SB: In our increasingly digital world, how do you see the disciplines of graphic design and product / industrial design merging?
SB: The quick wins have more or less come together now. Interfaces communicate better thanks to the knowledge transfer from graphic design – typography, the grid etc. But I still think there is much further to go before the broader theoretical progress made throughout graphic design’s history really comes to meet digital product design in a meaningful way.
Graphic design made enormous leaps in our understanding of visual communication and perception, style, utility, political and social impacts etc. Many of these ideas are extremely relevant to digital product design but to really parse them out and apply them to see what that relevance is, is a slow undertaking that few are well placed to do. For instance, how might we see the ideas embedded in the printed designs of the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century applied to today’s production cycle? Beyond the aesthetics of this period which is easily applied to a digital surface to ‘theme’ an object, can the central thesis (of a return to hand production, and the inherent human value in the pleasure and beauty of workmanship) be applied to today’s context? Surely there is scope for exploration of this in the world of the Operating System.
Graphic design was uniquely advantaged to make these ideological statements and shifts as it was possible and in many cases necessary to understand the end-to-end process and see the aesthetic connectivity between phases of production. Today’s trend is towards specialised individuals, owning a single part of the design and development process, making these analogies hard to apply and new discoveries hard to explore. Who can approach today’s design process from a critical perspective?
The lifecycle of discovery is shortening, the movement has become the trend, leaving deep ideas unexplored and minimal gains made with each iteration of design’s best practice. The fields will merge, if they haven’t already, but I think we could be missing out on many of the best ideas in the process.
Question co-opted from Sam Byford interview with Oliver Reichenstein on The Verge 2012.