The narrative graphics that I do take inspiration from all kinds of things — it’s easier to draw a complex story than tell it in words; I love the look of ancient Egyptian tomb graphics; I love that Illustrator is the perfect digital solution to recreating my own unique drawing style and have a good time working in it; picture symbolism is a private imaginative exercise that enriches meaning for viewers . . .
Visual communication also responds to the pragmatic considerations that people lack patience to read extensive text on devices, and also that they don’t even pay attention unless the aesthetics of a message are arresting. If you want your message noticed, you have to make it noticeable and rewarding. Part of the reason for infographics, for example, is to engage and reward attention to statistics – make a quantitative point without boring the audience.
There’s more to the story of story graphics. Toward the end of a Fast Company Design article, “What Killed the Infographic,” which talks about automated infographics made plainer for viewing on smart devices, the “what’s next” discussion talks about – of all things – the potential for coding with graphics!
Unfortunately for people who earn their livings by drawing pictures, various software titles put the ability to represent creative ideas with good-looking and expressive imagery into the hands of everybody. Internet sites that feature millions of original images are bringing down the price that conventional artists can expect to collect from custom art production and licensing contracts.
Canva, for instance, has millions of “premium” images that users can have for a mere $1. The artist’s guarantee of exclusivity is almost irrelevant in a field of millions, since it’s certainly easy to find $1 art that nobody else is using, and equally easy to change the art, for another $1. Canva supplies automated templates for in-house production of visual marketing materials by the graphically unskilled. Compare that with the cost and time factor of having agencies do the work.
What really excites my imagination is the application of artificial intelligence to graphic design. I signed up for The Grid, for instance, since its promise is that its alogorithms will produce a beautiful and appropriately coded layout based on content a user plugs in. We’ll see if its designers can deliver; but, if not them, then somebody else is likely to make it work in the near future. I can also see the day when uniqely styled and elegantly appropriate graphics themselves are generated by artificial intelligence in response to user input.
As much as I adore drawing pictures, particularly with Illustrator, it takes time — hours and hours can go into a single illustration. As much as I love designing and coding websites, it takes a week or more to get the layout right for adding whatever automation the users require. I have yet to find a message that’s worth the time-intensive expertise it takes to present it in all the formats for audiences who will encounter it on different devices.
I think the art/design industry is barking up the wrong tree, spending time and energy trying to prevent a global audience from infringing copyrights. The work has lost its value in the first place. While they’re flogging a dead horse, they’re not embracing the future, thinking “outside the box” to find new, relevant applications for their unique creative talents.