Thoughts on the future of illustration and graphic design written by students-cont.

Posted: October 30, 2012 in The future of illustration and graphic design
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Future Time by John Dyess

Today’s post is a continuation of  of yesterday’s post featuring reports, by my illustration students at Meramec Community College, on their thoughts about the future of illustration and design twenty years from now. The following report is by Ed Koehler ,who is a student and professional illustrator.

Hi John,

Here are my thoughts on Illustration when Dominic is 20 years old.
I will make an educated guess that illustration will undergo a revival of traditionally produced art. Print media will return, not to early 20th century glory, but in sizable enough numbers to feed a healthy specialty market. Digital media will continue to undergo rapid transformation and will carry the day for conventional information (news, technical info, entertainment, education, et. al.) and yet there will be enough of a craft-driven ethos to support a resurgent print market. I predict it will be a large enough trend to nurture an equally viable traditional illustration market.
I don’t predict this out of mere nostalgic wish. I am largely a digital artist and find no incongruity between traditional image making and the digital process. I do have a decided preference for reading from the printed page and I enjoy the tactile experience of handling paper books, magazines and newspapers. I believe there is something deep in the human psyche that finds pleasure in the handling of well-crafted materials. This is why scribes developed calligraphy and illuminated manuscripts. This is why paper-makers took their craft from flattened reeds to fine laid cotton. I suppose books could have been bound with drab slabs of unfinished wood rather than beautiful leather and gold leaf. We are drawn to beauty. We may ignore it for a time, neglect it out of laziness and even distort it for some nefarious reasons, but deep down we know beauty and craft and physicality matters. Therefore there will be a print and traditional illustration Renaissance. It won’t eradicate digital, nor is it necessary that it do so, but it will be a healthy enough movement to carry on into the next century. It will ebb and flow, but it will stay, like Jazz and poetry.
Now that I’ve established that traditional image making will make a viable comeback, healthy enough on which to build careers, I’ll step out and imagine what images may look like. This is a prediction, only a grand speculation. I think creativity and pushing the envelope will continue, but I think there will be a resistance to follow trends. I think there will be less obsession with urban art, graffiti, and the like. They will still exists, but this art will return to a marginalized sector and probably be the better for it. Middle class homogenization of indigenous underclass art has rarely begotten a successful aesthetic.
I believe we will also see less tolerance for kitsch, even kitsch that is supposed to look like kitsch. It’s cute, but it will have seen it’s day, because it is ultimately boring and false. I believe there will be a renewed interest in painting. We may see work being done with genuine skill, on the order of Golden Age illustrators. I’m not saying there will be Arrow shirt ads or Parrish type posters (though there may be), but we are already in these past 20 years seeing incredible revival of painting being done by well trained illustrators. It never went away, but for a time it got hidden under photography and minimalist drawing. In fact I believe it is photography that will start to wane. With the ability of virtually everyone with even a small income to buy a high quality camera and Photoshop Elements, the unique ability to take a photo will garner less of the media budget. Believe me, it won’t die, but illustration will rise up and fill the longing for creative beauty that can’t be had with an effects filter and adjustment curves.
Remember,  this forecast is brought to you by a digital artist, not a Luddite. I enjoy the digital world and the process and even the beauty of Macintosh computers. But I am not content that they be my only connection to the written and illustrated word. I think most people find deeper connection with that which they can handle and feel and grasp with physical awareness. Over thirty years ago I worked in a large medical center library wherein the head librarian foresaw a glorious future devoid of books and periodicals. Her dystopian future(in my opinion, but one which she imagined with relish) was filled with information burned onto . . . microfiche. It was too early for her to see computers go beyond those horrid green screens and orange text. She, I recall, thought microfiche was the future. Others apparently saw that a future of microfiche would be would also be a future of epidemic blindness from reading reversed out text in a dim, ugly box.
Perhaps ecology drove her dream, I don’t know. But the microfiche dream died mostly because of the advance of the personal computer and yet also, I like to think, from the refusal to be satisfied with ugliness.
I use this to defend that humans can’t not know that they desire beauty, even when they try with all their effort to dismiss it as unnecessary. It is telling that Steve Jobs insisted that the inside of a Macintosh, which no one would eventually see, be every bit as beautiful as the outside. This is how we are made. And this will continue to be reflected in what we make.
Ed Koehler
  1. Anonymous says:

    Bravo to Ed for his thoughtful reflection and vision for the future of art and illustration in particular. There is no way that the functional practical appeal of reading from a backlit electronic marvel is as friendly as the printed page that can be turned and dog eared over time exposing the intimate, personal and familiar relationship enjoyed therein. Lincoln is said to have read by the light of a fireplace, but how does one do that when his IPad’s battery runs out and the power is off?

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