Editor’s blog

It’s a sad irony that while top turns in the interaction world say it’s vital for designers to possess craft skills such as drawing and typography – the fundamentals of graphics training – few seem to have great confidence in their abilities in these areas. Animation is one thing, but when it comes to the rudimentaries of type design their reticence is stunning.

This was one message you could draw from the submissions to the 2011 ISTD Awards, which I had the pleasure of judging last weekend. A mere handful entered the interaction categories of the awards, organised by the International Society of Typographic Designers and, as you might expect, focusing on typography. With print and environmental categories far better supported, you have to assume that despite the rush to get content online, designers don’t rate their efforts highly enough to merit prizes.

AKQA’s work for Nike Football+.
AKQA’s work for Nike Football+.

Yet we know that interaction design is just as likely to yield great typography and typographic imagery as print projects. Witness GBH’s bold print on the Puma phone that won a design week award this year or AKQA’s work for Nike Football+.

Could the real reason be that the interaction crew just don’t relate to the wider design community and equate good typographic skills with an older world before technology took over? It is a great pity if that’s the case as diversity adds to the richness of design and we have all applauded the return of handcrafts to balance digital prowess among designers.

GBH’s bold print on the Puma phone
GBH’s bold print on the Puma phone

The good news is that some of the best interaction designers prize traditional crafts as highly as they do great ideas. This is what emerged from a round-table debate organised by Design Week with Adobe Systems Europe last month, which included Poke’s Fred Flade, Warren Hutchinson of Someone Else and AKQA co-founder James Hilton, among others.

‘I hope people will continue to sketch on paper before they leap to the Mac,’ said Alasdair Scott of The Bright Place, ‘because powerful tools can steer you in the wrong direction.’ It doesn’t get more explicit than that.

And round-table participants didn’t just extol the virtues of drawing and the like. A couple of them turned out their own masterpieces during the session. So while Hilton abstractedly doodled earlobes and eyes while citing listening and seeing as key attributes for a good interaction designer, Flade drafted out his own version of Metropolis.

By James Hilton
By James Hilton

Perhaps he was responding to Hutchinson’s view that some design groups have lived in ivory towers for too long and that now is the time to get out there and mingle. That could certainly be true of interaction specialists in design. Please do come and join the mainstream more often. It could even be fun.

By James Hilton
By Fred Flade
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  • Mateusz Odrobny November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    the last decade has seen an onslaught of “design” based around software skills and not much else. This article brings that point to light, thanks for that. It seems to me that we are in some sense doomed to be surounded by an ever increasing volume of clip art based, slapped together media, as clients increasingly deem it unnecessary to pay for their message to be presented with skill and finesse, opting instead for a templated “thats good enough” type of approach. Ease of use that is built into software is creating a spam based cultural experience. Down with the template!

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