TWENTY OR SO YEARS AGO, when I entered the “field” as a newly diploma’d graphic artist at a small-to-medium-sized newspaper in southern California, there was talk of a revolution taking place in the world’s media companies. The advent of the desktop computer — the Mac — meant that the products produced by these companies had a new and different focus on graphic design — and its possibilities. And this, it was felt, was changing the industry.
It turns out that our 1990 “revolution” was merely the beginning of something much larger: seismic shifts in technology, the habits of everyday people, and slowly and somewhat reluctantly, the complete transformation of media companies. Revolution is painful, yes. Just ask any editor at any city newspaper. But revolution also brings opportunity, and the opportunity for designers to thrive in the modern media landscape has never been greater.
It is tempting to look on the fallout from these changes as the death of specialization, that it represents a return to generalized roles where everyone can and must manage “a bit of everything.” But this is not entirely true. This revolution represents not so much generalization as a shift from one to several specializations. The demand for high-quality graphic design in newspapers, magazines, websites etc. has grown and will continue to grow as you enter the workforce. And companies demand that their new employees possess a wide range of skills and talents — especially the ability to think and create in a visual way.