the Computer to Design Students
If I could begin teaching all over again using the computer
as an instructional tool, in the first year there would be
very little change from what I did in the past. I am firmly
convinced that visual values are best learned through traditional
hand-generated theoretical exercises. This applies directly
to basic design, drawing, color and letterform. I also believe
handskills must precede computer skills. In hand-generated
work, the student is working directly with tools and media;
manipulation and results are immediate; the student feels
as well as sees which facilitates understanding. The computer
is an indirect tool in that the student does something here
and something happens there. I do not believe that drawing
on the computer is the same as working with pencil and paper.
Values are best learned through working directly with the
hand, and values are what determine the quality of design
a student will produce on the computer. There is a difference
between kinetic and machine experience, and students should
have the former before the latter. At the risk of over-generalization,
I perceive the computer as essentially mechanical, the hand
as related to feeling and intellect as the basis for restraint.
Each plays an important role, but only when in proper sequence
and balanced with one another.
the first year of design studies, I would want students enrolled
in a computer course where they learned what the computer
and different software can do, and to become familiar with
the machine and process. They could do exercises but I would
not want students doing design problems on the computer in
the first year.
inclination would be to introduce the computer as a design
tool first in typography. During the first year, students
would study letterform as that is how they best learn the
criteria for a well-designed typeface. With a background in
letter design, spacing, margins and texture or color, students
are prepared to work with type on the computer.
graphic design teachers seem to best understand the need for
problem limitations in basic studies. Problem limitations
are constraints imposed by teachers to focus students on problem
objectives. Theoretically, students begin their studies in
design with numerous such constraints, but as they progress
through the program, constraints are reduced with the idea
that students will impose restraint to accomplish the same
end. Teachers set constraints to teach students the need for
practice of teacher-imposed constraints should be used with
the introduction of students to the computer. This is mainly
to ensure that students use the computer as a tool and not
as a play-thing. Students need to know when in the design
process it is best to use the hand and when to use the computer.
As one example, when it comes to generating ideas, the human
mind and hand are faster and better than any computer. Often
when designers use the computer to create ideas, they become
so involved with the mechanics of doing it on a machine, they
lose sight of the original objective. However, when it comes
to making refinements, exploring options or working on variations
of an idea, the computer is far superior.
is required in conceptualization as well as in visual decision-making.
Concepts should relate to objectives and priorities. Alvin
Lustig advised that the solution for any design problem grows
out of an analysis of the problem. Analysis establishes objectives
and priorities which in turn define the restraints. I once
asked Armin Hofmann why Swiss typography was so consistent.
He responded by saying that it was because in Switzerland
they had many typographic rules. He went on to say that for
typographers who were not so creative, they followed the rules.
The typographers who were genuinely creative broke the rules
and created new ones. Rules are a form of constraint.
form of similar constraint is tradition. I, as most graphic
designers, have a deep appreciation for native arts whether
they be Native American, Eskimo, African, or any similar cultures
where imagery is passed from one generation to the next. I
would speculate that traditional art is much like what Hofmann
described as typographic rules. Those who are not so creative
follow tradition and the unusually creative artist expands
tradition. It is not my intention to advocate either rules
or tradition to govern use of the computer. However, teachers
should instruct students in what constitutes good typography,
design, drawing and color, and these instructions lay the
base for judgment and decision-making much as rules or tradition.
Restraint is more important to me than constraint. It begins
with the designer identifying objectives and establishing
priorities. Then it becomes a form of checklist such as: What
am I trying to communicate? Am I communicating the right message?;
Is this the appropriate concept? Is it clear? Can I strengthen
it? Can I simplify the design by taking something out? Can
I strengthen the visual image? Restraint is an expression
practice of restraint is not in itself an inhibitor to innovation
or creative expression. Historical constraints in design,
type and printing were undoubtedly perceived by contemporaries
as barriers. In retrospect, constraints helped to focus design
and played a beneficial role. As constraints are eliminated,
restraints are needed to maintain focus and balance. Restraint
is that self-discipline necessary for all professions. Sometimes
we call it professionalism. Restraint is based on critical
analysis that keeps designers concentrated and making considered
judgments. Restraint in design, as in typography, is a true
reflection of intelligence.
computer has eliminated so many typographical, image, technical
and financial constraints, that today almost anyone can engage
in desktop publishing. The opportunity and means to publish
are open to anyone with the appropriate hard and software.
The user doesnt require all the former technical steps
of key-lining, typesetting, making images, or the various
skills. When they have what they want on screen, the disk
is sent to the printer.
a result of this, computers have become an integral component
of both graphic design and professional practice. I have been
scanning job listings recently, and what a few years ago was
an occasional reference to computer skills, is now an absolute
and primary requisite for employment. Computer skills and
knowledge of the latest software have become such a consistent
requirement that it brings to mind a recent experience of
a friend of mine.
short while ago, I was speaking with Norman Gorbaty, a very
talented designer who is a close friend. Knowing Normans
love for drawing, I inquired as to whether he was using the
Macintosh? He said no, he simply hired two young designers
who were expert with the computer, and he told them what he
wanted. He went on to say that a few weeks earlier at a client
presentation, he noticed a group huddled in front of some
panels. He went over to see what was holding their attention
and it was a few marker sketches he had made early in the
project. As he joined the group, one of them turned and asked
him what software he had used? When he told them that they
were looking at hand-generated work, they were incredulous.
It is cause to wonder about design education and computer
versus hand-generated design in the future.
distinction between artists that serve art for its own sake
and those that serve society as visual communicators has become
pronounced as society has increasingly become more diverse
and complex. In this respect, the antecedents for graphic
design as a mode of communication trace back just as far,
if not farther, than any of the visual arts including painting