Graphic design is more than just a field of study. It is an art form that allows the transformation of ideas and messages into something visual.
The earliest graphic design artists were limited in the scope of these visual representations compared to their twenty first century counterparts. The first ‘graphics’ can be traced back to cave drawings and hieroglyphics. Fast forwarding a few thousand years, it was the introduction of industrial printing capabilities that started the graphic design industry. Savvy media men and business owners realised the power of visual media to attract consumers to purchase their newspapers, read their advertisements and be inspired by poster campaigns across cities.
There have been many stages of evolution since these early days, but nothing transformed the graphic design industry more than the digital revolution and the invention of the computer. As computers spread to homes and offices across America over the past 20 years, the creative process for many graphic design artists has fundamentally changed.
Pencil and paper sketches of potential marketing campaigns being presented by ad agencies in board rooms to clients has been replaced with freelance artists working remotely and pitching business from their living rooms and local coffee shops. It used to be prohibitively expensive to own all of the tools and equipment necessary to create professional level work. In addition, it was difficult to gain access to clients who would be willing to hire individuals until they had built up significant portfolios of work. As a result of these two factors, a career in graphic design normally meant that you would have to work for a company rather than yourself.
Nowadays, the landscape has changed. And most of this change is down to technological advancement.
There is now a whole host of graphic design software that artists can download and use on their own laptops or smartphones. These programs that have become available are not outrageously expensive and this has allowed people to dip their toes in to this creative industry. With a few clicks of a mouse, one can transform a single string of text into an aesthetically pleasing, memorable slogan or logo. Some of the most popular pieces of software are produced by Adobe – think of programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. One quick glance at their financial statements from the past 5 years tells the story of a company that has found itself in a rapidly growing industry. Having grown their revenues by over 20% each year, they are expecting to grow again by 23.4% in 2019.
It is not just software improvements and affordability that has given rise to the freelance industry. Graphic design artists going it alone still needed clients who would purchase their work.
This is where websites such as Upwork and Fiverr have been transformative. They have given freelance artists a platform to sell their services. These online marketplaces allow businesses or individuals to scour through artists who perform graphic design services, read their reviews, browse their portfolios, and choose the one which is the best fit for their job.
There is certainly debate as to whether all of these computer tools actually help or hinder the creative process. There are many who still favour the traditional approach and are not appreciative of the fact that their marketplace has been inundated with new freelance sellers. One thing is for certain though, the graphic design industry has never been so accessible. And if that means that more teenagers and young adults who are inspired to become artists are actually able to do so, then we can safely say that the evolution from print to photoshop has been beneficial.
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“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” — Milton Glaser