No other art form has grown and developed as far over the last decade than graphic design. The rapid innovations and improvement in computing and the Internet are constantly accelerating the capabilities of graphic design, making them more and more accessible to almost anyone.The democratization of graphic design can be seen in the overall high quality of even purely amateur work. Those with experience and skills soar to new heights with the software available to them.
One shining example of the development in this industry are on a current display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. A new graphic design show is surveying the best graphic design work over the last decade. Whereas in the past, one thought of graphic design as being static posters with slogans and typographically styled work, now those same posters come alive in a way never seen before.
As you enter the Walker’s “Graphic Design: Now in Production” there is indeed a poster wall, but there are literally hundreds of them and they are alive. They move and change regularly. Each poster taking partial messages from a massive array of new websites.
“We are getting that and we are designing new posters based on that information,” one of the artists Thomas Castro said. Every minute or so a new poster displays. Different from the past, now there is no need to move in close to admire the fine details. “We have changed that around and said, ‘Why doesn’t the poster come to you?'” At the exhibit, motion sensors notice if you lean towards a poster and automatically expand the display accordingly. If you lean in even further, the sensors will trigger and generate a Quick Response code, one of those special buyer’s code patterns that your smart phones can read. With that code you can download a copy of the poster to your phone, while being linked back to the website that poster pulled from.
In a world where we are bombarded by up to 5,000 visual messages a day, this exhibit causes the viewer to reflect and reconsider that process.
Development of Graphic Design
The development of graphic design has been swift. Ten or fifteen years ago, few people knew what a font was or had access to hundreds of them. Now anyone can utilize a huge array of graphi options. Ellen Lupton, a curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum in New York, commented, “With the proliferation of software tools, and distribution methods and production methods that have taken down the barriers between designers and everybody else.”
Lupton teamed with the Walker’s Andrew Blauvelt as lead curators on the current show. Blauvelt added that it’s difficult to even define what graphic design means any more. “Graphic design was like printed material, but of course now it’s like visual communication so it exists in many different medias, on screens as well as printed material.”
The Entirety of the Exhibit
The current show exhibits pieces by 250 artists. It was difficult to reduce the the artistic options and choosing to focus on traditional areas such as posters, typography, books and magazines ultimately gave the show a focus. And yet, the exhibit calls are filled with graphics, logos, and pictures. There are music posters, newspaper graphics, Technicolor graphic visualizations of statistics, and crowd sourcing. One unique display features a bright orange safety vest covered with warnings about the dangers of computers. There’s even a giant chalk drawing robot. One final display allowed video-scribing, stop-motion techniques to add cartoon illustrations to an education lecture.
“Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth,” the narrator says as the animator’s hand produces an image of a somewhat-pained looking student at a desk. “They are being besieged by information from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising, from hundreds of television channels. And we are penalizing them for getting distracted.”
The entire Graphic Design: Now in Production show includes work from 25 Minnesota artists, showcasing the Twin Cities talent base in the graphic design world. The Walker continues to play an important role in graphic design history, having exhibited the first graphic design show by a major U.S. museum in 1989.