What designers should be thankful for this year

Thanksgiving for Designers

The past few months have been a very interesting time for me. Freed from the responsibilities of running an agency, I’ve been getting in touch with my creative roots. I’ve been getting my hands dirty… very dirty. I’ve fired up Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Dreamweaver and started shaking off the caked on layers of rust that built up while I was buried in RFPs, budget planning and HR. Man, does it feel good to design again!

It’s also exciting to see what has changed while I was “away”, and what it means for today’s designers. Creative brethren, we have a lot to be thankful for this year!

Adobe
History is full of stories of monopolistic empires that lose touch with their “subjects”, get lazy and cease to innovate. We all know how they inevitably end. That makes me especially thankful that Adobe has not rested on its laurels and has continued to enhance the Creative Suite line with new features, new tools and better integration. I’ve been using Photoshop since version 2.5 (yes, one version before they added layers!), so I’ve really been able to see how far it’s come.

Sure, Apple tries to bring creative tools to the masses, and every once in a while Microsoft steps up to the plate and swings 3 times before sitting back down, but Adobe’s the only one that really understands us, and makes designing so much more fun. Let’s raise a glass (or pint, or double mocha latte) to Adobe!

Social Media – A Smorgasbord of Sharing
A large part of the social media world is essentially a giant game of show-and-tell, with a distinct air of one-upmanship. If I can get you to follow me and visit my blog, I win. You’ve got a cool link? Well, I’ve got a cooler one that you haven’t seen yet! This means a huge wave of content has washed over the world. Tons of articles, tips, opinions, photos, etc. For some, this wave is mostly junk, but for designers there’s a wealth of treasure.

In the blink of an eye we can get free fonts, free icon sets, free clip-art, tons of tutorials and huge organized lists of great designs (often with critique and commentary) that we can call on for inspiration. Does anybody remember having to go into Barnes & Noble and buy books of Photoshop techniques? We thank thee, oh Web, for the bounty you have put before us…

Social Media II – The Instant Spotlight
You’ve fired up the latest, greatest tools, drawn inspiration and raw materials from the cloud, and created something great. Now instead of putting it up on the refrigerator door, you can spend a short few minutes and get your creation in front of peers from around the world. Remember that game of one-upmanship? That’s what drives others to share your new design with their audiences. They want to be the first one to show off the latest, greatest find in the world of design. Let’s be thankful for a ravenous community hungry for what we create, and an ecosystem of sites and networks that make it easy to feed them!

Digital Technology
Our eyes can see and our minds can imagine, but how much does it cost to bridge the gap between? Not nearly as much as it used to! Photography, video and audio capture continue to get better, cheaper and more innovative. Now on top of it all, we suddenly have incredible digital SLR’s that can also capture HD video. A designer can have a complete A/V capture solution for less than the cost of a round trip air ticket!

What else? How about digital printing. I just got my business cards back. They’re gorgeous, lustrous, 4/4 full color, and they were cheap! Short-run printing has gotten cheap and good, and we’ve got multiple choices for just-in-time printing of t-shirts and other products. That’s the freedom to create and distribute without worrying about inventory or capitalization. It’s like the perfect pumpkin pie without any of the baking mess!

The Changing World
I know this one can seem like a mixed blessing. Change can be frustrating or overwhelming, and there’s just so much of it these days. Still, without change and new inputs we wouldn’t have new challenges to design against, or new experiences to inspire us. Without the dynamic energy that change injects, we’d be stuck with a giant style guide for the world, and with little new territory to explore. Designers are, by nature, problem-solvers. If we wanted things simple, consistent and predictable, we wouldn’t be anywhere near this field, so let’s be thankful to the neverending stream of new problems to solve and new mountains to climb.

So with that, let us be thankful for the wonderful feast we’ve been given, dig in, and design something great!

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2 Responses to What designers should be thankful for this year

  1. Scott SMith says:

    Adobe innovating? Paying 600$ for a new icon and pretty bare bones innovation, really? Content aware fill amazing? nope. 3d paint? nope.

    Sorry, but that's a laughable assertion, especially fromt he company that has taken forever to go 64 bit native or to even properly support osX.

    Commentary fail.

  2. Jason says:

    Nicely summarized, Jeff. As far as highlighting the positive side elements for which we (designers) should be thankful, you did a nice job. I do feel like there are some drawbacks to consider within a few of the areas you mentioned, but that wasn't the point of your post. FWIW, I strongly disagree with Scott SMith's take on CS5 (aside from generally sharing his view that it's a lot of coin to shell out). AI and PS in CS5 are what I use regularly, and I love the updates.

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