Rationale Design

Rationale provides world-class expertise in design, identity systems, and more across multiple mediums.

Design & Technology Interview

Sean Wolcott of Rationale has recently contributed insights for an essay regarding design today and impacts of technology. The discussion is as follows…

Q: How do you think graphic design can branch out from its online presence?

A: The online presence is both a vehicle and mechanism of graphic design itself. This is good, however it is important that as designers we continue to asses the whole environment, built and digital, looking for opportunities that we may apply our skills. Unit Editions and others have continued to prove value in print publications, lending a certain level of completeness and permanence to the works. Others give a platform of graphic design through exhibitions, teaching, and conferences. All these things branch out the online presence. The most important thing we must do is maintain a critical mind, perpetuating a discourse on the things that are not just popular but worthwhile and lasting in design.

Sean Wolcott of Rationale has recently contributed insights for an interview regarding design today and impacts of technology. The discussion is as follows:


Q: How do you think graphic design can branch out from its online presence?

A: The online presence is both a vehicle and mechanism of graphic design itself. This is good, however it is important that as designers we continue to asses the whole environment, built and digital, looking for opportunities that we may apply our skills. Unit Editions and others have continued to prove value in print publications, lending a certain level of completeness and permanence to the works. Others give a platform of graphic design through exhibitions, teaching, and conferences. All these things branch out the online presence. The most important thing we must do is maintain a critical mind, perpetuating a discourse on the things that are not just popular but worthwhile and lasting in design.

Q: What do you think of archiving or using blogs as a way of sharing graphic design? What are the limitations to using blogs and how do you think you could overcome them?

A: These things are fantastic and have made me a much more aware designer. But it can be overwhelming also. I can easily look at design inspiration material with no end in sight. At a certain point you must stop and get on with your work, freeing your mind to focus and build up a language of design. One that is beyond the current trend, something both forwards and backwards. Aware of history but looking to tomorrow.

Q: Is there an informal community of bloggers, specifically about graphic design? How do you work with each other, and how has this group changed over the years?

A: There are many great blogs which share inspiration and discussion and bring designers together The best move beyond this and discuss the merits of work and history in detail. Instagram has proven also for me a great way of building connections with other like-minded designers around the world.

Q: Do you think that graphic design pieces should have a physical display/exhibition for it to be appreciated? Why or why not?

A: The work should speak for itself regardless if screen or print, in gallery or home. There is further depth that can be given to a specific context that something is made for. The interaction of digital or the tactility of an unfolding of print piece, each can be important in conveying the full experience.

Q: How do you think people’s views on graphic design have changed over the years? Do you think it is becoming more accepted as an art? Why?

A: I think people in general are more aware now than ever about graphic design. There is also a level of abuse in the term “design” which can denote also things cheap with only surface style…things not connected to the true sense of the word or seeking a level of depth and quality. On the other hand, graphic design has become more accepted as art in that it can be seen in most major modern art galleries throughout the world. However, this does not make it art in the true sense of the word. Graphic design should be about solving a problem, while art generally is focused on a freedom of expression.

Q: How has the development of new software’s influenced the styles/techniques of graphic designers of today? Specifically on artists who focus on psychedelia?

A: With the tools today it is very empowering in that you may do great design for little cost. First though, any good work must start in an awareness in your mind. It is more important what you should do to solve a particular problem, not what you can do. The computer tools of today give endless possibility. There is a certain level of irony I see that when it was very difficult to create a rigorous structured design in the analog era, many did. While it is quite simple now to create such with the computer, it seems fewer do.

In terms of psychedelia, if this is explored in its own right with no particular purpose, it is not graphic design it is art. However, elements of psychedelia can be completely applied in a meaningful way to a particular design problem. For such an example, one can see the distorted typography of Bonnie McLeann and Wes Wilson used in a problem solving manor for the likes of 1960s Geigy or Rolf Müller’s 1972 Kieler Woche poster.

Q: What do you think of these software’s being so accessible to the public?

A: It is great. But awareness of quality must be even more accessible. As Paul Rand said “The computer provides answers, but what are the questions”

Q: Where do you see the future of graphic design?

A: I see the future of graphic design not much different from today, but likely on a continually larger and more immediate scale. In my own daily work on user interfaces, many of the things practiced and taught by great typographers and designers over the last 500 years remains valid. I hope for more understanding and desire for designers to be reflective of their own work and passionate about deeper learning and spreading a high level of quality to others.

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