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  • Writer's pictureMartin Nealon

Designing in a Digital Environment

This blog looks at the way a designers studio, working methods and client interaction has changed over the last thirty years, a transition from physical to digital.

My first job was in a drawing office in the early 90's with ten other designers all working on drawing boards. To put that into perspective for the younger audience reading this blog, there was no such thing as a mobile phone, the personal computer was an idea mentioned only in science fiction novels and the internet was an embryo of an idea.

"How did we cope" I hear you ask?

We communicated by being in the same room and talking, using a phone wired to a plug socket or, if you were really high tech, the office would have a fax machine. Drawings were done by hand, drawn in pencil on tracing paper and then inked in. Alterations were done by scratching a line off with a razor blade and drawings were copied by placing the tracing paper on-top of a piece of light sensitive paper and feeding it through a dyeline machine that filled the print room with the stink of ammonia. Each print took a couple of minutes to slowly feed through the machine so a print run could potentially take hours. Clients would have the drawings delivered by hand or by post.

The interesting part of the description above is that it centred on physical interaction. The commute to work, interacting with your colleagues in the office, lunch breaks with your friends, meetings with clients face.

The next thirty years was made remarkable by the impact of technology.

Mobile phones and personal computers became available to everyone and communication via the internet has radically altered the balance between physical interaction to digital interaction. Even the creative process of designing has become a digital with the development of drawing software.

The phrase "A picture tells a thousand words" is perhaps an appropriate summary for this blog. The first image is the type of design office I worked in when I started as a designer 30 years ago physically interacting with my fellow designers .

The second image is my digital studio today, me working on my own with my many screens as my window on the world. My designs are all done digitally. Interaction with clients is mostly via digital communication with a minor element of physical interaction as required.

I have noticed that the physical interaction with clients has reduced in favour of digital as the years have progressed and I feel this trend will continue to the point where client interaction will all be done via digital means completely removing any physical interaction in ther future.

Designers will become digital nomads, guns for hire within a fully digital environment. A cynical view of the future or a realistic prediction of future trends?……We will see….



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