I was recently approached by a college graduate pursuing graphic design to help with her final design dissertation: “What Role Do Graphic Designers Play in Our Expanding Multicultural and Technology Driven Society?”. As I replied to her answers, I felt inspired to share my thoughts and hear others’ opinions on the topic. Below are some of my responses.
What is the role of a Graphic Designer in today’s society?
In my mind, the role of a graphic designer in today’s society has remained the same over the years: to communicate an idea, brand, or story in a visual manner. I do, however, feel that a graphic designer’s job has become more difficult in that it must stand out amongst the clutter that consumers are continuously being exposed to. This leads to me to the next question…
How has technology impacted this?
As access to technology and information continues to increase, people are starting to have shorter attention spans. Designs must be able to make a strong impression, quickly, since users are often switching between different devices and content at a high speed. People are less likely to spend time truly appreciating design, and simply want to find information quickly and efficiently.
On that note, I do feel that a graphic designer’s changing role can come into play here. Good design isn’t often something that is noticeable; but rather something that makes an experience more seamless. For example, a great website doesn’t need to be overly designed to be great. If a user is able to have a smooth and efficient web browsing experience, and can find the information they need in a way that is pleasing to the eye, then the designer did their job well. Sometimes simpler is better.
Do you think graphic designers have a social responsibility?
I think graphic designers do have a social responsibility because they can get people to pay attention to things that they may not pay attention to or be aware of otherwise. As an example, a campaign for recycling, or an awareness campaign for a terminal disease, can be significantly influenced by design and how a message is implemented. People may not take the time to read books and articles about a topic to better understand it, but they may pay attention to a logo, visual, or infographic that filters the information in a way that is easily accessible and digestible. They might also be more likely to support the cause if they can relate to the visuals or better understand the idea.
Do you think designers are automatically expected to design multiculturally? I don’t think designers are necessarily expected to design multiculturally, however strong design can often communicate to a wide variety of audiences when done well. A logo, for example, may have an icon that is symbolic across cultures. Ex. A red cross icon might represent something medical-related, or a public bathroom door that has an image of a man or woman can be understood across cultures. While it is a benefit for designs to be multiculturally accepted, I think it depends on the target audience and the goal of the actual design.
Trends are changing faster than ever before, especially when it comes to communicating to the next generation. Is it a graphic designer’s job to dictate, detect or communicate these trends?
I think it could be a combination of all three, but I do think that “communicating” is key. I think society will change as a result of a variety of factors, but design will continuously have to communicate these ideas and trends and ultimately adapt as changes occur.
Looking forward, where do you think things will go next in the world of graphic design?
I think graphic design will continue to play a huge role in society (indefinitely), and will continue to become simpler and simpler as everything else around us becomes more complicated. I’m already starting to see trends with technology being simplified, websites being simplified to large visuals and easy navigation, logos becoming less intricate, etc. The world is complicated enough, so design should be simple, seamless, and beautiful. Although this seems like an easy task, it is often harder to make something simple than to make it complex.