As an artist in the 21st century, technology has become a necessary evil. I wrote in a previous article how artists in the past embraced new tools to help them in making better art. This can also work in reverse; technology can eliminate positions and hurt us as artists.
I don’t know when things changed but now that I am over the “double-nickle” mark in my life, technology is actually more difficult to grasp and understand let alone adopt its use somehow in my art. As with most artists, we all work in two careers or jobs. Our day job supplements our income while our true job as artists fullfill our passion. This worked for me until as a web designer, my contract ran out last year. I found myself facing a world that I did not understand. Designers were somehow programmers as well as user experience professionals and expert interface and information designers in all things mobile, desktop, tv set and any new technology that was introduced. Everyone was looking for the most senior and experienced personnel in all things. When did a creative designer have to become a left-brained analytical programmer? The days of trying to please all browsers on a desktop now includes tablets whether android or apple as well as all types of phones and tv connected devices and screens. Most recently a term was dropped that I heard, “CE Device” which I only assume is a catch all phrase that also includes internet watches.
How does one contain all that knowledge and where is this genius senior level individual that employers are looking for? It was hard enough just dealing with different browsers that did not want to cooperate on a desktop, let alone everything else that exists today. So with about 17 years of experience designing for the internet, I have been pushed out as an old dinosaur. Technology has passed me by and now I have my art to pursue on a full-time basis. The saving grace is that my canvas and my oil paints along with my painting skills will never be left in the dust of technology nor change and morph into something alltogether different every six months.
Back in the dark ages of Graphic Design (good read for those old enough to remember), I was taught lithography and lettering by hand. I used rubylith and paste up 4-color (CMYK) on sheets on cold-press board with blueline pencil marks. I was a typesetter that developed the type in rolls for newsletters and brochures that I designed. I cut the type out of these rolls that I developed (much like developing photography film) with my xacto and using my wax rollup machine, pasted it down on the cold-press board. This was supplanted by the word processing machines and finally the macintosh. I adapted to these changes and moved on in the industry. When the internet seemed to be taking off, I got caught up in the fever and used photoshop to design varies graphics for the internet. I learned HTML, which reminded me of the codes that I used when I used to be a typesetter. So it was familiar to me. I adapted to this new technology and moved along with it.
I shifted into various positions within the internet agency world and found myself in consulting roles for defined projects. I took on the positions that I understood and did very well until one day, the world somehow, someway, passed me by. Oh, I did hear about mobile and responsive design techniques but they were always handled by other departments. This was not my role that I was contracted nor my concern. In the evenings I always had my art. Now technology has taken over again and this time, run me over. Now much older, I no longer adapt and move on as quickly. A blessing in disguise, I am now able to focus more clearly on the one thing I know technology can never take from me, my art.
In my long design career, jobs have been eliminated and changed and people have had to adapt. Flourishing industries like print and graphics have been decimated by technology. Now the web design industry for creatives is slowly dying and being taken over by AI technology sites designing themselves (The Grid) or overly complicated CMS sites that you do need a programmer to design the site. Small sites are easily accomplished without the aid of a designer using Wix or Weebly. There doesn’t seem to be room for true designers in this new technological age we are entering.
Where does this leave us? As Robert Reich points out, there will be fewer people in jobs able to make money as technology eliminates positions or requires less people to do what many people were required to do previously. If this doesn’t scare you about technology, it should.