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FUTURE SCENARIO: SPECULATIVE AND REFLECTIVE GRAPHIC DESIGN PRACTICE

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Fig.1: Gutenberg’s Leerpress tradition continues to have a major influence on design educators and design practitioners even today. | Course: Typography
(Leerform), 2018 | NID Print Labs.
Future Scenario: Reimagining
Speculative and Reflective Graphic
Design Practice
ESSAY
NANKI NATH, Ph.D.
Faculty, Graphic Design
AN ODE TO THE WORLD OF CONVENTIONAL GRAPHIC
DESIGN AND THE ROLE OF BASIC GRAPHIC DESIGN IN
SPEARHEADING NEW DEVELOPMENTS
e traditionally known practice in graphic design is to include
‘image’ and ‘text’ as the essential paradigms of effective visual
communication. Visual meaning making carves out another
paradigm of decoding communication dynamics of a specific
combination of say, a standalone image or text or a combination
of texts and images wherein either might be dominant at a given
point in time. Boardley considers the art of writing in ancient
Egypt and explains: “Hieroglyphic inscriptions (literally sacred
carving), like Cuneiform started out as pictograms, but later
those same pictures were also used to represent speech sounds.
Looking at the different forms of Egyptian hieroglyphs we can
beer understand how those pictures of things representing
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Fig.2: e evolving face of graphic design conceptually falls back on basics but in a new costume of a storytelling channel/mode of communication.
Sarhad Recreational Space located on the outskirts of Amritsar, India.
Fig.3: Graphics for screen displays have opened a new world of explorations
for contemporary graphic design practitioners.|Minskoff eatre, one of the
prominent Broadway theatres | New York City, USA.
words became more and more abstract.” e journey from
hieroglyphics to the modern-day Roman Type has been
significant to the development of alphabets in Latin typography.
With Gutenberg’s Leerpress, these texts were made available to
people through books. e article titled e Histo of Leerpress
Printing explains Gutenberg’s revolutionary contribution to
the world of printing and it mentions how this relief printing
“allowed for a movable type, where individual leers could
be used to form words for one page of print, then taken apart
and re-ordered to create the next.” e printed compositions
(groups of leerforms) on paper became symbolic of a unique
visual culture of wooden/metal block making, casting type,
and printing in relief with Gutenberg’s Leerpress. is nearly
perfected the system of printing type on old manuscripts, books,
and epigraphs.
is story of the making of graphic arts to the later
transformation of the field as ‘Graphic Design’ in the early
1920s, has strongly stood the test of time amidst rapid evolution
in the meaning, form, and communication strategies that
propagate the image and text narrative. Graphic designers of the
new digital age continue to rely on these conventional models of
effective communication design. However, with the challenges
of the new age shaping up in a speculative manner for them, a
staunch reliance on the conventional models alone might limit
their understanding and role as graphic designers with respect
to new-age graphic design which is marked by more informed
experiences through storytelling.
When it comes to the evolving landscape of graphic design,
numerous opportunities await graphic design professionals.
While traversing through the history and evolution of graphic
design, it can be established for certain that one of the most
revolutionary discoveries that transformed the world of
graphic design took place in 1984; namely, the discovery of
Apple’s Macintosh computer. e possibility of screen being
an extended interface for the practice of design propagated
a new wave of thinking among graphic design professionals.
Labarre’s article e Most Important Design Jobs of the Future
refers to Dave Miller from the design consultancy firm called
Artefact. Miller opines: “Over the next five years, design as a
profession will continue to evolve into a hybrid industry that
is considered as much technical as it is creative. A new wave of
designers formally educated in human-centered design—taught
to weave together research, interaction, visual, and code to
solve incredibly gnarly 21st-century problems—will move into
leadership positions. ey will push the industry to new heights
of sophistication.
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PROFESSIONAL GRAPHIC DESIGN PRACTICE IN THE NEW
DIGITAL AGE
Is one professional enough as a practitioner of new-age graphic
design?
Since the last few decades, graphic designers have drastically
changed their modes of design practice in the larger context
of a more speculative and reflective mode of approaching
the practice accompanied with new-age graphics. e
fascinating world of broadband, multiple screen sizes, dynamic
environments as part of 3D interfaces, Augmented Reality
(AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
have all become ubiquitous to graphic design in the present
context. ese varied forms of contemporary graphic design
communication have found widespread appeal among the
users/viewers/readers/consumers of these communication
formats. ese mediums have imparted to graphic forms, a
subliminal level of expression, meaning, and communication.
Creative graphic design briefs and projects based on these new
modes of communication must be thought of and proposed for
an advancement of new-age graphic design. With these efforts,
there might soon be a time when watching movies through AR
will become commonplace and logos will come to be viewed in
a dynamic, movable format instead of being viewed as static and
symbolic images. e ‘image’ might soon become holographic
and one might no longer need a device to hold and experience
it. e trend has already begun with the advent of wearable
devices and the vast array of in-depth research in the said area
Fig.4: A unique celebration of brand image with Big Typo elucidating the brand Ogilvy as an interior experience.
anticipates futuristic transformations in the way one might
experience the ‘image’ in graphic design.
New-age graphic design enables its practitioners to confidently
translate their design choices and outcomes in their initiatives to
create solutions for social design, design for emotion, and design
for brands and beyond; this last one hints at a fresh approach
to branding from the perspective of experience-building
narratives and lived experiences that echo sustainable practices
to address consumer needs. One also sees new approaches when
it comes to image making and image editing, majorly fed by a
continuous upsurge of new soware and hardware ranges in
systems.
A review of the elements applied to a graphic design work
in the contemporary context shows that has prey much
remained unchanged vis-à-vis what was done in the past. In
his essay, Design beyond Commodification, Howard indicates:
"e graphic design profession is not equipped with the right
theoretical tools—common analysis of politics, economics and
culture that would make it easier to understand how visual
communication influences the way we think socially and what
we think about"(qtd. in Economou 19). As soon as one gathers
the appropriate tools of expression and meaning making in
one’s design solutions, one could create a new language that can
encourage positive consumer behaviour towards the brand/
organization/concept/story.
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Fig.5: A design installation developed as part of the course ‘Emerging Scenarios in Design’ anchored by the author for the students of Graphic Design (M.Des.
2017 batch) | Venue: Graphic Design studio, NID Ahmedabad Campus.
ere are graphic designers who are theoretically skilled and
whose work reveals a sophisticated understanding of the culture
that they are part of as active design practitioners. Yet, with
reference to the graphic design profession in general, there still
seems to be a need for further analysis of the contemporary
scenario and the metaculture for which, one will have to step
back in order to view the larger context in which graphic design
might operate. is would be a generative approach to clarify
how this relationship works between the content and the form(s)
to communicate the intended message through a medium
(Economou 18).
As a teacher and practitioner of graphic design, the author seeks
deeper involvement in creating experiments and methods to
revise and redefine contemporary elements, their functions,
and behaviour. Towards this end, it is imperative to conduct
specialized studies with focus groups of other graphic designers
as part of lab-based projects or other consultancy projects and
form collaborations with state-of-the-art research organizations.
ese would be required in order to work towards beer, more
informed, progressive, and fresh possibilities of communicating
new narratives and experiences embodying the new-age graphic
design practice.
SPECULATIVE GRAPHIC DESIGN PRACTICE: AN EMERGING
SCENARIO
What must one speculate in the emerging spectrum of multifaceted
graphic design with regard to its practice and philosophy?
e existing graphic design vocabulary might have to be
revamped in order to develop a new-age language and
effectively apply it in practice with changing times and changing
user/consumer tastes. e present century is most conducive
for graphic designers to achieve this goal since graphic design
is connected with emergent influences and forces—historical,
political, technological, capitalist, and cultural. Of these
emerging technologies, business trends and culture strongly
influence the commercial graphic design paradigm that
connects designers with the users through powerful storytelling
strategies. Helfand’s essay Dematerialization of Screen Space
challenges the present design community to become the new
avant-garde. She asserts that it is important to think beyond
technical practicalities and really begin “shaping a new and
unprecedented universe”. Helfand explains how designers seem
to be "caught between the spirit of acceleration that typifies
contemporary culture (make it fast) and the economy of means
that has come to characterize all things modern (keep it simple)"
(qtd. in Economou 18). is emphasis on the need for designers
to challenge the status quo and innovate is also echoed in the
words of Armstrong: “Just as designers in the early twentieth
century rose to the challenges of their societies, so can we take
on the complexities of the rising millennium” (15).
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Fig.6: A display at the International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR) 2017 International Conference showcasing an exhibition on
Futuristic Communication & Industrial Design Projects by students of Department of Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP), University of Cincinnati, USA.
Fig.7: Promotional design experience of colossal proportions on Times Square | Manhaan, New York.
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THE FUTURE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN CULTURE
While considering the power inherent in design, Robert L. Peters
contemplates, “Design creates Culture. Culture shapes Values.
Values determine the Future. Design is therefore responsible
for the world our children will live in.” e very foundation of
a culture among graphic designers rests on their designs itself.
e more speculative and more reflective their ideas or tangible
solutions are, the more they are likely to move towards future
scenario building. e challenge is to preserve the traditional
forms and practices and simultaneously ensure the adoption
of contemporary and futuristic communication modes, forms,
expressions, and technology as essential facilitators.
e term ‘future scenario building’ within design can be
understood as a working method that describes a possible
future and how this method can provide a fertile ground for
innovative and challenging design processes. In the professional
graphic design context, it is not the scenario alone that is the
goal but rather the design process that follows aerwards.
In the context of the graphic design culture of the future, the
evolving processes, tools, and critical thinking methods can
equip practitioners to ‘think outside the box’, but to do so,
their graphic design ideologies and the interventions they
undertake need not adhere to a single accepted form. Hence,
their ideologies and interventions must be updated by an
evolved design practice. ey need to critically evaluate and ask
ethical questions with respect to good or bad graphic design
and practices. is reflective thinking of theirs would effectively
result in meaningful discussions, user/reader/viewer/consumer
responses, along with the consideration of societal driving
forces that influence the culture of professional practices in
graphic design.
WORKS CITED
Armstrong, Helen. Graphic Design eo: Readings from the Field. New York:
Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. Print.
Boardley, John. “e origins of abc.I Love Typography. 7 Aug. 2010. Web. 3
Aug. 2019.
Economou, Inge. “e Cultural Context of Contemporary Graphic Design.”
South African Journal of Art Histo 18 (2003): 15–27 Web. 12 Mar. 2019.
Helfand, Jessica. “Describe/draw a favourite memory.” Eye 2000: 6–7. Print.
Helfand, Jessica. “Dematerialization of Screen Space.Design Open Data.
2001. Web. 12 Mar. 2019
Howard, Andrew. “Design Beyond Commodification.Eye 2000: 10–11. Print.
Labarre, Suzanne. “e Most Important Design Jobs of the Future.Design
Moves. Fast Company, 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2019.
Peters, Robert L. “ ‘Quotable Quotes’ … (gone rogue).Robert L. Peters. 3 Jan.
2019. Web. 12 Mar. 2019.
“e History of Leerpress Printing.Elation Press, n.d. Web. 03 August 2019.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field
  • Helen Armstrong
Armstrong, Helen. Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. Print.
The Cultural Context of Contemporary Graphic Design
  • Inge Economou
Economou, Inge. "The Cultural Context of Contemporary Graphic Design."
Describe/draw a favourite memory
  • Jessica Helfand
Helfand, Jessica. "Describe/draw a favourite memory." Eye 2000: 6-7. Print.
Dematerialization of Screen Space
  • Jessica Helfand
Helfand, Jessica. "Dematerialization of Screen Space." Design Open Data. 2001. Web. 12 Mar. 2019
Design Beyond Commodification
  • Andrew Howard
Howard, Andrew. "Design Beyond Commodification." Eye 2000: 10-11. Print.
The Most Important Design Jobs of the Future
  • Suzanne Labarre
Labarre, Suzanne. "The Most Important Design Jobs of the Future." Design Moves. Fast Company, 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2019.