The economy’s falling apart at the seams. It’s either a really good time to be a creative or a really bad one. Go figure.
I’ve been reading How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul (a great book by the way- but I’ll get to that in another post) and Adrian Shaughnessy makes an interesting point: graphic designers today can no longer afford to be one-dimensional. They need to be ‘diplomats, business thinkers, researchers, aesthetes and innovators’- in short, just knowing your stuff isn’t enough anymore. That got me thinking: is specialism dead?
In Helvetica, renowned type designer Matthew Carter briefly discusses his internship at the Enschedé type foundry in the Netherlands, where he spent a year after high school learning how to make type by hand. Despite the skill quickly becoming obsolete (thanks to the advent of computers) the experience would be monumental in shaping his career. I almost envy him. These days more and more creatives are becoming “generalists”, forsaking depth for breadth of knowledge. Becoming a “jack of all trades, master of some” is the minimum requirement to survive in today’s rapidly changing creative landscape. Luckily though, with the explosion of sites like Skillshare, Khan Academy and the impending TedEd, knowledge isn’t exclusive anymore. It’s easier than ever to acquire new skills and dabble in other disciplines.
So yes, with so many opportunities to mix and match and innovate, these are exciting times to be a creative! And yet, watching the intro clip of Helvetica, I can’t help but feel a twinge.