Paper and pencil, set square and drawing board: Can you believe once upon a time graphic designers actually used these tools to create? (Gasp) It’s true. There was no other way.

With the advent of the computer, graphic design as a profession changed – drastically. Not unlike many other professions. For graphic design, creating on a drawing board by hand, was then handed over to a machine that could do it for you. Sounds great right? Well, as we all know, it was not quite that simple.

What is a computer? By definition it is: one that computes; specifically: a programmable usually electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data.† That’s it. That’s all it does. Just simple, logical organization of information. These electronic devices are programmed to do we want them to do. They are engineered to make life easier by their ability to carry out commands that we give them. The rest is up to us. Take this graphic design blog post as an example. I typed these words into a computer. It then processed the information with a few simple commands that I gave it. The computer can’t think for itself, it needs me to tell it what to do. It doesn’t know what I’m going to say, or how I’m going say it. It just stores the information.

Yes, we all love Apple. Something that once took days can now be accomplished in hours. Yes, we now have the ability to ‘undo’. Undo deserves a blog post of its own – that little command has saved us all on countless occasions. Yes, we can create multiple options. Designers can now more freely experiment with different styles, colours, layouts and work on approaching the design from different angles, resulting in varied solutions to the same problem. Yes, it has reduced costs in regards to production. The skill set of a graphic designer now often includes ‘production expertise’. This has evolved the role to integrate, typesetting, digitally imaging and software knowledge. The final product is neatly packaged on a digital desktop.

As I said, the computer has changed graphic design drastically. If it is understood and used properly, it can greatly enhance the outcome of our work. It has facilitated great leaps in the industry and added new dimensions to what is possible. Although, I find sometimes people lose sight of the fact that, the process of designing itself hasn’t changed at all. A computer can’t design it for you.

The computer can be compared to paper and pencil. A great line from my Creative Director goes a little like this: “Computers do nothing for someone who doesn’t know how to use them and everything for someone who does.” Agreed. It is simply a tool and a graphic designer it does not make.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts…

digital age graphic design