Pedagogy Design and Computers page 3


The Influence of Technology
While the invention is moving through the various stages, numerous individuals are working to refine, improve, make more efficient, extend its application and reduce cost. We have certainly seen the computer go through the historical developmental patterns. Primary factors leading to adoption of new technology have been improved products that are more economical to produce; they are made more quickly and in greater quantities or new products with a predictable market. With the shift from traditional methods and products to new ones, there generally was a trade-off. As products were improved, they became more complicated and costly; as they could be produced more economically or quickly, quality decreased. As new technologies replaced older ones, traditional values and methods tended to disappear while new values were created, and they seldom were superior to traditional ones in many respects.

Adoption of new machinery and processes invariably led to worker unrest as change usually meant less workmen were required. During the nineteenth century, workers revolted and destroyed new machines as they vainly strove to preserve their livelihood. What we have seen with iron, manufacturing, logging and ranching industries is not peculiar to our times. The process has been going on throughout the industrial revolution. Today, we call it down-sizing. During the late 1880s, loggers exhausted timber resources in northeastern Wisconsin, and thousands of loggers were unemployed. Several aluminum manufacturers moved into the area and retrained loggers to work in factories. The area became the largest concentration of aluminum cookware manufacturing in the world by the turn of the century. There has been a limited revival of many industrial crafts in our century as cottage industries or by hobbyists and artists. Some combination of weaving, ceramics, paper-making, woodworking, glass-blowing and letterpress printing have been included as art courses or programs at most universities.

At the risk of sounding like a displaced craftsman from the past, I am firmly convinced that the fundamentals and values of visual design are better learned through traditional methods than can be accomplished with the computer. In our eagerness to embrace the new computer capabilities, we should not blind ourselves to those aspects of tradition that remain relevant regardless of what technology is favored. There is evidence suggesting that for some graphic design educators and students, the computer is still being used at the toy stage. As such, traditional values and pedagogy are discarded by many in the belief that they are no longer relevant. It is only when the computer ceases to be a toy that it becomes a tool and values emerge as something more than what a machine can do. When I left graduate school and began work as a teacher and designer during the 1950s, advertising design was better known than graphic design. Linotype, monotype and foundry type were the sole means for typesetting. Advertising designers relied on hand-generated concepts using pastel or watercolor for client comps. Type indication was rendered with a pencil, typesetting was hot metal, work was key-lined and a blue-line proof was the final check for offset printing and a press dummy for letterpress printing. Concepts and comps were generally made by the artist/designer; typesetting was furnished by an outside source; key-lines were done by specialists and blue-lines or press dummies were supplied by the printer. The differences between the designer’s comp and the printed piece usually were substantial.

At school, we installed a copy camera and worked with photostats; we had a film and photography laboratory; we had a hot metal type shop where students learned to set type and used hand-operated printing presses. Financial constraints were handled by soliciting subsidization from a variety of manufacturers and suppliers. With time, additional constraints were imposed which were mainly financial. We could no longer afford the new technologies, the cost of photographic materials escalated to a point that students could not afford them, and students began to use the photocopier in place of photostats. Even the cost of a Color-Aid pack required for Albers’ color classes increased so much that it became prohibitive for student use.


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We should not blind ourselves
to those aspects of tradition
that remain relevant regardless
of what technology is favored.

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