To the best of my knowledge, Jay Doblin was among the first
to use the computer as an instructional tool for graphic and
industrial designers at IIT during the 1960s. However, it
was not until the introduction of the Macintosh and rapid
development of its hard and software during the 1970s that
computers became the significant factor in graphic design
that they are today. The assimilation is so complete that
it is now impractical to conceive of teaching graphic design
without computers. At this time, most teaching and professional
job descriptions call for computer literacy. My concerns are
when and how the computer is used for educational purposes
in graphic design. Students today can hardly appreciate all
the benefits provided by computer technology. With a computer,
scanner, laser printer and appropriate software, students
can set type of choice, integrate photographs or art, draw,
manipulate elements, change sizes and use color with a minimum
of labor and time. Most of the traditional production constraints
have been eliminated and the designer is no longer as dependent
on others in the preparation for actual production. The computer
eliminates most of the constraints, financial and otherwise,
associated with traditional forms of typesetting, photographic
processes and printing. The cost of computer-generated design,
type and proofs is viable for education.
Computer: Distilling Complexity
designers current fascination with the computer is easy
to understand. With the computer it is possible to do easily
and quickly those things that were difficult and time-consuming
to do in the past. This generation of students has grown up
with electronic devices and games, and the computer is another
avenue for exploration and exploitation.
have worked with upper level students using the Macintosh
to do assignments. It did not take long before I began feeling
that if one more layered design was submitted, I was going
to be sick. Much the same was true for type zooming into the
stratosphere like a comet, or curling and twisting its way
through a hodge-podge of elements, or type superimposed over
texture making it illegible. The computer is being milked
for every bit of complexity it can produce, and much of it
is visual gibberish. Complexity should not be confused with
quality. Computers can depersonalize the work, and sometimes
it is difficult to tell one students work from another.
I have many of the same problems with graphic design produced
on the computer found in the marketplace. Perhaps of even
greater significance, I cannot always tell which work was
done by a professional designer and that by a non-designer,
such as a salesman or secretary.
Computer and Typography
computer should be an excellent tool for teaching typography.
However, based on what I have seen so far, the computer appears
to be more destructive to the art of typography than constructive.
My understanding of typography has always been that its primary
function is communication based on legibility, and it is the
art of the minimal. Priorities are determined through use
of space, placement, visual tension and change of typeface,
size and weight, and these are kept to the minimum. The typographer
knows and relies on well-designed typefaces, ignoring those
that are badly designed. Good typography reflects intelligence
as well as visual understanding; restraint is the hallmark
of good typography. During the 1950s and the beginnings of
the Graphic Design program at Yale University, these precepts
were understood. This was largely due to the fact that the
typographic focus was on book and periodical design. The art
of typography has always been associated with book design.
Advertising has always been a typographic playground for the
naive or vulgar with only occasional flashes of brilliance.
I am seeing in much of computer-generated design is distortion
of type affecting legibility with excessive reliance on different
sizes and weights. There is an illogical mixing of styles,
and designers demonstrate poor selectivity in choice of typeface
designs. It is as if designers do not know how to distinguish
between a well-designed typeface and a poorly-designed one.
a great extent, the bastardization of type and its use by
students is occurring because they have no models to guide
them. Students are so overwhelmed with the excessive visual
presentation in our society todayboth type and image,
through video, film, television, print advertising and the
computer. Most of what they see is not worth emulation. Today,
students have to unlearn much more than their predecessors
of twenty years ago.