A RECENT article published in the LinkedIn site about Airbnb asked why the online platform for rental accommodations was so successful when there already existed many other similar websites.
The writer Leigh Gallagher then attributed Airbnb’s success to the website’s design, a “critical point of difference”.
Said Gallagher: “Much has been made of the fact that two of Airbnb’s three cofounders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, were graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, and the role this played in Airbnb’s ‘user experience’.”
Today, more than ever, graphic design is a crucial part of almost everything we see and touch that is man-made.
“Design is at the core of everything that’s done now,” said Ian Anderson, founder of The Designers Republic.
It is applied to packaging as well as promotional material for goods and services. It is also a feature of printworks and the visual arts.
And, as demonstrated by the success of Airbnb, a compelling and interactive website can make a big difference in cyberspace too.
In the 21st century, graphic design is more than just about layouts and logos due to advancements in technology.
Professor Roger Eccleston, Sheffield Hallam University pro vice chancellor for global engagement and dean of its Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences Faculty, said that “the infusion of technological advancements across all industries and organisational strata brought with it the development of graphic design, while the maturity of human tastes and cultures welcomed interior design both into homes and businesses”.
He said the lines between different aspects of design are now less distinct, and previously unchartered careers are steadily growing as popular choices among young professionals who seek to combine technical skills and knowledge with creativity and art, bringing to the fore incredible innovations and ideas as they develop their own distinctive styles.
“As the world becomes an intricately connected global village, design is steadily emerging as the common language that elevates functionality to greater heights,” he said.
“Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, Apple chief design officer, raised the bar in mobile phone designs with Apple’s iPhone. Considered a pioneer of design and technology working in coherence, the iPhone is not just a lesson in how Steve Jobs’ vision saved the company, but also a study on how customers have evolved to respond to design and creativity.”
Eccleston said there is now considerable overlap between architecture and other aspects of design.
“The digital domain also presents a wealth of opportunities. Students on the design courses can expect to move into a wide range of roles, including exhibition designer, multimedia specialist, marketing, illustrator and production designer for theatre, television or film,” he said, adding that the rise of entrepreneurship among millennials and those popularly-coined Generation Z encourage the development of design as these visionaries and leaders leverage those tools, especially graphic design, within the digital landscape to build their businesses and tell their stories.
“Pursuing a qualification in either field provides students with an international perspective into design, technology, architecture and the global trends shaping how businesses promote their brands, products and services.”
Eccleston said that the preparation for the world of work that students received during their degree is critical.
A degree in graphic design can lead to a career as art director, creative director, drafter, film editor, graphic designer, industrial/product designer, marketing manager, multimedia artist/animator or web designer.
Job opportunities can be found in practically all types of companies. Graduates will generally transition into positions in design established companies and build successful careers with that company, or seek career progression through moving to other organisations.
Some will work on a freelance basis and build a portfolio of clients themselves.
FASTER PACE, BETTER RESULTS
Iman Suzan Lee studied Graphic Design at the Malaysian Institute of Arts (MIA), and has been working in the industry for more than 20 years.
She started as a junior designer and honed her skills in several publication offices, and is today with a newsprint company as assistant chief artist.
She chose this profession partly because of her nature and also because of the potential that came with the career.
“I have short attention span and the constantly changing nature of graphic design will keep me always interested,” she said.
“I’ve also always enjoyed art and creating interesting communication visuals.”
Lee said that when she was at MIA, graphic designing careers were already booming although not many tertiary institutions offered this specialised course back then.
She has found that keeping up with ever-changing technology and trends presented the biggest challenge at the workplace.
Over the years, Lee has gone from using computers with small screens and few features to the wide-screen Apple Mac that is much more powerful and enables one to implement work at a much faster pace and also see better results.
“I remember the old days when most of the graphic techniques and results were done manually by hand, using many different types of materials like paints, chemicals and special art pens. Nowadays, almost everything is done digitally on the computer,” she said.
Mohhamad Syazwan Zakaria is lead designer at Wanshah Design LLC. The Universiti Teknologi MARA graduate, who has been in the industry for seven years, loves his work despite its challenges.
“Generally, we allow staff who are responsible to work from home. Giving them freedom of space will help their creativity,” he said.
“It is also satisfying when we are able to service clients who are also friends or relatives.”
He is particularly thrilled that the technology keeps improving, which means the end design also improves and allows designers to feel that “our work has swag”.
Sayyidi Ariffin Abdullah studied graphic design and has a degree in software engineering. He is currently a social media executive in the private sector. He likes the nature of his work because his creativity can be expressed and his ideas brought to life while helping others to promote their brand.
“It’s also true that when you choose a job that you love, it will feel like you are not doing work at all,” he said.
On the down side, he said that it is not uncommon for designers to find their work being altered or revised by the client’s side and, for new designers, that can be quite demoralising.
“New designers tend to pour passion into their work, infusing it with high concept and many details,” he said.
“After a while, we realise that what the client really cares about is the impact of the work upon first glance, the immediate impression given to their brand which they had built with blood and tears.”
Mohhamad Syazwan also cautioned young designers against typecasting themselves.
“Don’t just be stuck in some niche. Those who are already logo design experts should also explore other facets of design like vector arts, Scalable Vector Graphics art and infographics. Get involved in as many different creative projects as you can and keep your knowledge and skills updated by taking on various graphic design jobs in your spare time,” he said.
Sheffield Hallam University and the Sheffield Institute of Arts’ degrees in Graphic Design and Interior Design are offered through the INTI Center of Art & Design at INTI International College Subang. There are internship opportunities with a number of industry partners.
Although the percentage of male students in INTI’s Diploma programmes are higher, the student population at the INTI Center of Art & Design is about 70 per cent female. Ang Tong Yin, Dean for the INTI Centre of Art & Design said this could be because women are more inclined towards design as they have an eye for detail, are good observers and demonstrate strong empathy.
The job market is expected to see an increase in demand for graphic designers, especially from online projects. In Malaysia, fresh graduates in this field earn between RM2,500 and RM3,200.