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Technology is a graphic designer's magic trick

Transcript: Welcome back to another designer's soup. This is the June edition. And this recording is done at the Public Works studio in Mount Lavinia. Sri Lanka. I'll be talking about the magician archetype. And in this case, I'll be talking about technology; this could be anything from computers to software to chat GPT.

Essentially, these are tools. What are the tools that we use to make the impossible happen?

Transcript: I find the magician archetype is particularly common amongst businesses that leverage quality and time. These are the kind of businesses that always promise to make dreams come true.

Most magician brands we've worked with have been in the hotel tourism and creative industries, and are mostly service-based. For Public Works. I spend a lot of time developing more effective ways to tell meaningful stories. And looking at ways in which technology can help us achieve, that is part of my job.

Here are three considerations to use technology to make the impossible happen.

Efficiency, in terms of time, but also in terms of output, I think technology has the ability to complete tasks with wide scopes in a relatively short time; much faster than if we did it entirely ourselves. So the tools we have available to us now allow us to complete tasks much faster than ever before.

With so much information now available to us, particularly information that's published online and shared every day; accessing that much information and extracting pertinent information is a task, I think, best suited for a computer or algorithm.

We use, for example, image aggregators to explore the semiotics of a particular idea. Obviously, there are limitations to these apps that we use. For example, Pinterest has an incredibly powerful algorithm, but what it can show you is limited to what has been uploaded. Now the interesting thing about Pinterest, for me, is its limitation. It can't synthesize any ideas and it certainly can't show something that hasn't been already made. So we use it to illustrate a visual spectrum; it’s a guide, rather than a source. In other words, it gives examples of existing graphics that have similar brand characteristics for a particular business persona. Image aggregators are getting so powerful now that they can match images to search queries, very, very well. And with a tool like that, I can create visual boards quickly and effectively. What used to take a designer, a full day at a reference library. Now, takes a couple of hours online. So technology can make it possible, for small teams and even individual designers, to consider a wider range of data.

The next consideration to talk about, Is the high fidelity of technology. We gain enormous amounts of precision, scale, and consistency with these kinds of tools. Moreover, I think it creates opportunities for us to investigate the feasibility of an idea. In terms of prototyping and testing. It can make this part of the design process more profitable for those doing the work and more cost-effective for those paying for it. I think it's a win-win.

For example, we regularly use digital mockups to test logo ideas and different situations. Not to say that the standard test prints or 3D builds are not important or obsolete, but rather, that a digital mockup is can be a cheaper testing method. Particularly for situations where a full prototyping exercise would be overkill.

For example, when you're testing a logo or any kind of graphic system; let’s say you want to test the graphics for uniforms, maybe also for a vehicle or any story that will live in a 3D space. It's good practice to make a physical mockup to test the idea, and make sure that there are no foreseeable problems. If you plan on printing these graphics on a thousand vehicles or ordering 50,000 t-shirts, then it's worth spending the extra money to make test prints and double-check in situ. But if you're doing a small order, and there will be opportunities to fix any problems in a second batch, the digital mockup is more cost-effective and appropriate. You always use a mockup with multiple perspectives to check for issues.

The high fidelity that technology gives us in terms of testing, can identify the strengths and weaknesses of an idea quite well. As a tool, the technology, we use now allows us to preview ideas with more accuracy and less production cost.

Another consideration for using technology in your practice or business is, its agility. Technology reduces the effort required to consider alternative versions of an idea. Particularly in terms of investigating different elements or parts of an idea, I think designers can try different arrangements, they can look at more shapes and sizes, and investigate textures, lines, and colours relatively more easily.

I think we underestimate the usefulness of our tools sometimes. For example, the value of just the command “Past in Place” or “Undo”. I think it's fair to say that these two commands combined have reduced more friction in the crafting of graphics than any other tool.

Come to think of it, I think it's no coincidence that the famous proverb “work smarter or not harder” was coined around the same time the first computer calculator was invented.

Now, the thing about using technology like this, particularly to move quickly and easily, is that before you can achieve that agility, it requires getting over the learning curve first.

We once used AI software to index all the footage from a shoot. We also prompted it to cut and edit alternative versions according to the criteria of the brief. After assessing the learning curve, we decided that the software was relatively easy to use, so we tried it, and it worked well. Even with the learning curve, we stayed within budget.

So reducing friction in the creative process is particularly important to us at Public Works. The technology we use is our factory and the more efficient, precise and effortless it is to make stories, we think improves our business, and increases value in our production.

I think designers and technologies have a reciprocal relationship. The way graphic designers use technology can influence the next generation of tools and those tools influence the next generation of graphic designers.

And when we use a well-built tool to solve a problem, seamlessly without friction, it’s like magic.

Food thought…

Alain Parizeau

Director, Public Works


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