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WTF happened to Graphic Design?

Reading time: 4 minutes.   *Reality check (in the footer)

So I went to this event: “Italian Graphic Design – Design and Industry” at the Italian Embassy.

I didn’t know what to expect at first but then I was blown away.

I asked myself: “What happened to Graphic Design?”. How did we pass from these amazing compositions to the crap we see today?

Just pick Pirelli. You look at the above examples of advertising and you would buy them and hang them in your living room. But would you hang today’s Pirelli AD in your home?

Exactly.

I mean, this is a good AD. It’s just not great. It doesn’t have personality, it doesn’t have heart. You could change the logo with Firestone’s and you would barely notice it.

Back in the days instead, there was this beautiful idea of using the product  and art as a starting point. Not the consumer.

I don’t get all the crap about “user centered” whatever. It makes sense only in very limited design situations. Today instead it has become only a lame excuse for the: “Let’s just do whatever the costumer say and let’s not piss off our client.” approach. That’s just lazy. I know from where that stuff comes from: marketing meetings.

User centered doesn’t mean:”Designing for people current behaviour”. It means: “Designing for the most efficient behaviour”.

User-centered design today instead, means something like “designing a curved, crooked chair for someone with scoliosis.”

Can you imagine designing an highway interchange based on the way people actually drive? It would just be a straight line from the highway to John Smith’s home. And that’s how we are designing pretty much everything nowadays.

 

Often we don’t know what we want until we see it. I didn’t know I wanted a Mac until I saw one. Was it user-centered (as we intend it today?) Hell no! It was the opposite. It was designed to say: “Hey, this is it. We decide what you can change/customize/do. Take it or leave it.” The opposite of what “people wanted” right? And yet…

Now we are used to “how Macs work”, because we learned it. It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s intuitive yes… once you learned how to think like it.

Coming from 10 years of PC I hated Mac in the beginning. It was SO limiting. But it “straightened my behavioural back” so to speak. They set a new standard. Now each single smartphone out there is a copy of the first iPhone’s basic idea: no buttons. Same things for the “Apps” idea. User friendly? User centered? Was that what people were asking for back then? Or maybe someone just said: “Fuck it. Let’s do something right for once.”?

So when I look at this:

Or this:

I understand that something was lost in the search for the perfect marketing piece: Creativity. Method. Independency.

Is it possible to win it back? Of course there are cases of brilliant design and advertising but there is no culture of design in corporations and among everyday clients.

I personally try to show my clients different things. Often they only need to see what’s possible, simply because they didn’t know any better.

As Graphic designers we have huge responsibility. We put out in the world messages and images that will influence people’s life. Children’s life. It’s important to be honest and strive for something higher and don’t settle for: “what people want to see”.

*Reality check.

This is a reality check I will include in all my posts from now on. To remind myself (and my friends reading now) that there are more important things out there.

Dear Me (and dear readers), these are only opinions.

More: these are opinions about trivial matters. I might get passionate about them (because I love my job) but it’s only design. Let’s take it easy. It’s easy to get lost in articles, debates, opinions… Ideas that seem so important while other events are unfolding around us like:

NASA – Climate change

Yemen humanitarian crisis

But also good things like:

Nuclear fusion is becoming reality

Smallpox is almost eradicated

When I get passionate or annoyed by something I play the game: “…meanwhile in Yemen…” or “…meanwhile in Bruxelle’s European parliament’s toilets at the 1st floor…”. Perspective is very important. The bigger picture…

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