Graphic design technology you need to know about

For some, change is tough cookies. It’s easy to forget how many times we’ve learned and relearned basic tasks with the flow of modernization, while the past quickly fades in the rearview. (ex. “Back in my day, we had holes in our phones where you could plug in headphones,” will soon enough become, “Back in my day, there were things called ‘headphones!’”)

As a graphic designer, you may be skeptical and hesitant toward emerging trends in your field that are sure to rock the boat. I’m right there with you. But some of the smartest minds in the world are working overtime on technology that will convert even the ferventest few.

No doubt many of them are designers themselves! After all, UX is just Graphic Design 2.0. There would be no Facebook, Instagram and so on without the loving touch of visual artists. With that in mind, investors and inventors are going all-in to give graphic designers the tools needed for tomorrow’s next big crossovers, as well as the brand experiences that kids are jonesing for.

TL;DR—Graphic designers run the show. And the following tech trends are setting the scene for the next act.

Artificial intelligence

Haley Joel Osment cyborg and his bear companion in A.I.
The next big holiday gift: Scary android children. Via TCM

It’s no surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) is rearing its artificial head in the design space. AI is bogarting the spotlight across many industries, from data entry to manufacturing to city planning. You may have heard of it from movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or the eponymous A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

We’re not at adoptable Haley Joel Osment robots yet. (Soon, one can hope.) But in the interim, the particular trend promises micro-revolutions of automation and simplification.

What it means for designers

Designers will see the technology applied in numerous ways. Our friends at Adobe made a show of it recently when demoing the Sensei platform, while comedian Kumail Nanjiani lended commentary from the sidelines. Check it out below:

The software promises to help “discover opportunities, make tedious processes fast, and offer relevant experiences to every customer” through the wonders of AI. An example feature is “scene stitch,” which helps users weave together scenes out of multiple photos. Thanks to AI and machine learning, the platform zips through thousands of stock images to recommend the perfect components.

It’s neat stuff. During the demo, Nanjiani half-joked a typical reaction many have to AI: “You’re putting so many people out of work!”

“Hopefully we’re making it quicker for them to do their work,” retorted Brian Price, Adobe Senior Research Scientist.

The truth may be somewhere in between as this particular trend gains steam. But the getting’s good right now, with the right attitude. Adopting current AI tools in your work could free you from the “busy tasks” to take on more projects or give more TLC to designs that need it.

Companies like Wix, Firedrop and The Grid are offering AI-injected web design. Users input content and preferences, and the software pops out a perfectly passable website in no time at all—or at least some solid templates—with lessons learned from scanning a myriad of others.

The results still need a dash of this or that from the chef to “kick it up a notch,” as Emeril would say, into a work of art. But if your job finds you going through the motions with basic site layouts, AI developers are hearing your call.

Human hand touching robot hand
Artificial intelligence is a friend of the designer (for now). Via Pixabay.

It’s fair to ask how far is too far. Certain “entry level jobs may be lost” as this trend plows ahead, according to Pentagram’s Paula Scher, in an interview with Wired. This could be the new factory assembly line or Flippy (the hamburger-flipping robot, of course). For now you can choose to harness it rather than hide. But whatever you do, don’t ignore it.

Physical immersion

Why read something when you can experience it?

With experiential advertising and retail, the term “reaching customers” is more literal than ever. A 2016 study showed that three-quarters of consumers are more likely to be wooed by immersive, interactive marketing. Virtual reality is just a taste of what’s to come. Expect to see more new-age software and hardware that empowers designers to get physical, and in way more than just marketing efforts.

What it means for designers

The history books will be kind to Pokemon GO, “The Little Mobile App That Could.” Announcing the mainstream arrival of augmented reality (AR), this $1 billion-grossing behemoth only scratched the surface of AR technology’s potential applications for designers worldwide. Recently, San Francisco-based Leap Motion announced plans for an AR headset, with the codename Project North Star. It could soon make Pokemon GO look like Pong.

Leap Motion’s Creative Director, Keiichi Matsuda, calls the technology “virtual wearables.” With just a few trippy clips posted on his Twitter, Matsuda threw the gauntlet down for the design community. In other words, it’s lit fam. The ways that this and similar innovations can be leveraged by creative teams are virtually endless.

Virtually? See what I did there…

Girl and dolphin staring at each other
Designing experiences, rather than just visuals, is fast becoming the norm. Via Pixabay.

Joining AR and VR is “PR,” or parallel reality. Coined by a team of ex-Microsoft and Disney magicians known as Misapplied Sciences, PR is display technology that allows different people to see different things when looking at the same point. It’s hard to describe and do it justice, so here’s another sweet video. It’s got someone wearing a dragon mask, so you know it’s good.

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