Why design matters after the crisis
Resourcefulness. Resilience. Determination. If you are seeking the silver lining hovering over the dark clouds of any crisis, Eric Harsen says you can start there. The design landscape has always been one where innovative and thought-provoking creatives take a vision and transform it into a visual message that informs, inspires and engages. So, if you think a global pandemic is going to change any of that for today’s creative community, think again. Harsen, a graphic designer at the Laguna College of Art + Design, believes that, if anything, creatives will respond with the same mindset they take into any project—that of adaptability.
Case and point: The creative landscape is ever-evolving—marked by changing technologies and techniques that continue to alter the look and feel of design across myriad platforms and mediums. For example, when trends like UX (User Experience), UI (User Interface) and AR (Augmented Reality) came along, designers had to adjust to become more in tune with user experiences and journeys.
Today (at least for the time being), with user experiences and journeys transforming to more virtual interactions, designers are learning to adapt again. “I see many silver linings to this whole experience,” Harsen says. “I expect new, smarter ways of doing business to emerge. I see positive, permanent changes taking place, both in our professional and personal lives, and perhaps as a culture.”
“I see many silver linings to this whole experience. I expect new, smarter ways of doing business to emerge. I see positive, permanent changes taking place.”
— Eric Harsen, Graphic Artist, Laguna College of Art + Design
And while it may take time to see what type of scars are left behind, Harsen says the new normal will provide more of an opportunity to explore new worlds—professionally and personally. “Having career longevity and moving beyond the crisis could mean shifting your creative focus. Unfortunately, many designers were laid off because the businesses they supported were not deemed essential. While the manufacturing world isn’t very sexy, it does offer stability and challenges us to find beauty and purpose in the most mundane times.”
These new worlds also require the ability to find creative solutions for promoting products and services. With events like trade shows and conferences cancelled, the need for virtual experiences—both from a design and working perspective—will be in high demand. In order to extend the value of digital assets, smart designers will bring smart ideas to their clients regarding how these assets can be optimized for use beyond a trade show replacement.
Harsen believes there will continue to be a transition period from face-to-face interactions to working remotely on the creative side. “I believe that more clients will be comfortable working with designers without in-person consultations. I see the current social-distancing work experience as a kind of trial in which to prove that design quality and productivity need not suffer in the least. Hopefully, it will give previously-skeptical clients confidence in remote work that will carry over once this crisis has passed, allowing more creatives the opportunity to work in environments of their choice.”
Recognize. Adapt. Repeat.
When Adduco Communications recently was challenged to create a digital art campaign, the design team had to replicate paper texture and form digitally, which meant they did not have access to the physical paper or cut outs. The project created a unique opportunity for Adduco to innovate the way it approached the design process.
Adduco’s founder and president Simona Georgescu was not surprised. She knows that in a time of unprecedented change, having the propensity to innovate and adapt is critical. “Creatives will need to stay abreast of changing behaviors and look for ways to provide unique digital content. That means those with limited digital creative skills will not only need to adapt, but can gain considerable marketability if they do.”
Pandemically challenged times aside, today’s technology offers no limits. Even when cost is prohibitive, creatives will continue to be empowered to seek ways to expand their capabilities without much of an investment—apps, design classes or other sources of inspiration. The rapidly evolving landscape offers scores of ways for people to collaborate. “The pandemic has further proven we are one world, closer together than ever,” Georgescu says. “That means your talent pool and opportunities are equally global—so the aftermath of this looks to be broader in my opinion.”
If anything, Georgescu says that age-old philosophy—“a picture can tell a thousand words”—will continue to push the power, passion and prospects of design forward. “Design tells the story. It provides a persona, a digital handshake when you or your product are not available. As consumers rely more heavily on websites and social media, designers across all mediums will need to take extra care making sure the message and intent translates visually across our new increasingly virtual world.”
With this dynamic, designers’ versatility will continue to be pushed. Take marcomm designers, who today may fall into either a “digital” or “traditional” category—lines were already blurring. “What this essentially means is that digital specialists will need to become more versed in traditional design applications and strategies, and visa-versa,” Georgescu says.
Like Harsen, Georgescu believes the increased demand for video and AR/VR content will force designers to develop new skills or partner with vendors to meet evolving client needs. Most creative directors are already being asked to produce regular video content where that was once a specialized skill and separate production department.
“Crisis breeds innovation and necessity,” Georgescu says. “Creatives should use any spare time to pick up new skills or engage with the global community available to them. Moving beyond the crisis will require hope and confidence. Now is not the time to put down the sketch book, but rather to reinvigorate old passions and lay the foundation for new beginnings.”
If there is one underlying theme that will prevail in these trying times, it is that now more than ever creatives should not limit themselves. “Don’t be intimidated by new programs or techniques,” Georgescu says. “The amount of information available is endless for learning. Expand your network and engage with your community where possible. It can be hard to find light in the darkness, but as creatives, we essentially do that every day.”