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Really Good Graphic Design

January 04, 2006

When I was first introduced to graphic design, I learned about "old-school" book covers from the 50's and 60's. One of my drawing fundamentals teachers at Rutgers had been a graphic designer his entire life and was in fact, at the time, studying for his PhD on the subject. He brought in some of his older book cover designs and I was immediately intranced in the simplicity of lines and colors. Instead of a photo-realistic picture, the designs were illustrative and abstract...there could be no wrong.

Fast-forward about 6 or 7 years and I now categorize any type of visual design as "graphic design". Whether it's graffiti, a book cover, or a Flash animation on a website, it falls under graphic design. Any type of visual artwork put together for a "commercial" reason, or any type of visual artwork constructed without totally abiding by the notion of "stream of consciousness". I won't get into an argument over the definition of "graphic design" (which would take many many posts), but just know that video and movement fall under the realm of overall graphic design (after all, video and movement ARE visual).

I've always turned to the Internet for graphic inspiration. The shear number of artists and designers in the world who contribute to the visual design of the Internet means you can find brand new inspiration at any time. There are entire websites devoted just to presenting new and interesting design on the Internet and often they present a filtered list (only the best get posted). And, with the immersion of Flash and new tools to make web design/publishing easier, the number of new and updated sites creating creative inspiring content grows daily.

I was left to think, "Is the Internet the best place to turn to for the latest and greatest in visual/graphic design?"

I started to look around and found some intriguing areas to look towards. First would be traditional print. I wouldn't go as far as say "print is dead", but there aren't very many ways left to be novel with print graphic design. I mean, sure there are unlimited designs, but besides adding transparent pages, exotic colors, etc., there really isn't anything else to do with print (simplistic outlook I know).

One area that has some really inspiring graphic design is movie special effects design. This incorporates some cutting-edge and ever-progressing video manipulation tools. As these tools get better, and computing power allows designers to create ever-more-realistic visual effects, movie special effects will always stay at the fore-front of graphic design standards. But, movie special effects design often means creating (again) photo-realistic material which to me, is not the most "artistic" design.

Now enter an off-shoot of the movie/video special effects design - broadcast TV design. I'm not talking about the little boxes that appear above a newscaster's head during a news story, but rather the vivid motion graphics often accompanying sporting event broadcasts. Part photo-realistic/part fantasy/part just plain cool, these motion video graphics are as cutting edge as it gets. If you've ever watched a football game you'll see the nicest, most well-thought out, timed perfectly motion video graphics just during the transition from normal play to instant replay! The graphics are quick eye-candy often accompanied by sound bringing a total multimedia experience to any viewer. This type of graphic design is definitely something to look to for inspiration.

Not that I'm saying the Internet is "behind" movie special effects design or broadcast TV design, but it still has some catching up to do. I believe that when video goes mainstream on the Internet and there is enough bandwidth for everyone, and enough computing power to make editing video easier and less time-consuming, the two will converge and anyone will be able to produce broadcast quality motion video graphics.

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