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Q. Can you be an artist and a graphic designer?

A. In a word, yes.

Andy Warhol's Marilyn 1967

Andy Warhol, Marilyn, 1967

Graphic design is art, and visual art relies on the same foundation principles that graphic designers use to organize information. The fiscal difference, no, that’s not the right word after all, let’s try it again. The difference between a visual artist and a graphic designer is that the artist, unless commissioned or highly recognized in the art world (thereby placing a fiscally significant demand on output), creates work because she is self-motivated. The work is made as part of a self-maintained practice and results, hopefully, in gallery exhibits or some other form of public sharing. The designer nearly always works for her client; and relies on the client relationship as one that provides inspiration for some (or all) projects. The artist, however, may envision the art market, a curator, or a cultural institution as a “client.” And the graphic designer may create work inspired by reflection, curiosity, or research, without the push or pull of a client.

Ryan McGinness, installation view, 2005

Ryan McGinness, installation view, 2005

There are many variations on this theme. For instance, there are designers who create work for themselves. There are artists who create work in the interest of pleasing the art market. There are artists who work for clients and there are designers who do not.

Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant, 1993

Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant, 1993

This is a tricky question because it implies a semantic agreement about what it means to be an artist and the role of a graphic designer. The boundaries between these identities do not have to be so boldly drawn, even if your medium of choice is vector graphics.

Geoff McFetbridge in a Western State documentary

Geoff McFetbridge in a Western State documentary

I just viewed Geoff McFetbridge in a documentary series called Western State. In it, he said,

The art shows are tricky because they’re totally graphic design, but I don’t want them to be graphics shows, I want them to be art shows.

McFetbridge’s distinction between the graphic design and art that he creates is that the art comes from a personal point of departure or inspiration.

Alternatively, Andy Warhol is perhaps one of most well known commercial illustrators-turned-artist. His inspiration was firmly grounded in the commercial arena.

David Byrne, Coffee Cup Bike Rack, 2008

David Byrne, Coffee Cup Bike Rack, 2008

David Byrne is best known as a musician, particularly for his work as co-founder of the band Talking Heads (1976-88). If you don’t own it, you should listen to Talking Heads: 77 or More Songs About Buildings and Food. The musician/artist/designer is also accomplished in the film industry. He starred in and choreographed much of Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense and shortly thereafter created his own masterpiece True Stories. I can’t recommend this enough – I don’t own more than 20 DVDs and this is in my collection. Beyond film and music, the avid bicycle rider has recently worked with the NYC Department of Transportation to design and create bike racks for the city. The bike racks seem more like a commissioned art project than a design job.

One final opinion – stop making sense of the two genres as distinct entities and pursue your work without categorical restrictions.

Don’t Click Here

No really, do not click here.

No really, do not click here.

The Institute for Interactive Research’s DontClick.it website is a reference I use in my beginning interactive media design classes – to me, it is a web classic. This site was made in 2005 and since then I haven’t seen much online experimentation with how users operate their mice. I can’t help but wonder: Are we controlling the mouse, or does it control us?

A few nights ago I showed this in class and as usual, one student shouted out “Hate It!” in less than twenty seconds. Others were amused for minutes. In this age, minutes are precious, so the DontClick.it site seems to have remained timely after four years.

For more inspiration about clicking and thinking about clicking…or not thinking, a classic text that corresponds to this reference is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition.

Automatic Tasks in Photoshop

There is a lot you can do in Photoshop without actually knowing or even understanding the many processes of image production.

Using File > Automate

Using File > Automate

Photoshop’s Automate sub-menu (File > Automate) enables you to create droplets (mini-applications that automatically perform specific tasks you have defined), crop and straighten photos, merge photos and more. The Batch feature is listed here, too, but I usually perform a batch operation (a single action on several files or even an entire folder) from Adobe Bridge. If you were familiar with the old Automate sub-menu (versions earlier than CS4), you’ll find some of the tasks you might have used from the File > Automate directory in Bridge. I was nervous when I thought Contact Sheet II was no longer available. Have no fear, you can still produce the same results you used to achieve with Contact Sheet II, but you will have to use Bridge. Instead of “Contact Sheet II,” a sheet of thumbnails can be produced by creating a PDF using the Output panel (Workspace > Output).

While I would normally recommend my own book to students looking for tutorials or advice in regards to using Adobe software, this particular task is one that did not make it into Digital Foundations. My co-author and I didn’t have the page-count, and we thought this specific feature was not foundation-level material. Now we are working on a second textbook about digital imaging and collage, and I’ve recently completed a full chapter dedicated to using some of the Automatic tasks in concert with Bridge. The complete chapter is available now. If you end up trying the tutorial, send me some feedback. I can make changes on the wiki until we have an all-in date from the publisher. (Email xtine at missconceptions dot net).

On a more entertaining note, you can also view the You Suck at Photoshop series for notes on using photo merge and other tasks. I like to play these vignettes in class during breaks and lab sessions, but consider this a fair warning that the content is best labeled, Made for Immature Adults.



 
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