In my father-in-law’s office hang the logos of various businesses and government organizations. They are not on posters advertising products or services, it isn’t some kind of attempt at Rockwellian art, and in some cases, the logos displayed have since been replaced by the institution. The logos are printed only in black ink centered on white 9 inch by 9 inch cards, and aligned perfectly in two rows. The artistry of the display is matched only by the quality of the designs being shown. You see, he isn’t advertising those companies, he is advertising himself.
As a professional graphic designer, he has a lot to say about the power of images. Every now and then he’ll talk about what draws the eye, the message an artist sends with each colour chosen, the impact of good and bad contrasts, etc. So as I began designing the promotional material for the musical my wife and I wrote, it would make sense for me to have approached him to design our logo, posters, and programs. Of course, lots of things make sense, but that doesn’t mean we do them.
I have come to learn that when one hires an artist to do some design work, it’s a very intensive process. First, there’s the selection of the artist, then there is the explaining of what you want, and then while it is being created, the artist accepts little to no input. I understand that it’s a pain in the neck to constantly have someone looking over your shoulder, but I just couldn’t trust someone (no matter how close they are to me) to design something so important. More than that, I was quite sure I could do it myself. Why? Years of amateur web design have given me the practice, massive upgrades in the functionality of free and cheap software have given me the tools, and mooching info off of professional friends and colleagues have filled in the blanks, so I can design what I want.
Sure, some of my initial ideas really sucked, and whatever final product I got from a professional would likely be better than anything I could have done, but this was far more enjoyable. When you design your own work, it’s not done until you are happy with it. When someone else designs something for you, when it’s done, you have to make yourself happy with it.
Anyone exposed to Internet 1.0 will remember the garbage that passed for art on early personal homepages. I had a few beautiful animated gif’s, including a rotating gold cross, and a moose running on the spot. Anything quirky and fun worked, and design didn’t matter. Now, the balance between design, content, and technology is a much trickier dance.
‘Do-It-Yourself’ design will not be the way of the future. As long as there are good artists doing good work, people will pay for it. But for folk like me, who invest everything emotionally into their projects, and refuse to accept criticism from others, ‘Do-It-Yourself’ design will be more and more feasible as technology advances.