Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr Joe and Graphic Arts Education

It's usually worth getting into a conversation with Dr. Joe Webb. Even if you disagree that chances are that you'll learn something. This morning I found Dr Joe talking about Graphic Arts Education.

Since I was both an admin and a faculty member at a prestigious NY design school, I'm going to put on my educator hat. Since I no longer have to walk the walk, it's a lot easier to talk the talk.

Title of the section is Stepping Back... Where to Focus. You can read the full column here.

He says: If yesterday is being starved, what kind of tomorrow must be fed? The latest trends in our industry are fairly clear.

Printing is becoming more digital in every aspect, and that's not a surprise. Web-to-print, digital workflows, plate imaging, printing devices and process management, and postpress are more digital than ever. Postpress is the area facing the greatest digital challenges. Slow adoption of JDF and other automation does not help the situation. Graphics programs must become more saturated with information technology management, including both automation and the production of new media, highlighting integration of new media with print from strategic and tactical perspectives.

I say: "Graphics programs" is no longer the best word, even though it's the one we all use. I suggest Print Technology. That's the word they use in India. From Vinodh Kamar at PrintCeoBlog

I am from India and the discussion posted in this thread is of more interest worldwide to young professionals like me in the industry. To give a breif background, I have done a engineering degree in Printing Technology and relatively a young professional(27 years old) with five years of experience in the industry.

The thing is that while art and production are meshing in the real world, in most schools the "art" faculties or "design" colleges have little respect for production. A University is an organization like any other. Groups fighting for respect and resources. Since the explosion of enrollment in Graphic Design, the Graphic Design or Communication Design Departments get the benefit of larger enrollments. In the University, those who put the kids in chairs are those who get attention. Those who get attention get resources.

Thus the recent title change on my blog. Forget Graphic Communications and Graphic Design. Replace it with Print Technology and Commercial Art.

If Print Technology concentrations have a track called Commercial Art, the "art" schools won't mind. And we, educators, could get some of the benefit of Graphic Design. And the industry could get the benefit of artists who really understood commercial.

Otherwise, I've got little to add to Dr. Webb.

He says: Other areas in the print supply chain are growing as specialties of their own, including print management and logistics. Companies such as InnerWorkings coordinate multiple production specialists under a single management system using computer networking and communications.

I say: Most certainly yes. Think of Business Process Outsourcing, print brokers on steroids. The hard part here is that the real qualification to get into this career is to be smart, a great team player and have a good hard working attitude. That's not something schools are used to teaching. It can be done. There are some great examples. But in general, it's one of those nice to haves, but relatively hard to find.

He says: Print management courses must also focus on environmental issues, emphasizing the actualities of environmental compliance, trends in legislation, designing workflows that not only comply with laws but exceed their requirements, and anticipation of future changes. Students would study new ways of using and implementing print, and develop a proactive awareness of the role of print in what will be an undoubtedly more highly regulated business environment with a bias for electronic media.

I say: Most certainly yes. But it's that darn education problem again. To really get this done, that means history, economics, writing and math. What is supposed to happen, but often does not, in a Liberal Arts education. Now that our industry needs it, Print Technology departments will have to take the lead. It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it.


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