Designer’s market targets the airheads

I agree wholeheartedly with Janice Kirkpatrick in her Private View (DW 16 February) about the loss of traditional typographic and typesetting disciplines. And traditional graphic design is now under threat of irrevocable loss.

It is impossible to have a coherent discussion about any aspect of design without reference to what has gone before.

Until about 1986 nearly all graphic imagery involved some hand-origination, and the quality and marks of its making reflected this fact. It continued a tradition that had been in existence since printing began and the combination of design/artisan skill coupled with the various printing techniques of engraving, lithography and letterpress produced work which stylistically bridged international boundaries.

If you ask whether computer-generated mark-making provides the same quality, or evokes the same response as traditional mark-making, the answer is no.

There is now a large market, mainly in music journalism and related design, which is satisfied by a young generation of designers and aimed at their peers. This work relies on the readily-accessed tricks of computer graphics and has a quality of deliberate obscurity and illegibility, but it is commensurate with an audience with the attention span of a guppy. The technology which achieves these limited objectives now dictates the output of most of the UK graphic design industry.

Not only is this new generation being asked to apply this often inappropriate technology to all other markets, but it is doing so without the hands-on experience of how other kinds of work were originally generated.

Designers with traditional skills are no longer invited to apply for most design vacancies, yet a large amount of design still needs to evoke traditional values.

Perhaps there is an altogether different agenda at work which takes no account of design worth, where issues like “is it true, is it right?” are replaced by the main criteria “will get it by tomorrow?”

Roger Rolfe

Roger Rolfe Design

Brighton BN2

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