, as it were.

    But I don't believe that analog tools play a necessary role in mature, contemporary design practice, and their role is minor and quite dispensible. Although occasionally a project comes along which cries out for old-school treatment.

    I drew all my early typefaces, pre-digital, with pencil, pen and ink. When I started on the computer, I would often draw, scan, and digitize. Now I start on the computer, never draw and scan, and will only occasionally sketch ideas as part of the early design process.

    But I do use a Wacom tablet.

    I recently visited a movie post-production facility, where they do the compositing for movies and parallel games) -- all the designers used tablets.

    So that element of hand skill (not the same as conceptual sketching-thinking) is alive and well.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 03:14 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    Those of you who think computer speed and proficiency will get you a job are in for a big surprise.

    Let's talk about speed.

    The truth is, if I needed someone fast on the computer, I'd hire an experienced electronic production person. A skilled e-pro (for short) is 20 times faster and 50 times more accurate than any designer at getting work out.

    On the flip side, an experienced senior designer may have atrocious computer speed — but he or she has mastered the ability to design and conceptualize ideas lightning-fast, at a real-time speed that most graduating designers can't even fathom, much less match.

    >You view is a popular one for print designers who can't make the change to interactive.

    So to you, Sean, mastering interactive is all about mastering software, correct? Anyone who can't action script is a hack interactive designer, then? Ideas, typography, and everything else is secondary?

    Please explain.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 04:43 PM
    marian bantjes’s comment is:

    I'd hire an experienced electronic production person. A skilled e-pro (for short) is 20 times faster and 50 times more accurate than any designer at getting work out.

    Tan, where on earth do you find such a thing? Is anyone actually training to be a production person? I sure as hell wish they were, and for those who want jobs, I'm certain someone really good and fast at production would be in extremely high demand anywhere. When i had a studio I would have killed for a good production person. (I had a couple of bad ones ... ) And note: a good production person is someone who takes pleasure in details and in getting it right, but has no actual desire to be a designer.

    I damn near became one myself at one point, just because I do enjoy it (on long publications, anyway), and I was fast.

    Anyway, this is my greatest wish for the design industry: great, fast production people who have an excellent grounding in typography and AND print technology, are totally detail oriented, enjoy learning new software & keeping up to date, and are fast and smart. (e.g. can not only execute, but suggest better or new ways to execute).

    Gee, sounds kinda like ... a 21st Century typesetter!

    On Feb.21.2006 at 06:05 PM
    Pati @-;--’s comment is:

    I totally agree... a computer is like a pencil, it needs to be connected to a brain in order to produce.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 06:18 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    >Tan, where on earth do you find such a thing? Is anyone actually training to be a production person?

    You're kidding, right Marian?...You're not kidding.

    In every agency I've ever worked, we've always had experienced epro staff and production managers. Lots of agencies have dedicated production people — some call them "production designers," but most call them epros or computer production specialists. Virginia was a dedicated epro person for years with Hornall till we had kids.

    Yes, good epros are hard to find — lots of young grads think the position is a stepping stone to becoming a designer, which it is not. Good, experienced epros can make a ton of money, because as you've pointed out, they are good typographers as well as being fast and detail oriented. And most importantly, they are HAPPY doing and mastering production and nothing else.

    I consider epros extremely valuable. But they are more software technicians and typesetters — they are not full-fledged designers to me.

    Currently in our Seattle office, the production department has 7 epros, including a Photoshop/prepress specialist who does our own color proofing work internally. Any of them, even the most junior epro, could put a designer to shame when it comes to production speed. It's a great capability that most larger agencies have.

    Like I said, I don't hire designers for their computer speed. They need to know enough to design and execute their ideas, but the notion that high software proficiency gets you in the door is an incorrect assumption.

    On Feb.21.2006 at 08:54 PM
    marian bantjes’s comment is:

    You're kidding, right Marian?...You're not kidding.

    I'm totally not kidding. I don't know about the US, but to the best of my knowledge there is NO training for this position anywhere around here. I've never worked in an agency, but in Vancouver, not being able to find production people is a common lament. The only production people I know of is in the printing industry, and judging by the things they do to files, they appear to be, largely, idiots.

    However ... this is all another topic. Sortof.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 03:51 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    Tan, I am glad to get your input on this matter, as we both see eye to eye on the issue. And as for Marian's comments, I am familiar with her point about the e-pro matters in Canada. My Canadian mentors throughout college helped students see the difference between production/design; although some designers can be good at production, there's nothing better than having a digital specialist put it all together. It's akin to directing a film, where the director cannot do it all, but knows where to find the staffing and what needs to happen to bring the vision together. Sincerely, what is the order of instruction in design education? What matters? Formal principles? Techno knowledge? Communication skills? The easy answer is all of the above, but there isn't enough time in 3-4 years... especially when most students are leaving early to enter the marketplace.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 09:02 AM
    Darrel’s comment is:

    computer != design just as much as pencil/paper != design. The difference is that the computer is also a medium.

    It's all been said, though. Blaming the computer for lack of thought and collaboration doesn't make much sense. Su said it well. The isssue is simply that we don't have skills/time/budget/want for good strategic research.

    I remember my first big-firm gig where we had a team of 6 or so working on a large web site for an HMO. I was eager to dive into real research...figuring out the target audiences, working on strategic functionality issues, determining technology needs, finding more about the marketing goals...only to end up sitting in hour long meetings debating which stock photo to pick for the home page. Style sells, I guess.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 10:44 AM
    David E.’s comment is:

    While big advertising agencies and design studios have dedicated production people, smaller studios rarely do. Everywhere I've ever worked, the designer was responsible for their own production, and it was a major consideration when hiring anyone. "Concept to completion" is a phrase you see in quite a few ads looking for designers (not to mention "web skills a plus" — even when they're looking for a print designer).

    Being a good production artist can definitely be a stepping stone to becoming a designer. In fact, that was how I started. My title at my first job was "art assistant" for a studio that did both design and advertising. My employer wrongly expected that I would know everything about setting up files for output, and that I function as an IT person as well. It was a very stressful experience for the first 6 months, since I knew very little about either at the time. I eventually became a senior designer there, but continued to do my own production. Another studio I worked for asked me during my interview if I could troubleshoot computer problems. I told them that I could to some extent, but that I wasn't a computer tech.

    I think at this point I would find it kind of strange to have someone else doing production on my work. I'd have to really trust the person to feel comfortable with it.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 02:01 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    >Sincerely, what is the order of instruction in design education? What matters? Formal principles? Techno knowledge? Communication skills?

    I think the most important thing for a student to learn is how to define design for themselves. Most students enter school with only a vague notion of what being a designer is or requires. Students need to learn the difference between tools of execution vs. tools of ideation. It's easier to teach and learn the mechanical skills of designing — typesetting, layout, color, handskills. But it's exponentially more difficult to teach the importance and process of conceptualization, strategic thinking, and analytics/research. I think that's why so many on this post revert to computer skills as being an important part of their abilities. It's a concrete, tangible thing that they can measure themselves against.

    So I guess the answer to your query is that it's not so easy to categorize the specific steps. It's more complicated than that.

    I've got to jump into a series of meetings right now, but will continue my discussion later when I have a chance.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 04:19 PM
    pk’s comment is:

    The easy answer is all of the above, but there isn't enough time in 3-4 years... especially when most students are leaving early to enter the marketplace.

    can you qualify this statement with a source?

    On Feb.22.2006 at 05:26 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    I think what you're saying here, Jason, is that by immediately jumping on the computer — students are by-passing the effort to conceptualize more internally, by sketching, brainstorming, taking more time to research and formulate ideas. Not everyone can "design by discovery," which often requires more time than sketching first.

    Yes, you are onto something here. And we've also touched on another matter... there's not enough time. But the question really becomes, at what point should the computer be introduced? Early may teach them that it is the place where ideas begin; putting them in front of it later may rob them of the technical foundation they need. It's a problem, and one that others have addressed here.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 10:05 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    The easy answer is all of the above, but there isn't enough time in 3-4 years... especially when most students are leaving early to enter the marketplace.

    can you qualify this statement with a source?

    From teaching experience, I can say that students are leaving early, mostly because they have dreams in their eyes that work waits for them one zip code away, once they leave school. I spend a lot of time trying to retain them, emphasizing the skills they need before they get into a studio or agency. Unfortunately, I've not tracked their success, but from this comment above, it looks like the industry insiders are not getting what they need to from green designers.

    I'd like to hear about this straight from the sources mouth, and not from some text or academic paper. What do industry insiders have to say about this? Please, let's get some feedback on this.

    On Feb.22.2006 at 10:10 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    Okay, I'm going to nitpick here.

    Jason, the original quote from you says most students are leaving early. I'm sorry, but that sort of calls for a number, not "in my experience..." You've just made a statement that essentially represents an entire industry, and unless you're just pathologically gregarious, there is absolutely no way you can actually back this up with a simple personal opinion.

    Either state your source, or put your claim in the proper(read: not sensationalist) context, please. I would think your textual output should be held to the same research standards as you are asking of your student's designs.

    Now, if most of your students are taking off early, I think we have another discussion altogether on our hands.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 12:17 AM
    Tan’s comment is:

    >Being a good production artist can definitely be a stepping stone to becoming a designer.

    David, in your case — you were a junior designer in need of production skills and experience, which defined your first set of responsibilities and role. You were always on a path to becoming a designer, and were never truly trained or seasoned as an IT or production specialist. That's different than an IT or epro position maturing to become a designer, which is very rare. The skillsets are vastly different — grooming a designer is more about communication skills, conceptualization skills, not just mastering production. Design and production are split and defined in agencies for a purposeful reason, because they are both critical positions in themselves. One is not a training step to the other, because each require a specific set of commitment to each respective roles. They are different professions.

    It's like the path to becoming a master carpenter does not also lead to becoming an architect. Yes, it's technically possible for a carpenter to learn to be an architect — but it's more complicated than just learning a new set of responsibilities while on the job. I hope I'm making sense.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 09:13 AM
    Tan’s comment is:

    >at what point should the computer be introduced?

    You don't have control of that anymore. Many high schools require students to have laptops these days. My daughter Melina has Mac lab classes in 1st grade. It's too late, Jason.

    The only choice educators have is to adjust their curriculum to require stronger conceptualization, more meaningful project research, and stronger critical thinking before layouts are spit out and pinned onto crit walls. Teach them to value and respect the process of ideation, regardless of how and when they initially hop onto the computer.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 09:49 AM
    Rebecca C.’s comment is:

    "Concept to completion" ... "web skills a plus"

    Oh good lord, I hate this. I believe that as long as the employers & clients are looking for Jack or Jane of All Trades (and Master of None), schools and programs will continue to crank them out, all the better to up their job placement numbers. Having said that, I like the technical knowledge base that comes from doing my own production. It has given me a head start on short deadlines--knowing when to use the computer to save time, or when it is a hindrance.

    That kind of learning comes with experience, so how do you fit that in a classroom? Can you? Perhaps the most effective approach is to consistently present the computer as just another tool, Google included. Presentation matters, but only after concept. For me, "Presenting Your Work" was just one class--at the end of the program.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 10:03 AM
    Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:


    Respective of your wisdom, I think

    what David is saying, rings true of many

    positions in low tier firms.

    Going through job postings on sites other

    than commarts, it isn't uncommon to find

    job postings requiring one to wear many

    hats, as David described.

    My point is, the design employment terrain

    is widely varied; ideally all of us would

    like to be working for an upper tier firm,

    but for some, it is not a reality.

    (I've had an interview once where the

    art director was instructing me that every

    entry level designer should start out as

    a production person and then gradually be

    raised up to "junior" designer if that

    person has merit.)

    On Feb.23.2006 at 10:18 AM
    Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

    but there isn't enough time in 3-4 years...

    That seems true, but would anybody major in

    graphic design if it took 5-6 years?

    Actually, I think that would help "weed" out

    the serious candidates from the lukewarm-doing-it


    I'm not sure if this could be implemented

    nationwide, since "graphic arts" programs are

    cash cows for so many schools, but a few is

    better than none, right?

    On Feb.23.2006 at 10:36 AM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    You can only learn so much in school... professional experience will teach you different things. Sure you may go thru steps in your career as you aspire to become a good designer (production, intern, etc,) but make sure you choose wisely in the jobs that you take... the work you do needs to benefit your portfolio and resume just as much as you need to help the people who are paying you.

    Why would someone leave a program early? They better be damn good at what they do; I mean it's not like college football players who get millions of dollars in the NFL by foregoing their senior year... what's the benefit of NOT getting that degree??

    I think it's good to learn technique, software, production & prepress skills in school, because everyone who graduates is not going to be driven to excel... some might even be out of design in just a few short years. Or some may be happy with production work, or tasks that others would find "boring." Schools have to take a holistic approach with their students, you can't cater to the individual needs & desires of each and every student...

    The best schools will get it right; they will get the best faculty and attract talented & passionate students. No matter where you choose to go, it's up to YOU to make the best of the situation!

    On Feb.23.2006 at 02:15 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    Either state your source, or put your claim in the proper(read: not sensationalist) context, please. I would think your textual output should be held to the same research standards as you are asking of your student's designs.

    Su, you pose a respectable issue. It's difficult to release an exact number, but I will say that over 1/2 of the students that go through graphic design 1 (and the intermediate class that follows) will leave early. This is program wide and not limited to the students that I teach. Money is always the issue we hear about during their exit interview, "I can't afford to stay in school; I want to make some money; or my parents have stopped paying for my tuition because I've been here so long."

    On Feb.23.2006 at 03:01 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    The best schools will get it right; they will get the best faculty and attract talented & passionate students. No matter where you choose to go, it's up to YOU to make the best of the situation!

    Amen, and BTW, it took me 5 years to do an undergrad. And all of my friends that I keep in touch with, who went through school to learn design, also took 5-6 years. Some of them only did it in 3, having been accepted to a grad program with backgrouds in english, philosophy, or another undergrad degree. Keith gives a good formula above, and in the end, it should boil down to student's passion, right? Having a passion for the pixel, and getting into design to interface with the technology is a short-sighted vision.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 03:07 PM
    Zoelle’s comment is:

    My 'exercise in style' (from the Stuart Bailey post).

    Speak Up comments in the style of Napoleon Dynamite:

    Napoleon (Jason): “Most students are leaving early to enter the marketplace.”

    Kip (Su): "Napoleon, like anyone can even know that."

    Uncle Rico (Armin): "You know what, Napoleon? You can leave."

    Napoleon (Jason): "You guys are retarded!"

    (Sorry Armin, somebody had to be Uncle Rico.)

    On Feb.23.2006 at 03:18 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    Well that settles it, obviously.

    (WTF was the point of that?)

    On Feb.23.2006 at 04:13 PM
    Zoelle’s comment is:

    (WTF was the point of that?)

    Sorry Su. Just screwing around. I didn't mean to disrespect your conversation.

    It seemed funny at the time...

    On Feb.23.2006 at 04:39 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    it is surprising to find you writing such a critical article on research and suggesting an almost anti-digital approach to design when the pieces you show on your personal site reference no other era of design but the postmodern and an occassional 45-degree bauhaus layout. After reading your comment, I expected to view your portfolio and find letrasets, woodcuts, intaglio, illustration, etc. I like what I see and think your work is good, but can you offer some good examples of researched work not entirely on an Apple by you?

    Nix, this is not a place for me to defend my work, but given the nature of our discussion let me say that it all begins with research, interviews, and information sourcing. This goes for interactive work especially. Even before getting image to paper and pixel to screen, I start with the information at hand and dig as deep as possible. Furthermore, I have a collection of work designed sans computer that is deemed personal research and exploration. If you want to learn about this, I'd be happy to come lecture to your local AIGA chapter.

    Yours in research, on pixel or paper,


    On Feb.23.2006 at 07:31 PM
    pk’s comment is:

    Su, you pose a respectable issue. It's difficult to release an exact number, but I will say that over 1/2 of the students that go through graphic design 1 (and the intermediate class that follows) will leave early. This is program wide and not limited to the students that I teach.

    okay, so it seems that you arepathologically gregarious.

    what you're actually saying in your experience, it seems like most students are leaving early from the school at which you teach. i'm sorry, but informally-gathered information posing as a state of the nation for an industry, when there has been no research whatsoever upon that statement, holds no water.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 09:46 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    True, which is why I posted this from the outset—in order to mine more information. While I haven't gotten to the heart of the leaving early matter, other data has come to the surface. Thanks to those who've shared... even you, pk.

    On Feb.23.2006 at 11:36 PM
    pk’s comment is:

    True, which is why I posted this from the outset—in order to mine more information.

    funny how you never said that either.

    sorry of i'm offending your sensibilities. i'm not asking any more of you than any editor would ask of a design journalist reporting on the issue. you're making blanket statements about the industry based on your personal experience, then refusing to back it up with any sort of research. it's pretty arrogant.

    your intiial post is immediately and clearly faulty. your implication that the computer is not an instrument which can contribute to initial stages of creative work is ridiculous. a computer is a creative tool as valuable as any other.

    there's john maeda, there's josh davis, and right here in our own back yard is marian bantjes. all employ automatic thinking, presets, and patternmaking—all employed excellently on the computer, and all very human forms of expression not as easily created in other media. i doubt a lot of the reseach for those forms of work, particularly davis', could have happened without a computer.

    blaming foolish workmanship on the medium is lazy thinking.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 12:29 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    blaming foolish workmanship on the medium is lazy thinking.

    Is this about foolish workmanship to you, PK? Judging by comments above, the foolishness resides in believing that the computer is all you need to be a designer and design. Call it workmanship or process, whatever, you can play semantics all you want. But the computer is merely a tool and not the answer to solving complex design problems.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 12:44 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    I'm curious, do you jump right to the computer when designing type, pk?

    On Feb.24.2006 at 12:48 AM
    pk’s comment is:

    the foolishness resides in believing that the computer is all you need to be a designer and design.

    i never said that either.

    the point is, you're addressing poor workmanship—and i'm including conceptual thinking under that umbrella, because it's part of the job desciption and therefore part of workmanship to me—and the things that allow it to happen.

    but you try to wad that up into some amorphous description involving impetuous youth, computers, and ipods. straw men, all of them. it's full of stereotypes and "common knowledge" from beginning to end.

    i guess my ultimate point in bitching at you is to ask what your point is. it's making too many insulting generalizations.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 01:10 AM
    David McClelland’s comment is:

    Hi everyone,

    In my opinion I don't think its a case of using a computer or a pencil which makes the designer, its the idea!! I think the problem lies with the advent of computer programs that claim to do everything - and people who use them without an idea. For example how many CIs or websites have I seen recently which are coloured boxes with helvetica in them? where is the communcation in that?

    And the people producing these nice yet irrelevant designs are those who claim to be designers but are nothing more than mac monkeys or the PC equivalent. They've bought a computer and churn it out using copy and paste. The client doesn't know any better so just picks the cheaper option.

    The solution is to educate the client of what design is, maybe a quality mark I don't know? But it lies with the client they pay our wage.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 04:49 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    PK, this is not about putting words into others' mouths, my friend, and I appreciate your level of enthusiasm with this subject matter. Whether or not you're young, own a computer, or know Photoshop isn't the beef here. It is my opinion and observation, as a qualified educator, who's taught at 3 different Universities since 1996 that when students think of design, they think of the computer; when they think about the process of design, they think of the computer; and when it comes to education, they think knowing the computer is all it takes. And as we all know, the computer≠design. Based on the aforementioned comments, it will be difficult to teach them otherwise, especially when it comes to process. So to answer your plea, pk...

    I am looking for a means and method to get students started with ideation first, before relying on the computer as an answer—and especially without thinking about a problem in terms of all the steps they must take in Photoshop, Illustrator, or Quark to get the job done on time or quickly like their clients and bosses will want. What would the benefit be in getting young designers to think first, research deeply, and then weave the computer in once an idea has matured? Would there be a benefit? Those in the industry, please chime in, as the students will be headed to your studios and agencies once they leave campus.

    Or perhaps everything's perfect, and all of the students wandering into agency doors are immediately getting work, fulfilling needs without a problem. You tell me, because if it isn't broke, then I can sleep easier at night.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 08:31 AM
    Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

    If we were discussing this topic 25 years ago,

    wouldn't the dilemma be, "how students/designers

    jump straight to pencil&paper before doing


    Jason, do you think that with the exception

    of a rather minority of examples, that most

    graphic design being produced either then or

    now, have always been focused on the surface

    treatment? Isn't that why people still think

    Modernism is a style?

    I can think of 2 reasons why indepth research

    is not utilized in its maximum capacity:

    Rather than talk about the tools of design,

    maybe we should be discussing what criteria

    constitutes research? Just like the word

    "design" can have many meanings; one person

    can think of "research" as looking at design

    annuals, while another thinks "research" is

    skimming through encyclopedia britannica.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 10:33 AM
    Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

    I can think of 2 reasons why indepth research

    is not utilized in its maximum capacity:

    Sorry, the above was leftover from a previous

    thought, which I deleted...

    On Feb.24.2006 at 10:38 AM
    David E.’s comment is:

    One is not a training step to the other, because each require a specific set of commitment to each respective roles.

    Tan, I understand what you're saying. It would be unfair and even insulting to a professional production artist to say that they're on the same level with a junior designer right out of school. But people coming out of school should know that any skill set they have is going to benefit them when it comes to looking for a job. Ad agency art directors and designers at some very large studios may not need to be good at production, but everyone else does.

    What would the benefit be in getting young designers to think first, research deeply, and then weave the computer in once an idea has matured?

    Jason, we all know what the benefit is: they'd be on their way to becoming designers. If students have been using a computer since first grade, that's all the more reason to require that research, style boards, sketches, etc. be presented in class before any computer design work is done. Of course they're going to use a computer to do the research — there's no reason why they shouldn't.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 01:00 PM
    pk’s comment is:

    thank you. clarity all i wanted. especially from an educator.

    i still think you're creating a straw man. you should be talking about jumping too quickly from ideation to implementation. talking about a specific tool is a false start.

    and to answer your question, yes, i sometimes do immediately work on the computer when i'm starting a new face. it depends upon the visual dialect or process i require.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 01:05 PM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    it depends upon the visual dialect or process i require.

    A good answer, but what determines these things? Can you be more specific?

    On Feb.24.2006 at 01:28 PM
    pk’s comment is:

    A good answer, but what determines these things? Can you be more specific?


    a lot of my "pop" work is reliant on constructed pieces of type based on limited geometry and cut/paste, which looks inaccurate if i try to construct out of the context of the machine.

    sometimes i begin working offline (or in alias sketchbook) if i need to create forms that are more closely associated with written forms.

    examples here.

    On Feb.24.2006 at 01:59 PM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    for the moment I'm going to ignore the bitching and whining ~ sorry ~ that has filled up quite a bit of this post and focus on Jason's intent, stated above:

    I am looking for a means and method to get students started with ideation first...

    Educators have to push this on students right from the beginning. From my experience and what I have heard / seen from others, design programs start students out on the computer way too early. When I was in school I was plopped in front of a computer before I even understood what the heck graphic design was all about. As I've said before, I do believe that you can and should be building your conceptual ability and technical skills in tandem, but it seems there needs to be more of a focus on getting people to think creatively before they learn how to make a beveled edge in photoshop.

    Some things that I have talked about with friends or dreamed up (some of these friends are teachers as well):

    + have a class or portion of a course dedicated to brainstorming. this may seem like it's unnecessary, but establishing an open, creative forum where people are encouraged to come up with lots of ideas, even outlandish ones, help everyone open up. there should be no fear involved and no criticism when brainstorming; some people need prodding to really open up and see how to do it right.. because there is a wrong way to brainstorm (shutting others down, mocking ideas, being negative / closed-minded)

    + students need to be TAUGHT how to critique. most of the crits I had in school were a joke... people were not critical, they became political, you said things to make people feel good... la-de-da, this doesn't cut it in the real world. students need to learn what they are looking for, how to comment critically yet tactfully, how to quantify their statements, etc... if your clients don't like your work they aren't going to sugar-coat it or let it slide because you had a late night... my point is emphasize learning to critique well

    + process: give students a framework to work with... people give process a bad name because some think it creates limitations. a good process is a structure to work within that encourages creativity and forward progress. having no process might leave you feeling overwhelmed. constructing a linear process (that is still flexible) helps you define a problem, conduct research, explore influences and visual styles, and channel this preliminary work into solid direction.

    + business: teach basic business skills. get help if you need to, but get freelancers, account managers, project managers, executives, lawyers, and accountants in front of your students. students leave school to freelance and are just overwhlemed with the amount of things they have to do to be successful.

    + my last idea involves teaching a course in which there are no tangible end products. it is a purely conceptual, idea-generating, exploratory class in which you push your students to solve problems by discussing them, working in teams to generate ideas, sketching in their books, creating rough solutions without restraints. you would encourage your students to look for ideas and inspiration in "non-traditional" places. design magazines, websites, etc not allowed maybe even - that's my half-baked idea :)

    On Feb.24.2006 at 04:37 PM
    Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

    It seems that some of this discussion conflates some questions. Perhaps separating things might be helpful.

    1) Do too many graphic design students start physical design without having come to any understanding of what they are designing—who is going to be reading/viewing/using, what is important in the subject matter, etc.—and continue to fail to understand?

    2) Assuming the answer to #1 is yes, does use of the computer early in the process play a role in the tendency to produce design that is not based on understanding?

    3) How might this tendency be reduced?

    I am going to assume that there is little argument about #1. Looming deadlines, parsimonious clients, and the medium being designed for may explain part of the tendency but do not make it less of a problem.

    I’ll skip to #3 for a moment. Let me first say that I’m always made nervous by graphic designers’ use of the word “research.” Does this mean learning some basic stuff about your client, your client’s products, and your client’s customers? This is one area where students have a disadvantage compared to working professionals. Professionals can ask their clients. (If, BTW, your clients do not want to share such information, give them the phone number of someone you think Jason disapproves of and move on.) Reading, conversing, and reasoning are all paths to understanding.

    Another path to understanding is discovery through design. Designing acts as a meditative or contemplative focus, a conversation where there is only one human being involved in the dialog. Looking at design critically acts as a form of reasoning regarding the subject matter and use (among other things.) Discovery through design may or may not be sufficient for full understanding but it can be very important to both understanding and the incorporation of understanding in design.

    Since some of this seems to be a pencil vs. computer argument, it may be worth considering how medium might affect discovery through design. The pencil has the advantage of allowing a variety of ideas to be recorded very rapidly. It has the disadvantage of a lack of specificity; the pencil drawings lack the precision of the final artifact so do not promote specific and precise criticism. This can also be an advantage since it promotes reflection on possibilities—a more open-ended consideration than the often-binary choice of the clear image of the designed piece.

    The computer, like any tool, has affordances. If one’s will is not firm and focussed then those affordances can dominate. (The same could be said for the pencil. A comparison of the affordances might be worthwhile but I don’t have time right now.)

    The vacuous images produced on a computer are generally more satisfying than vacuous images produced with a pencil. (There are exceptions in the work of some very talented draftsmen.) Less experienced designers, those who have not learned skills of criticism, may be easily persuaded by the slick but unworthy images that can be produced by a facile computer operator.

    Does any of that change the discussion?

    On Feb.24.2006 at 09:44 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    Gunnar, these comments of yours move us into a more constructive realm of conversation. Thank you.

    I agree that vacuous images produced on a computer give students some degree of satisfaction. However, they also get pleasure out of in-class brainstorming sessions that we have, just like Keith commented on. I feel this interpersonal activity will have long-term benefits, as they learn about the value of teamwork and preliminary research.

    And while I believe in visual research, it always feels premature without enough support behind the decisions you make. It's rare to see students with only 1-2 classes (not years) of experience have the intuition to leap right into making visuals. They just can't answer questions about the who, where, why, and how of those visuals (but they are learning).

    Despite the power the computer gives designers, computer-generated roughs do not carry any emotion either. I cannot look at 30-40 mark generations on a student's computer screen and get as much impact as I will from a sketchbook with 10-12 pages of marks, notes, vocabulary, scribbles, and brainstorming. With the sketchbook, I will always see thinking; at the computer screen, I see half-baked solutions that the student believes are "finished." Is there a right or wrong approach? A better or worse one? In the classroom, I have shown them the advantages and disadvantages, and like all else, they will choose a singular path or use them each advantageously. This is all in an effort to teach them about design hygiene (conditions and practices that promote or preserve graphic disciplines, processes, and strategies).

    On Feb.25.2006 at 08:53 AM
    Ben’s comment is:

    Most of my second-year design classes so far have consisted of this process:

    1 - Generate a list of words/concepts related to what you are designing. I think most of the time the purpose of this is to quickly get out a lot of cliche ideas without actually having to draw them.

    2 - Make a ton of sketches based on those ideas, usually 50 or so. Everyone complains about this, but we all realise it is important.

    3 - Critique the sketches with the teacher/class, whom will often suggest completely different ideas that you hadn't thought of.

    4 - Make more sketches or refine original sketches

    5 - Critique again and choose which ideas to execute

    6 - Create finished product on the computer

    I always figured there is a similar design process in most schools. I don't believe that there are schools that will simply say DESIGN THIS LOGO, HERE'S A COMPUTER, HAVE FUN, DON'T FORGET THE LENS FLARE. I mean if any school would do that then it would probably be the primarily-engineering university I went to. We had a bunch of computer program classes, too, but it was made very clear that those classes were to learn the program and not to learn design.

    It is very important to be clear to students, though, speaking from a student point of view. If you just tell me to "understand" my subject before I start to come up with any visual ideas, I'll probably nod my head so as not to seem like an idiot, but then go home and realise I don't really know what you mean. We need practical and concrete INSTRUCTIONS. What exactly is it we need to understand about this given thing? Where exactly can we find this information? How will this help us come up with a better variety of visual ideas? It may seem like too much hand-holding or spoiling the 'puzzle' of design, but I have to be guided through a process before I will know how to do it on my own.

    On Feb.26.2006 at 11:21 PM
    Keith Harper’s comment is:

    Ben makes a good point here, regarding guiding your students through the process... this is probably the trap that a lot of people fall into (nod my head so as not to seem like an idiot) – you can't be afraid to ask questions, but at the same time it seems it is also the job of the professor to facilitate this. Students may feel intimidated or unsure of themselves, especially in critiques or group settings where they are required to speak up (yark yark.) Knowing the right questions to ask comes from experience and guidance.

    The best thing you can do as a young designer is to find a mentor. If you're a hungry student out there, find a great teacher and latch onto them. My mentors Bill Klingensmith and Gabe Kean have played a huge role in my development as a designer.

    You're right Ben, in that you don't want them to hold your hand, but a true mentor will help show you the way and challenge you to continually improve. And then, of course, you have to put the effort back into the relationship.

    Be a teacher leech!

    On Feb.26.2006 at 11:47 PM
    Mark Notermann’s comment is:

    Keith: students need to be TAUGHT how to critique. most of the crits I had in school were a joke...

    This was a problem with my education, and I’m sure in many others. This is really seed for a different thread, but I would like to see a discussion on how to manage a critique. I’m sure there are many valid ways, but there should at least be some unifying structure and standardizing criteria in each one.

    Professors, Instructors, Senior Designers out there—how about it?

    On Feb.27.2006 at 03:29 AM
    Mark Notermann’s comment is:

    And another thing...

    This and the research thread are bringing to light many issues that I think have a common basis: The distinction between design, and production.

    After thinking about issues such as certification within the industry, and the public/client perception of the nature of our work, it seems to me these are discrete processes that have been clouded by the advance of digital technology.

    Before computers, our work required the skill of many people to be completed to a professional standard. Now something appearing similar can be done quickly on a pc.

    The majority of our audiences may not notice the difference right away, as long as the piece has a certain amount of polish in the execution and production.

    OK—so this is well trod territory. Why are we still talking about it? Has not the (relative) newness of the technology faded to the point that we can recognize different specific skill sets and communicate those within the industry, to the clients, and especially—to the new blood of the industry?

    On Feb.27.2006 at 04:10 AM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    This and the research thread are bringing to light many issues that I think have a common basis: The distinction between design, and production.

    Mark, you are sincerely shedding new light on this, and I'm glad you've brought this matter into the discussion. Perhaps we haven't really defined those two things? Are they mutually exclusive? Now that a designer has control over production, does that make him a production specialist? Where should a designers subject matter expertise reside? Some feel through all areas of the process, up to the production; others may argue that formal sensitivity is most important. How does one define that SME (subject matter expertise) and what should it entail?

    I don't feel like certification is the answer, but haven't considered it within the scope of this discussion. (That too has been talked about over and over and over...)

    On Feb.28.2006 at 07:48 AM
    Tony Easley’s comment is:

    I visited Chermayeff and Geismar last week with my University and Ivan Chermayeff gave us a talk and answered some questions for us. When he was asked about his process he told us that he doesn't sketch up various ideas to come up with an idea, he doesn't put anything down until he has his full idea for the logo. That logo may change as/after he has drawn it but he essential only starts drawing once he knows what he's going to design.

    My question is this: does it make any difference if he does this on a powerbook or a notebook?

    On Feb.28.2006 at 01:14 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    Tony — you are not Ivan Chermayeff, and do not have his abilities to internalize the creative process as he does. Few people on this Earth could do what he does. Furthermore, what he has learned to do took a lifetime to learn and perfect for himself.

    Mere mortals and students must still sketch — it doesn't matter on paper or on screen, but don't have any delusions that you can become a maestro like Chermayeff without sketching till your hands fall off.

    On Feb.28.2006 at 01:24 PM
    Tony Easley’s comment is:

    I may not be Ivan Chermayeff but he hasn't always been this mythical figure of trademark genius. He has always worked this way, even when he was an unknown. Does this not say something for the validity of this approach IF it is the way that you find most effective yourself?

    I don't sketch. I do however use a tablet and I will work through ideas in text form until I'm happy with the concept. I will add the proviso that I'm studying illustration, not design but much of my work has so far been produced on the computer.

    I'd also like to add that my conceptual reasoning is something that you have no personal experience of, my best work comes from working ideas through in my head, not from putting pencil to paper. Not everyone is wired the same, why should everyone be expected to work the same?

    I didn't mean to come across as some know-it-all student who suddenly thinks he has come across the holy grail of design knowledge, but I have to say that in the context of the questions being asked, what Chermayeff said came across as advice on what he felt is a good process to follow.

    I'm sorry if this is rambling but I think the jetlag has probably gotten to me more than I expected.

    On Feb.28.2006 at 01:37 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    Tony, if you'll read my first post above, you'll see that I acknowledge the type of designer Chermayeff is — one who internalizes the process and spits it out complete. I actually work that way myself, but I still sketch on paper for ideation, ie. as mental notes more than visual exercises.

    But Chermayeff does what he does because he is Chermayeff. I also suspect that he has a short memory, and if pressed, he would admit to sketching until he had enough experience to work otherwise.

    On Feb.28.2006 at 04:43 PM
    Tony Easley’s comment is:

    Yes, but I also work they way I do, because I am myself and it is the most effective way I have found to work for myself.

    My point is mainly that tradition isn't a reason to do something. Just because something has always been done that way doesn't make it the ten commandments. For every person that pushes a certain way of working there will be 5 people who push a different way of working.

    Process is simply a way to get to an end point. If one way works better for you than another, why not use that way? You yourself are an example of going against the perceived wisdom because it's what you find most appropriate. Surely the emphasis should be on teaching students to investigate different ways or working and researching, in order to find what works best? This article smacks of the design Amish, shunning the automobile because a cart was good enough for their forefathers.

    On Feb.28.2006 at 05:12 PM
    Tan’s comment is:

    >Just because something has always been done that way doesn't make it the ten commandments.

    Actually, we're talking education here, and in most cases, the conventional method is also the most effective method. At least until you've shown that you've mastered the skill.

    If you're teaching yourself design, then fine, do whatever works for you. Same goes for professional practice — unless you happen to work for a creative director that requires seeing progress sketches. If that's the case, you can continue to verbally object and risk unemployment or produce sketches.

    But we're talking about the process of design education here. In this context, students willingly subject themselves to teachers in order to learn a task and a method of mastering a skill. In this case, sketching allows instructors and students to examine and discuss the work in progress, along with ways in which to add or improve upon the process. If there is no evidence or artifact of that process, then where does the learning and interaction take place? Understanding the process of ideation and execution is incredibly difficult — but it's pivotal in understanding how to repeat success or improve on failures.

    Painters practice relentlessly in order to learn methods and skillsets. Musicians practice relentlessly with remedial exercises before mastering an instrument. No designer can master design without first learning to sketch externally.

    On Feb.28.2006 at 08:32 PM
    Mark Notermann’s comment is:



    I’m not trying to use this to advocate certification. The heart of my quest lies in self-education. I was attracted to certification at one point because it would lay out a path for me to pursue educationally.

    Production lends itself to certification (and there are s/w certs available) because the knowledge is more readily measurable. In the pursuit of design education, I’ve tried to identify areas of study I can pursue on my own that might mirror a university’s program.

    Also in this quest I’ve tried to identify what (“graphic”) design means professionally, and in the process found an industry that seems to be in a 20-year-old (or more) identity crisis.

    I’m suggesting that if design has such a hard time defining what it “is,” it could start by saying what it “isn’t.” And design is not about learning software applications.

    On Mar.01.2006 at 01:30 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    And design is not about learning software applications.

    I concur, but I would like to see the opposition step up to the plate. Surely, plenty of folks believe that knowing the tools and mastering how they're used for design is the best and quickest path to becoming a designer.

    Computer = Fart

    Software ≠ Design

    Learning Software ≠ Learning Design

    On Mar.01.2006 at 09:00 AM
    Su’s comment is:

    "but I would like to see the opposition step up to the plate."

    Is this "opposition" you refer to real, or do you just want someone to debate the opposite side?

    On Mar.02.2006 at 10:20 AM
    Thomas Jockin’s comment is:

    I find it funny how it seems only graphic design is in such a mess with the role of the computer- to the point of the public viewing our computers as the only thing that makes us graphic designers.

    Product Design and Architexure use computer programs all the time- and yet I don't see the same degree of confusion about these means of designing and their relationship to the designer him-self.

    and the promblem isn't just with "outsiders" in my experience- other deisgn students in other departments ask the following after telling them i'm a communication design major:

    "So what programs do you use?"


    wtf? seriously. Do I ask the product design majors what program they use? Or Arch. Or Fashion.

    Instead of you should wear fashion, fashion shouldn't wear you ( i believe that's the saying) maybe for graphic design it should be:

    you should use your computer; your computer shouldn't use you.

    On Mar.02.2006 at 01:26 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    to the point of the public viewing our computers as the only thing that makes us graphic designers.

    Yes, this is a real issue. When students come to class for the first day, all they ask about is software.

    you should use your computer; your computer shouldn't use you.

    A powerful statement, Thomas... sounds like it could be a Confucianism.

    On Mar.02.2006 at 09:16 PM
    Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

    "but I would like to see the opposition step up to the plate."

    Is this "opposition" you refer to real, or do you just want someone to debate the opposite side?

    If the shoe fits, Su...

    On Mar.02.2006 at 11:27 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    ...by which you're implying that I'm the opposition? Because I'm not.

    I actually agree with your premise. You just make no damn sense getting to it, and you're lashing out at all the wrong things.

    On Mar.03.2006 at 01:10 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    Suggestion being, in case it wasn't clear from the original question, that I don't think your opposition actually exists, or at least isn't present here, despite your apparent belief otherwise. I don't think the opposition even exists in your classroom.

    Not one single person has even made the implication that computers/software/etc = design. Because it's just not true. On the other hand, some have pointed out that your precious sketching doesn't equate either, including those otherwise more openly in agreement with you.

    On Mar.03.2006 at 01:27 PM
    Sam Pitino’s comment is:

    I have not read all the strings...just scanned them.

    I see two things here. The first has to do with conducting research in which to arm oneself with the information to solve problems or gain knowledge of an industry or service to conduct branding, identity activities...whatever else. I firmly believe that there are many ways to do this type of research...no one method is right or wrong. I feel that once we know the questions, however we get them answered is up to the individual. The second thing is what happens after that process. I do not feel we can make accurate predictions of how younger or future designers will flush out ideas. I utilize a combination of pencil and pixels, I know others that use just pencils, while others use pixels only. Like it or not, younger designers are more comfortable sketching on the computer. Who are we to tell them it's wrong.

    The proof is always in the end result. Those who do not build a strong foundation through research — no matter how it's done — will fail. Those who do, and follow it through with equally strong design will succeed. Well, most of the time at least.

    On Mar.03.2006 at 02:09 PM
    Bakari’s comment is:

    I'm going to read more through this thread later, but I want to ask a related but somewhat different question. This subject makes me wonder if a 49 year man who has teaching, research, and communication skills, has a chance at making it as graphic designer? I've started graphic design classes this semester as part of a career change, but it seems like the market is more open to young people. Am I making a poor assumption here? No doubt I wish I had begun a design career track back in high school. I love the challenge and the creativity of this type of work. I do think, though, that it does help to have a solid and developing general education background including and beyond design application tools. I'm hoping my age, experience, and knowledge will be a plus in this area.

    On Mar.03.2006 at 06:34 PM
    ben weeks’s comment is:

    graphic design is really the study of how to make perfumes by hand, the riding of war horses and flying of airplanes. Being an ambassador to a foreign nation of strategic importance is also very useful for being a good designer. All part of the process. Decisions. People. Stuff. Dig it.

    On Mar.04.2006 at 02:05 AM
    Tselentis’s comment is:

    Su, your enthusiasm for this subject pleases me, however, there is no time sensitivity for making my point. And quite frankly, I left this discussion rather open ended so that others could make their points; I like hearing what others have to say more than the sound of my own voice.

    Furthermore, I have at least 50 new students each quarter, some of which are 40+ years old and others that are 18-29. The first question usually is, "What software will we learn?" Other statements I get when chatting with new students, who want to study design or are studying art, include: I've heard that you need to learn Quark to get a job or I want to be a designer, so I'll buy an Apple computer. Now you tell me, how would you interpret those statements? Because to me, these people are seeing the computer and design as connected at the hip.

    On Mar.04.2006 at 06:36 AM
    Su’s comment is:

    I think you might be switching subjects here. At any rate, your examples just previous may ultimately have nothing to do with design at all. Have you turned these statements around on your students to see what they say? I wonder how often they're just practical considerations(or what may at least seem to be to them.)

    How many listings for design jobs have you seen that don't list some software requirement?

    Or a Mac requirement? For that matter, it came to my (supremely annoyed) attention after completing a web project last year that a noticeable portion of the New York publishing industry(I'm talking like, Hearst) is not only Mac-centric, but still using OS9 or even 8.

    While you don't need a Mac to do design, you[1] will most likely be using your employer's computers wherever you get a job, and they will almost definitely be Macs. (Do you have PCs in any of your design rooms? Just curious.) No proper IT department will let you bring in your own system, and they'll probably be quite resistant to putting together a special one just for you, if they'll even discuss it. There are definite advantages to having identical systems in a working group.

    Your employer may have a volume software license; I've never seen one that lets you mix operating systems, and buying a separate single license is hugely expensive by comparison, and again increases support load.

    Your printer quite possibly only accepts [program] files, and likely in an older version that you primarily work in at the moment.

    This does loop around, though, in the sense of . If I've spent a bunch of time on my own learning Quark and find out first day of class that you're teaching in InDesign, that is a definite potential hobble. I'm not suddenly stripped of my design ability, but I do have to learn how to use a new tool simultaneous with whatever the actual project is.

    [1] Rhetorically

    On Mar.04.2006 at 01:48 PM
    Su’s comment is:

    [Bah. That wasn't supposed to go through yet, and now the "DAMNIT" from clicking the wrong button's blotted everything out.]

    Um...The only thing that looks chopped off is in the last para. I think I was going to say something about it looping around in the sense of connecting tool to process. In the same spirit as reading best what you read most, you produce best with your favorite, known tool. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether a pencil is better than a mouse. Especially if, like me, you never used pencils in the first place. (Okay, I did until like, third grade, but I quickly developed an irrational dislike for them.)

    One last thing, and possibly something to try as an experiment and follow up separately: Regarding the sketching angle, what about going halfway? What do you think of the natural media programs out there, like Alias Sketchbook and ArtRage? Painter's probably a little to heavy, but still sort of fits.

    I suppose part of this might be narrowing down the objection to software. For example, do you think that going straight into Illustrator is prematurely(subliminally?) putting the students into a final/production train of thought? So, what if the software, such as these, doesn't particularly allow for that?

    On Mar.04.2006 at 02:00 PM
    Mark Notermann’s comment is:


    Thanks for keeping this going. I You raise very good points about practical considerations vs. design skills.

    Jason, students don't often understand how to frame the contexts for their questions—that’s why they’re in school.

    My production experience is why I became interested in design. I can comp in Freehand practically bindfolded and 5x faster than with a pencil. I’ve learned 2 important things about using sketches:

    1) Sketches make better first round presentations to clients than comps. People respond to what might be a quaint understanding of artistry, and respect the workmanship that goes into a clean sketch. It shows that ideas are just that—and suggest direction for the next round. I think a sketch invites dialogue and client input.

    My experience with digital sketches (depending on the client) is that they don't look rough enough. The client sees something that is closer to the end than the beginning, and has a more polarized reaction to it. They have a harder time understanding the cost and time for revisions if the first round looks too good.

    In general, I think it can help fuel the prerception of “graphic design is just pushing something around with a mouse.” This is more an issue for independent designers whose client base is unfamiliar with the process.

    2) Traditional drawing is about seeing the subject, then translating it to 2-D. Drawing by itself is an entirely different physical and mental process than computer comping. They are complementary, really.

    On Mar.04.2006 at 04:10 PM
    Grant’s comment is:

    What all designers must realize is the computer is a tool, no better then a pencil or brush. The difference is that the computer puts the entire (digital) world at your fingertips. It all depends on how it is used. Personally I have had a mouse in my hands just about as long as a pencil, navigating a computer screen comes second nature to me. The difference is I don't google images and rip them off to complete a design.There will always be designers, or even people in general, that will cut corners and justify the means to their eventual ends.

    On Mar.13.2008 at 08:21 PM