Hit the reset button. Realign your priorities. Go back to your journalistic roots. Design today is at the junction of storytelling and technology. It is there that the jobs are too. Read on.
Design is not only about type, grids and color palettes anymore, although those essentials are part of the stew. But designing today is about the relation between the story and how it will be presented. The designer understands the story then accommodates it to be presented in an easy to navigate and to follow manner for each of the various platforms in which it will be consumed.
If you are doing it right, then you, as designer, are at the junction of storytelling and technology, an active participant with much to say and lots to contribute. In the end, it is the work of the designer that determines if and how a piece of content will be consumed.
The new definition of design involves anticipating how the content will appear let’s say on a phone or tablet screen, and how readers in a hurry, consuming the information in a variety of settings (the journalism of everywhereness), will experience it.
The designer becomes a visual storyteller with expertise beyond the optical essentials of the craft to extend to the technology embracing a certain platform and how the content flows within it.
Design, as a discipline, resides in the middle of a triangle that involves storytelling and technology. It is the designers who mediate between the two other disciplines and who must understand both, how the reporter and the technician think, not to mention how the reader will experience the information.
One could argue that good designers have always anticipated how a story would be consumed, but, in the world of print, those concerns dealt mostly with the optics of legibility, the perils of poor printing quality, and issues of space and distance. It is a more complex landscape today when some of the type will be read on a surface as limited as that of a watch, or as ample as that of an iPad Pro, and in between.
It is here that the challenge lies, but also the opportunities for designers to work closely with writers and techies, and to let functional design based on the best user experience lead the way.
Every designer who calls himself/herself that needs to have a moment of introspection and ask the question: am I still designing as if this was the year 2000, with the visuals aspects of the craft as my only concern? Or, am I placing myself and my craft in the midst of this incredibly exciting digital and mobile revolution where visuals, while important, are secondary to how they contribute to enhance the reading experience and to adapt to the platform for which the story is intended?
It’s great fun to be a designer who is right at that junction of storytelling and technology. Just think of your responsibility: it is those design decisions you make, the user experience you facilitate, that will determine the success of how that story will be received.
It’s the start of a new year, a good moment to tackle that question, not with a sense of panic, but with the excitement of knowing that the job of designers has never been more important.