Saturday, November 22, 2008

What did you learn in school today? Not much.

Following the suggestion of Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, industry analyst, I added this email after the original post:

Me to her:
"Given the discussion about education over at WTT, I thought you might find today's post interesting. My take is the problem is not Print training. The problem is in the design of education. Same thing about admonitions for training budgets. Given that there are a gezillion sales training programs out there. How come we don't have a gezillion great sales people? Given that you can spend $750K shouldn't real training come with the box? Given that we as country spend a gezillion dollars on education, how come everyone isn't smart?

The consultants blame the customer - "If only you would give me money to train you?." The vendors blame the customer." If only they would let us educate them." Teachers blame the kids or their parents. "If only I had a better kids" or more likely "If only their parents would X, Y or Z."

Meanwhile, the printers don't want to spend money on "training" because it mostly doesn't work. And kids play hookey. And both secretly blame themselves."

Formal education was not designed for learning.
It was designed for sorting.
Separate out the smart ones.
Let the others find blue collar jobs . . . or not.

It does well what it was designed to do.
The smart ones got accepted to the top schools.
They met other smart ones.
They joined networks of smart ones.

Now the schools have to be redesigned for learning.
It's not just about skills.
It's not just about curriculum.
It's about reorganizing time and space in schools.

The problem is that it's also about power.
The currency of power is controlling time and space.
People who are used to power want to keep it.
They keep the conversation about skills and curiculums.

They focus on what to teach.
The paradox is that it's impossible to teach.
The best you can do is to maximize the chances of learning.
Only students can learn.

There is teaching on demand.
But there is no learning on demand.
Learning happens all the time in many spaces.
But it's hard to make it happen every Tuesday between 9 and 11:30.

What to do?
Consider kindergarten.
They play in groups all day doing stuff.
They acquire lots of deep skills.

In kindergarten, they learn language.
In kindergarten, they learn skills.
In kindergarten, they learn how to play nicely with others.
In kindergarten, they learn who they are.

Little kids and chimpanzees are learning machines.
They learn to live and live to learn.LinkChimpanzees are sometimes put in zoos.
Kids have to go to school.

The future is now, just not evenly distributed.
Some schools are great.
Most school people are smart and hard working.
But bad design is bad design.

Suggested reading:
Print in the Communication Ecology
Print Stops Time
For Print Technology Education go to IGAEA, follow the link to VC journals from here

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.


Print in the Communication Ecology

It's like a galaxy.

It's like an embryo.

It's also like a pencil.

Humans live in activity space.
Activity space is physical space and information space.
The internet is the world's information space.
Information strings connect natural and built activity spaces.

The Screen is a physical window into information space.
Print is a physical window into information space.
The computer screen is in real time.
Print lives outside of time.

Exchanges connect activity spaces.
Information space becomes more articulated.
That's the ecology of money. That's the GDP.
That's Wall Street.

Exchanges connect activity spaces
Physical space becomes more articulated.
That's the ecology of real life.
Machinery, communities, people and the real economy.

Repeated exchanges create threads.
Bundles of threads create strings.
Tensions on strings organize new spaces.
New spaces disrupt and integrate with old spaces.

Time and motion are are full of noise.
When motion stops, some of the noise stops.
Outside of time, some of the noise stops.
A signal can make it through.

Books? Newspapers? Posters?

Are the best ways to capture the Other's logical narrative.
Logical narratives become lenses.
Lenses separate signal from noise.
Using different lenses is the most hopeful way of predicting the future.

Having a narrative is an operational definition of being human.
Control of logical narratives is an operational definition of smart.
Time and space are the independent variables.
Everything else is signal and noise.

In a recent thread over at The PrintCEO Blog Andy M said "Like a cartoon that appeared in a recent MAN Roland publication - two Gen-Y-ers looking at a newspaper and one says “Hey this is really cool - they’ve downloaded everything and printed it out for us!”

In Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman says "Typography has the strongest possible bias towards exposition: a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively and sequentially: a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response."

Manuel Castells in The Rise of the Network Society, says, ". . .TV appeals to the associate/lyrical minds, not involving the psychological effort of information retrieving and analyzing. . . .While print favors systematic exposition, TV is best suited to casual conversation. "
I say, "The internet is interactive TV + search"

What is a Publishing Center ?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's not Graphic Design. It's Commercial Art.

It's time to stop saying graphic designer, unless you mean it. If you are training to become or educated to be an Art Director, (see below) say that. Besides, these days "everyone thinks they are a graphic designer."

Everyone else who gets money for their art is a commercial artist. Commercial art is how you make a living. Your mother understands commercial art. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has it pretty right.
Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay, and computers. Artists’ works may be realistic, stylized, or abstract and may depict objects, people, nature, or events.

Artists generally fall into one of four categories.

Art directors formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications.

Craft artists create or reproduce handmade objects for sale or exhibition.

Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original artwork, using a variety of media and techniques.

Multi-media artists and animators create special effects, animation, or other visual images on film, on video, or with computers or other electronic media. (Designers, including graphic designers, are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)

You can check out the what else the BLS has to say about Artists here.

The related occupations:
Other workers who apply artistic skills include architects, except landscape and naval; archivists, curators, and museum technicians; commercial and industrial designers; fashion designers; floral designers; graphic designers; interior designers; jewelers and precious stone and metal workers; landscape architects; photographers; and woodworkers. Some workers who use computers extensively, including computer software engineers and desktop publishers, may require art skills.
I would include one more: The Bullshit Artist. More commonly known as the Sales Person. The BLS calls it Sales Engineer.

It's funny. Design schools used to be Art schools. Then they became all focused on "professional preparation" and forgot that they were Art schools. Maybe because Art was a hard sell to parents. Or that no self-respecting admin wants to say their outfit teaches commercial art. Or in the rush to teach "computer skills" they forgot the point.

More recently the buzz is Liberal Arts. "We've got to teach the students theory." Meanwhile there are very few in the liberal arts faculties who understand what theory is anyway. And "talk and chalk" teaching is pretty broken. And the reality is that the most efficient way to get learning to happen is 1. doing 2. thinking about what and why you're doing it. 3.Do it some more. Sounds like making art to me.

But whatever the reason, Art schools stopped using the right word to describe what they do.

It's ironic that the successful professionals are Artists. And every kid who wants to get in the field wants to become a great Artist. And the most sustainable path going forward is to be a self - employable Artist.

Some schools have figured it out. Sooner or later all the schools will figure it out. Or they won't be able to charge $30,000 a year to learn to be a graphic designer, much less a commercial Artist.

Is it this?

Or is it this?

The correct answer is yes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Secret of Business Development . . Pt.1

If you don't get it, try these: On the web, here. In a book, here. In the Language of Communication Ecology, here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If I were a printer . . . Pt 1

If I were a printer, here's what I'd do.
If I were a printer, I would set up a school.
Lots of money, no measurable deliverable.
If things go wrong, it's the customer's fault.
"Give me more money and I'll get it right next time."
"Give me the right customers and I'll get it right
. . .oh and I could use some money."

Meanwhile, Kids need to learn how to think.
That's education.

Meanwhile, Kids need to learn how to do.
That's apprenticeships.

Like days of yore, kids will work for nothing to be apprentices.
They compete for the opportunity to work for nothing.
Sometimes, they even pay for working for nothing!
In "higher ed", they call this "graduate education."

Sometimes, they have to be paid.
But always for a lot less than the value they produce.
They will work, 60 hours a week.
And say, "thank you."
They will love what they are doing.
And say, "thank you."
They will come up with the "next big thing."
And say, "thank you."
In high finance and law, they call it "associates."
In medicine, they call it "interning"
In commercial art, they call it "interning.'
In everything else, it's usually called "new hire."

In days of yore, it was called "apprentice."

But whatever you call it, the deal is
"Teach me how to do what I want to do
and I will give you a couple of years of my time, for cheap.
Then move on. Or get on a track to be a "partner."
Or start their own business and raise their families.
That's what Ben Franklin did.
That's what Gutenberg's apprentice did.
That's what the founders of American newspapers did.

Meanwhile, K- PhD is an awesome business.
First, it's mostly a protected market.
That's how they get to raise the price every year.
Second, Everyone "knows" that "education" is a "must have".
Always good to be selling a "must have."
Third, hardworking parents and politicians willingly pay almost any size bill.
If they can't afford it, they will borrow to buy it.
If they can't borrow it, the kids will borrow to buy it.

Meanwhile, nobody knows if it works.
It's like the old days of advertising.
Remember, "If you could only figure out which 50% is useless. . ."
But that was then, this is now.

Meanwhile, printers are looking for business models.
Every business is in the same business.
The business of making money.
But, what you deliver is not always how you make money.
The Ivy League: non profit hedge funds who deliver education.
GM: a bank that makes cars (Thanks, Joe)
HP and Xerox: toner and inkjet companies that make hardware.
K-12: Baby sitting and filtering out the good ones that delivers "education."

So . . .if I were a printer, here's what I would do.
Become an education and community development company that makes Print.

Darn! There really are no new ideas. The future really is here, and really is not evenly distributed. Thank you to Erik from Canada for pointing me here. I hope they are getting some of the ed money floating around.

The Version Dad, The Printer Loved

Same story, different places.