Friday, May 29, 2009

This is what I do.

I design websites every day. I don't know whether or not I'm any good at it. I mean, it's pretty simple. I could be better at a lot of things, like Actionscript and PHP and all that fancy shit. I know my way around Flash enough to make things look alright when I need to, although I usually do things the hard way to avoid learning how to code it all out appropriately. I have Learning Actionscript 3.0: A Beginner's Guide sitting in a box at my new house, ready to be unpacked tomorrow with all my other junk. But I know that once I place it on my bookshelf, I probably won't be able to sit down with it. I've opened it so many times but I end up going in circles, reading the same section over and over and not knowing how to apply the things I'm reading because I'm not completely understanding it.

It's entirely possible that I do not have a left side to my brain.

Interactive design is so strange to me. It requires both the left and the right side. As I get older, I find it's harder and harder for me to keep up with it. When I was a kid, I learned HTML on my own time. I copy and pasted code from websites and pieced things together the old school way with a text editor. I remember staring at lines and lines of code, learning how to make little Javascript menus and effects, rollovers and image maps. What happened to that kind of dedication? How is it that at 13 I had more patience to learn and understand a new language than I do now that I'm nearly finishing my last year at art school?

I was never any good at math. I realize now that trying to learn Actionscript is like solving a massive math problem. Hell, I tried multiplying numbers in my head yesterday and checked my math on a calculator only to find out I had screwed it up. I count on my fingers for fucksake.

Anyway, I guess my point is, I'm redesigning my portfolio website and I promised myself I wouldn't build it in Flash unless I learn enough AS3 to make it really fantastic. So I designed a placeholder to motivate myself and 3 weeks later, I still haven't made any progress.

There's gotta be a part of my brain that can handle this. Concept and research and development and design and creativity have slowly pushed all the technical logic I'm capable of into the deepest hard-to-reach places of my skull. It's time I dig it back out.

Inkd - The Beginning of the End?

If the design world had a hell, I imagine that this thing would be at its center, festering and cackling maniacally. Inkd provides prepackaged designs in a variety of categories, from Arts and Entertainment to Medical and Marketing businesses. Simply browse through the designs provided for you and choose the style you prefer to apply to your own company identity. 

For instance, perhaps you're leading an organization involved in setting up an art fair event in your community. Most people might go to a marketing firm or design studio, or perhaps pay a freelance artist for their time involved in creating the advertising, brochures, or event identity that is often required for such an event. Inkd removes this requirement, allowing you to purchase a predetermined design (basically a kind of template) at an astoundingly low price, to do with as you wish. Designers submit their work to Inkd, and if chosen, their artwork is put up for sale on the website. In the event that their design is sold, they receive a measly 20% commission. 

Business cards are sold for $39. Brochures for $99. Postcards for $29. 

In my eyes, this is wrong on a number of different levels. Is this not devaluing the design industry? Professional designers are putting time and energy into designing template work and being paid so little for their efforts. As an art student working my way through school, it's been drilled into my head that there is a certain process to approaching a client and a project. The design process is essential in providing a successful outcome. But in this case, there is no process -- The outcome is generalized to fit a genre instead of a specific person, event, or company. This redefines everything I thought to be true about graphic design.

From what I understand, once a design is purchased it may be altered to cater to a person's needs. I suppose that's simple enough. But where is the direction? The inspiration? The story? There's nothing in that when starting with a prefabricated design that was created with nothing in mind except a general idea and arbitrary font choices, illustrations, and graphics.

Successful design keeps these things in mind. There is research, inspiration, innovation, and reasoning behind choosing what goes into the project each step of the way. Inkd may provide well designed identity systems and brochures, but it is not successful. It goes against everything I've learned and come to love about design. 

If this is one step closer to drive-thru graphic design and marketing, I fear for the future. 

"Hi, I'll have the Logo Special Deluxe. That comes with business cards included, right?"

"It sure does. That'll be $5.95, please pull up to the next window."