There’s no need to fear the democratisation of design

Since calligraphers winced at the impact the printing press might have on their trade, generations of designers have been cowed by a technological development.

In the early 1990s, the Apple Macintosh was perceived as a threat in most areas of design. Fears for traditional craft skills were aired regularly by folk who had yet to appreciate the amazing things they could achieve through emerging technology. Few had the foresight then to appreciate that great design is a combination of head, eye and heart, regardless of the way it is realised.

Then came the Internet and print designers in particular felt under pressure from Web designers. Talk was of ‘the death of print’. The dotcom boom of the late 1990s fuelled that unease, while the digital bust of 2001 dispersed it. Print lives as a means of communication.

Ironically though, at a time when everyone is bent on getting into digital – and paying handsomely for it – digital designers are feeling the heat. This time, the threat is not so much technological as social.

The advent of MySpace, YouTube and so on have in some ways taken ‘designing’ out of the hands of designers. ‘Is it still design?’ asked participants at a seminar held last week by digital networking ‘club’ Dynamo London on the evolution of digital design.

Surely there is room for all and the democratisation of design can be a great thing – the growth of instant print shops on the high street didn’t kill the identity business. It prompts designers to think harder, be better and even learn a from what comes up from the streets. Above all, it creates new, more influential outlets for creative talents, providing spaces that allow people to interact.

And if it means the digital community pulling together more, through networks like Dynamo London and This happened, which has its inaugural London event tonight, then it’s a great thing indeed. We build more confidence through sharing ideas than by living in isolation.




Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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