The Digital Revolution, which started on the 1980s, “refers to the advancement of technology from analog electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today.” (Techopedia, n.d.) This era has revolutionised the way people acquire information, communicate with others and share data with the release of new and faster smartphones and computers every year. An specially important invention, the World Wide Web, in 1989 by Tim Berners Lee, provided the new generations with the tools for faster data collection and transmission. All these advances in technology have improved the lives of a great part of the world’s population, including economic growth, therefore meaning an important progress of the human race.
The Digital Revolution has been very fast in itself, with substantial improvements in shorts amounts of time. “The pace of innovation is extremely rapid. [...] We are witnessing a compression of the time scale by which new technology is introduced, with ever-shorter intervals between discovery and application.” (Colombo, U. in National Research Council, 1988, p.25) This velocity can have consequences on the quality of the products, as consumers are experiencing with faulty mobile devices, and also in the behavioural patterns of people: our society is characterised by our need for instant gratification. This applies to many areas of our lives, and can be seen in the increase of fast food providers, self-checkout services or the release of new devices nearly every month.
Within the area of Information Technology, the field of visual communication, or graphic design, has evolved throughout history. Besides the advancements in communication mentioned earlier, it is important to point out the improvement of the tools used, specifically digital tools. The most notorious improvement happened during the 1980s when the Macintosh computer was released, as well as one of the earliest graphic design digital tools known, Photoshop. “The 1984 Macintosh was an interesting typographic tool but the 1985 combination with the Linotype type library and Adobe’s PostScript changed the typographic world” (Romano, F., 2011)
On print, typesetting machines have been replaced by desktop publishing, including QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. “Pretty soon graphic designers were composing pages with type. They could select fonts and sizes and formats, and without realizing it, were bypassing the typesetting services. The same designers who attacked proofs with a plethora of changes suddenly lowered their standards.” (Romano, F., 2011) Also, some print has moved to the screens of our computers and smartphones, including magazines and forms of advertising transformed to web banners.
The way these advancements have influenced the design process is that the conversion of ideas into digital, finished products is much faster: new designers learn to use digital tools early on their careers, and work with fast software that allows for rapid prototyping and quick iterations. Also, Internet connections are faster, making collecting information and resources, collaborating with other people, or working from different parts of the world viable and easier. “Information is essential to human activities, and advancing technology is revolutionizing the way we acquire, store, process, ponder, transmit, and employ information, enabling us to perform these operations a thousand—sometimes a million—times more rapidly, cheaply, accurately, and effectively.” (Ramo, S. in National Research Council, 1988, p.19)
We also have access to education in a faster way, and anyone with a computer and an open-source design software can become a graphic designer. There are online universities, design tutorials, and millions of articles to understand the basics of graphic design and the initial steps of any software. Some of these self-teaching tools, however, can confound the meaning of design with art.
Nowadays, graphic designers have to keep reinventing themselves, so they are not seen as artist, but rather as problem-solvers through the use of typography, imagery and other graphics.
The outcomes of design have also progressed, with more platforms to display our work, including social media, which allows for faster and wider reach; the improvements in the printing industry also make the outcomes available cheaper and faster, as well as more sustainable if needed.
Graphic design is widely spread in today’s society, and it is available to more people, and quicker. Websites like Fiverr, PeoplePerHour or 99Designs make people believe that anyone can have a good design solution in 24 hours for as little as five pounds. While design is definitely faster today than when no computers or printers were available, it does not mean that it is better or that the creative skills needed are lost. As problem-solvers, designers of all fields cannot rush the generation of a solution, and ultimately, the digital tools only facilitate the final job, but they do not fix the problem.