Opinion June 17, 2014
A couple of months ago I was applying for a job as a web designer. The interviewer asked me a question I had not anticipated in the slightest: “How come you don’t have a Facebook page?” Not having a great deal of time to articulate a thorough explanation, I replied that it was a personal decision and that I value some level of privacy in my life. Which is not a lie per se, but just the tip of the iceberg.
Apparently that was not the correct answer, and furthermore it brought in to question my abilities as a web designer. In retrospect I think a more telling question would have been, “How does designing for social media platforms affect your creative process, and how do you stay on top of the emerging trends and protocols?” But let’s not dwell on that, because technology is a double-edged sword.
In today’s world we are all tethered to technology in one way or another. We whip out our smartphones as soon as we get off the subway. Answering texts or your emails during dinner is no longer a viable offence. But when do we stop to breathe; do we ever consciously break the shackles of technology to get in touch with our innate creativity?
With almost everyone in creative fields having access to Adobe products these days, the pressure to produce is enormous. Although I have seen some truly phenomenal work come from purely digital sources, this work is now hidden beneath a slew of homogenized thinking and Photoshop filters. But even at that, I think that all of the exemplary work I have seen that ended up as a digital final initially came from good, old-fashioned pen and paper. Just look at Jessica Hische’s sketches. And let us never forget the power of the pen when Paula Scher created the Citi Group logo on a napkin.
But when do we stop to breathe; do we ever consciously break the shackles of technology to get in touch with our innate creativity?
The pressure comes in not only the relative ease and accessibility of the software, but from our fast paced and driven culture.Everything we do has been launched into hyper speed. On a daily basis I have had original and, in my opinion, outstanding concepts shut down because of their execution time. So where does that leave truly great design? Usually marginalized in favour of revenue, a quick turnaround time, and more often than not in the dumpster. However I usually save those sketches to later be painstakingly executed, because I like to see things through, especially when I have conviction in their value.
While I primarily do 90% of my work in Adobe CC, it takes several steps before I open the software. Ideas need a foundation and legs to stand upon. I write something down, draw it out and think it through. I try my hardest to never let the technological tool replace my originality and brainpower. I have seen so many of my phenomenal peers produce mediocre work because they are not given the freedom to work outside the digital space. I know that I frequently am also one of those casualties. Unfortunately, we can’t opt out of tech as often as we’d like.
After that fateful interview I was forced to come home and, against my own good instinct, to rejoin Facebook after an almost three year hiatus; apparently, being on Facebook is somehow indicative of my credentials.
I don’t tweet, and never have. My Instagram presence is minimal, as is my Facebook one for that matter. But in the end, what I cherish most is the hour of tech silence that I get twice a day during my commute to and from work. I confide in my trusty sketchbook, I come up with ideas, and I bypass some clichés on the way because they do not bombard me through every means of digital communication available. I don’t feel the need to crank out comps like I’m a factory; instead I savour the hour in which I can be free to think, reflect and give birth to the ideas that technology does not favor.
As a postscript, this was all written in my sketchbook before I took it to the computer. I find it cathartic to be able to see my own hand trace the letters and to be able to cross things out instead of hitting backspace or delete. Technology can be wonderful, but never forget that it is a tool, not an autopilot for creativity. And, if need be, take a break — “forget” your phone and enjoy the silence.
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