Staying Original in the Modern World

Graphic design surrounds us. It’s everywhere we look. It influences and inspires us whether we want to admit it or not. These graphics are what sculpt a designer into who they are — sometimes it happens consciously and sometimes subconsciously.

In the past, being a graphic designer was much more tactile. Photographs literally needed to be cut and pasted into a layout. Type characters needed to be individually set by hand. It took months — even years — to create a final printed piece. Needless to say, there were a small few who were actually capable of being in this profession.

As a designer in the modern world, I’ve had to face the realization that everything has pretty much been done before. It leaves me thinking, "How can I be original?"

Some designers avoid looking at other designs because they think it will intrude on their originality. I think otherwise. It’s important to let other design influence you. And it’s important to know the history and trends within graphic design. Seeing concepts you would not have thought of yourself help expand the mind. In this case, I think it is ok for designers to borrow some of these concepts from other designers.

There is a difference, however, between copying and being influenced. Designers who are influenced take an idea and expand on it. They turn it into their own voice. Taking an old idea and turning it into something new is a way to create originality in the modern world. It’s the evolution of design.

Tomorrow morning, as you’re getting ready for your day, I challenge you to notice the design within everything you touch. Take a closer look at your shampoo, toothpaste, the tag on your shirt and even the signage as you’re driving to your destination. I think you’ll notice there wouldn’t be much to look at if graphic design didn't exist­­.

As Adrian Shaughnessy said in his book, How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul , ask yourself if that design makes the viewer say “I’ve seen that before” or “I’ve seen it before, but not in that way.”

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