Tag this one under “long term plans,” I guess. I’m thinking about preparing a show… though for now I’m not doing any more than thinking about it because the show won’t debut for seven years.
See, I’ve had this idea, probably for at least a year now, of a 20-year retrospective of my design work. The idea seems numerically fortuitous: it would be a 20-year show held in 2020, examining my work with hindsight which is, of course, 20-20.
Reasoning other than numeracy…? Mmm… because it would entertain me? Because it would indulge my vanity and auto-fascination? Because, allowing that I’m sure it would not be an entirely original idea, I like the idea of putting together a kind of display of creative work that is usually reserved for fine arts, but seeing how it would work for graphic design instead? Because what else should I be doing?
I think it could be fun. Dig through 20 years of my work, pull things out of boxes that haven’t seen the light of day since the early aughts, perhaps re-create some items (with all of the technical challenges that could entail). Try to beg/borrow sample copies of books I’ve never even seen in finished form. Do some exhibit design. Put together promotions, and of course a gorgeous exhibit catalog. It could involve quite a bit of work, really, but… hey, I’m not above celebrating myself if no one else is going to do it. Plus… I have seven years, still.
Which is probably the biggest question mark in terms of “will I ever really do this,” because even though it can go by awfully fast at this age, seven years is still quite a bit of time; a lot can happen. Will I still be working as a designer? Probably, but difficult to say. Where will I be living at the time? Reply hazy ask again later. But it’s something I’m thinking about, for now.
Apparently I wrote this post back in January, saved it as a draft, and for one or another reason never returned to post it.* Since the issue of graphic design profession “barriers to entry” came up again, a couple of days ago, this seems like as fair an occasion as any to dust this off and publish it.
I’ve been thinking about credentials, lately, and following on a couple of recent posts this is probably as good a time as any to note down my thoughts about the issue.
I don’t have a lot of formal credentials, in an academic or professional sense, at any rate.** The covers I design are often written or edited by people in medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, and some of them will have three or more abbreviations after their name. (A recent job includes DVM, MS, DACVS, and DACVIM, although none of the three editors has all four of these.)
I have… a bachelor’s degree. From a state university. One might count that I graduated, in some sense, cum laude, if one feels like it. Otherwise that’s about it; at one point several years ago I qualified as some sort of mailpiece design specialist after taking a little course on the subject, but I think that has probably expired. I have never pursued or felt particularly motivated to pursue advanced degrees, and have no professional credentials to flash.
Mostly, this is a result of the field I chose. As noted the other day, I have never had any sense that graduate studies in graphic design had any value outside of preparation for teaching (and, perhaps, postponing entry into the working world). Meanwhile, graphic design as a profession has never really organized itself to issue credentials, nor has government ever demonstrated much interest in regulating our profession. This lack of credentialing may in some part be attributed to the fact that graphic design as a specialist profession is rather new—in my study of detectives I found that it took several decades for the profession and society at large to get any kind of firm licensing in place—but probably more than anything is a result of our seeming essentially harmless. I like to think that there is in some sense objectively good graphic design and bad graphic design, but I’m aware that this isn’t brain surgery. In spite of the occasional clusterf**k in something like interface design, which graphic designers tend to latch onto as evidence of our relevance even though interface design is arguably a related specialty and certainly not a regular activity for most graphic designers, malpractice in graphic design usually just doesn’t come with any acute negative consequences.
I have a number of further comments on Adobe’s Creative Cloud scheme and the subsequent fallout.
Potentially practical, useful items to start: For those unhappy with some or all of Adobe’s Creative Cloud scheme, the best single-step expression at the moment is probably signing this petition. (There’s also a second, for whatever reason, here.) Meanwhile, in the event that Adobe ultimately takes no more interest in customer opinion than it has demonstrated all this past week, I’ve come across some helpful guides to alternatives to their software. This is a good list; this appoints and examines top free alternatives, and this takes a detailed look at how the closest free-software product alternatives stack up.
That covered, I’m just going to take a point by point approach to everything else. Which is slightly obnoxious, but probably not much more obnoxious than the obvious alternatives (e.g. a super-long-form post with proper transitions, etc., or a flood of eight or nine separate Creative Cloud posts), and I feel like just getting this stuff said.
Here goes, then:
Regarding the controversy over Creative Cloud’s expense, I think we’re essentially witnessing a sleight-of-hand trick in the assertions that CC is cheaper for “any customer.” At any rate it might be cheaper for many people, like myself, who have argued otherwise if one compares it with Adobe’s relatively recent policy of offering discounted upgrades only for owners of the upgrade’s immediate predecessor. If one compares Creative Cloud (as I have) to a dozen years or more of purchasing occasional upgrades under the longstanding generous any-previous-version policy, Creative Cloud looks a lot more like a disaster.
Update: One other thing, if anyone should launch a Kickstarter to replace one or more Adobe products? Let me know, I’ll certainly support you.
I am not a happy graphic design professional.
The simple, primary reason for this is that it represents a gouging new, ongoing transfer of resources from me to Adobe in return for… in my view, nothing.
There are other reasons I’m unhappy with this; aside from my personal complaint it just reeks of pure, monopoly power rent-seeking. It’s an example of why I am perennially suspicious of an individual corporation having control over any kind of “standard,” whether Facebook and social networking, Amazon and the book market, or Adobe and the various formats that it owns. No matter how friendly it seems. Because the potential, indeed the obligation under the doctrine of “maximizing shareholder value,” always exists to begin price gouging on the basis that there are no effective alternatives for unhappy customers because we’ve eaten them all. And in that sense, this comes as lamentably little surprise; Adobe’s absorption of Aldus was quite some time back, but its more recent gulping down of Macromedia and its marginalization of Quark have pointed toward this risk for some time. Meanwhile, I also dislike the further evidence of a long-dreaded “trend” toward “software as a service,” i.e. “a perpetual tax to access the tools of your trade,” as well as toward an “everything must be accessed online, and thereby tracked and recorded and datamined in perpetuity” world.
But mostly I’m very very unhappy because this amounts to a gouging new, ongoing transfer of resources from me to Adobe. Which conclusion is the product of plain, simple accountant’s arithmetic. I’ve gone back and looked at the past six years of my business expenses, and checked, and during 2007-12 I spent almost exactly $1200 on Adobe software. Under the $600/year Creative Suite subscription plan, the same utility would have cost me $3,600.
Both pleased and mildly bemused with this recently approved front cover design:
I mean, it’s a bit odd. It certainly felt a little “out of left field” to me. Mind, I think occasionally offering up something out of left field is reasonable and even important (lest one assume static tastes and be blindsided when they evolve). And I was frankly reaching a bit to develop ideas for this cover; there wasn’t a lot of scope for typographic experiment, after all, thanks to the content of the title. Still, this seemed bordering on wacky.
But, not for the first time, I found myself thinking “I suppose it’s a good thing I included that among the designs I provided.”
I have to imagine this is not a new proposition, but I just had a curious little notion that I feel like posting here.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (which abbreviates to CERN in some language, I presume French) is generally regarded as the birthplace of the World Wide Web, just 20 years ago. To commemorate this anniversary, some of its boffins plan to re-create the very first web site right down to the original NeXT hardware. (The content seems to be online, now, though back-end authenticity may still be a work in progress.)
And I was struck by a project member’s remarks about the significance in this BBC story:
According to Dan Noyes, the web manager for Cern’s communication group, re-creation of the world’s first website will enable future generations to explore, examine and think about how the web is changing modern life.
“I want my children to be able to understand the significance of this point in time: the web is already so ubiquitous – so, well, normal – that one risks failing to see how fundamentally it has changed,” he told BBC News.
I read this and I just wondered: is it even possible for Mr. Noyes’s children ever to really understand “how fundamentally it has changed?”
I may be in a bit of a particularly good position to appreciate this, having turned 15 the year the Web was born. It took a few more years and arrival at college for me to get regular access to the Web (or even the larger internet), but I was still only 18 years old at the time. I am just old enough to remember the outlines of pre-networked life, but I am also young enough that I never really experienced an actual independent adult life of my own without teh intarweb. I think that as a result I can appreciate how much things have changed in a way that is difficult for younger generations—and at the same time appreciate how and why it’s difficult in a way that may elude older generations.
At all events, I feel it’s very likely that future generations will have a very hard time with even a hypothetical grasp, let alone a real fundamental understanding, of how the internet and web have changed life. And it strikes me that this limitation of perception might reasonably be regarded as operating both ways. And that if that is the case, then might not one reasonably propose that the arrival of the ubiquitous web was essentially a technological singularity?
I want to post just a bit about the upcoming Free Comic Book Day events at Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop in Cleveland. There’s a slight connection to the business of this blog, anyway, as they’ve been printing and distributing my Superman’s Cleveland map the past few years. And this year’s event highlights that same connection, (presumably) in recognition of the character’s (low-key) 75th anniversary.
But mostly I’m posting about this out of plain shock-and-awe at what this store has lined up. There’s really no way to summarize the whole list effectively, and I strongly encourage clicking through to read the whole thing, but a small, small sampling includes:
- 1.5 tons of comics to give away
- Custom cover edition of the Superman FCBD comic…
- …which will be given out at the store and at county library branches
- Commemorative Superman – Cleveland 75th Anniversary FCBD lithographs ($3 ea.)
- Free graphic novels to the first 150 people, Friday night and again Saturday morning
It goes on, and on. John signs off his blog post with the advice “Get ready for the biggest comic book event of the year!” I’m guessing that, at least within a generous radius of Cleveland, that’s not hyperbole either. Indeed I must kind of hope not, because reading these plans almost make me worry for the man; at what point do you conclude that things have gone overboard and stage an intervention? I’ve been known to dabble occasionally in The Crazy, but this seems more like going all-out with THE CRAZY. At all events, Free Comic Book Day just doesn’t seem an adequate description, and thus the title of this post.
Frankly, meanwhile, I’ve become almost a stranger to the world of comics, of late. The realities of coping with one of those years, financially, have combined with a long-term fading of enthusiasm; I’ve looked at the list of giveaways for this year and even at a cost of free my reaction is basically “meh.”
But I feel like showing up to this event, anyway, if only out of admiration for the marvelously contrasting passion represented. Here’s a man so crazy about what he does that it might actually be a little crazy, but wondrous to behold, all the same. Respect.
I have attempted to amend my recent “Places Named Lakewood” map, and I think this version is less incorrect than the first…
After Mr. Helpful stopped by to say “hey, there’s this thing Wikipedia, you know…” I took a look, and realized that I had made some omissions. How many I had made, however, is I believe open to question.
…they just fade away. And, despite the modest campaign launched last fall by Cleveland’s Newspaper Guild membership to prevent exactly that, it seems The Plain Dealer will not be exempted.
I really don’t have a lot to add to what I wrote, at the time, but it seems worth following up simply to note this week’s announcements:
- The Plain Dealer intends to reduce home delivery to three days per week, though the paper will still be printed seven days. For now.
- Northeast Ohio Media Group, a “new digitally focused media company” is to launch this summer and assume responsibility “for all ad sales and marketing for The Plain Dealer and oversee the operation of Cleveland.com and Sun News.”
- Meanwhile, if one digs around in the comments, cuts to staff and other resources continue in the background.
For me, personally, this seems a non-event; I get all of my Plain Dealer content via cleveland.com anyway, and staff (who bravely waded into the surge of negative comments after the news broke) have been at pains to insist that no paywall is planned (at this time). Meanwhile, though I sympathize with the journalists and other staffers trying to put the best face on all of this, it’s difficult to avoid at least a little derisive snort at how many comments took the form of “what about my comics? what about sudoku?”
Still, I don’t really think this is all that funny, I just think that it is. I’m not especially gladdened by it, but I see nothing here to challenge my analysis of the traditional metropolitan daily’s position. Just more confirmation of it. The one thing that might suggest some potential for useful adaptation, this Northeast Ohio Media Group, seems upon closer inspection like it is probably a discouraging sign instead; though I don’t see any mention of Advance Publications anywhere in the recent announcements, I presume that this for-profit New Jersey company still owns The Plain Dealer and that NOMG (omg) is simply rearranging deck chairs rather than changing the ship’s course. And therefore that, if any metropolitan daily does work out a new means to support robust professional local journalism in the 21st century… I wouldn’t bank on it being Cleveland’s. So it goes.
As I remarked to a friend during discussion of this news, “if [this development playing out to the likely conclusion] has negative consequences, well, then it will have negative consequences. I don’t know where everyone else has been the past dozen years, but I’m getting used to this.”
Did portfolio review today, again. As always, no two years are exactly alike.
The first observation that comes to mind about this one is how formal dress seems to have gone entirely out the window, this year, at least among the male students. Not that I’m judging; I work at home and if I make it beyond pajamas before noon that’s raising the bar, sartorially… so if you want to show up to portfolio review looking like you just peeled yourself off a floor five minutes before, I’m not going to scold you. Bit of a surprising development, though.
Also surprising: that students are still designing web site “splash pages” in 2013. As I recall, those were mostly on their way out by the time I graduated, in 2000… when these students were about eight years old. (Gah.) Where are they even learning of this concept? If it’s faculty, well… get with it, faculty.
Another funny point: the contradictory advice students receive. I remember the same thing, and it hasn’t changed. One poor student, in particular, had what I considered a good solid portfolio with plenty of material… and after asking me about it, noted that someone else had just said he should have double the number of pages. Aaaaaaaand y’know, you’ll get that. I told him that there is no universal right answer on this stuff, though my own opinion would strongly discourage doubling the number of pages, and I’ll be sticking to that.