A Handmaker’s Tale

In the field of design there needs to be an appreciation for what people can do that technology can’t. As computers become better, faster and more accessible they are used as less of a tool and more as the main means in design production.

Design, from graphic to furniture to fashion, that begins and ends on the computer has a short life. It is trend driven and exists within limitations; if there is no typeface that fits your needs, one may just settle for whatever is convenient and we end up with rows and rows of shops with the same, easy to produce computerised look.

Technology undoubtedly makes our lives easier and more convenient but when it comes to graphic design and creativity it can restrict us. The faster we are able to produce work, the less humanised and creative it becomes. Quantity is preferred over quality and we are further removed from the materials and tools we work with. As a result, we become removed from the people we are designing for.

As a designer and human, I love technology. Instagram means people can see my work; Facebook means I can keep in contact with all my interstate and overseas friends. I couldn’t do Verse if I had to construct each page manually with a scalpel and glue; InDesign is a godsend. I try and balance out the reliance on technology in my design process by using handmade elements. My workspace is full of magazines for collage, clay for sculpting and a plethora of pens, pencils, textas and paints. I am by no means extraordinarily skilled in the handcrafts but a handwritten type scanned and tweaked on Illustrator can give the perfect contrast to a heavily computerised piece of design and add to the depth of meaning.

Throughout my design education we have been encouraged to step away from the computer; start with sketched thumbnails and experiment with mark making. Entering the final term of my degree, we are still being encouraged by tutors to bring a handmade element into our work. As a designer, my style fits with the handmade; imperfect and unconventional. But I also feel it can make my work lose its professional authority, especially when compared to a peer’s highly resolved, computerised, polished work. That’s when I realised having the imperfect connection to being human means more to me than fitting in with the style of corporate design. Looks like I’m in for some (more) years as a starving artist instead of a corporate design firm superstar.

As technology becomes more advanced, I know my position as a designer will become minimized. Anyone can choose a typeface, pick a nice stock photo and create a business card. As designers, we have a choice to make our roles indispensable. If we bring our skills and personal touch to our work, we won’t be replaced by drag and drop systems and pre-programmed tools. By creating work by hand we are also able to slow down the demand of faster production time. If we demand that good work with a human touch takes time, we can stop creating fast work that looks like everything else out there.

Technology has made our lives easier and is essential to our industry, but too many designers use technology as the solution, rather than just a tool.

Words and images by Nicole Scriva

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