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Editor’s Column

Welcome to 2007. The beginning of every year is an opportunity to reflect on the past and to renew hope and commitment for the future, but what kind of a future do we face?

For the short-term, economic conditions may be a little tight. While the current administration expects the economy to grow by 2.9% in 2007, slightly less than 2006, the outlook from business leaders is not as positive. In its latest survey of 100 CEOs in a wide range of industries, The Conference Board reports that its Chief Executives’ Confidence Measure has fallen to its lowest point in nearly five years. “The lack of confidence expressed by CEOs is a result of the recent slowdown in economic growth, combined with expectations that this lack-luster pace of growth will carry over into the beginning months of 2007,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. This outlook parallels the AIGA Design Leader Confidence Index, created to evaluate current conditions within the design economy and modeled on similar indices developed for private sector corporate leaders. When last polled in October 2006, the index registered 94.79, up from last July (90.73), but noticeably less than the April 2005 starting point of 100.

Like many industries, the visual communications field continues to be buffeted by tumultuous change. More and more, the Web has become the hub of many branding projects as all other media sources point the consumer to a company’s Web site for commerce, information or branded experiences. Ad agencies and design firms are struggling to maintain their relevance by including new media alternatives to their traditional offerings. Designers are especially feeling the pinch as ad agencies and communication consultants encroach into traditional graphic design territory in an effort to offer a holistic package to their clients. 

The long-term challenge is coming from consumers themselves who are just as competent with media technology as we are. Sure, desktop publishing software has made it easy for businesses and individuals to do their own graphic design work. But the next generation of consumers are comfortable using rich media on a daily basis; immersed in video games, building Web pages with self-authored photography and videos and delivering school assignments as digital files or even PowerPoint presentations. As this generation moves into adulthood, I think we’ll see profound cultural changes in the way people consume and interact with media. 

In the future, the difference between professional visual communicators and consumers will be less about technological know-how and more about the depth of one’s creative thinking. This means our focus will have to be more on overall media strategy rather than just on simple design and production tasks. 

Another result of this cultural shift will be agencies, designers, photographers and illustrators exploring more self-initiated projects, products and salable content in addition to commissioned work, and more creatives will move away from a career solely dependent upon solving client-based communication problems.

The boundaries of visual communication are expanding. We are in a fascinating period of experimentation and innovation. In this and upcoming issues, we hope to show you what’s happening outside and at the intersection of traditional media. Multi-discipline firms and creative individuals are producing exciting work that defies conventional labels and suggests what we might be doing more of in the future.

Visual typography call for entries
Recognizing that typography is a primary tool for all graphic designers, we wanted to provide an overview of how typography is being used as the primary visual element on projects where budget constraints don’t allow for the use of illustration or photography. We’re asking you to submit type-centric projects that have been produced within the last two years and that have not appeared previously in the pages of CA. After reviewing the submissions, we will select what we feel are the best examples and publish the results in our May/June 2007 issue. Please submit the actual printed project, digital file or hard copy printout (if your project is selected, we will contact you for final reproduction materials and complete creative credits), with a brief description of the purpose to: Rebecca Bedrossian/Visual Typography, Communication Arts, 110 Constitution Drive, Menlo Park, California 94025. Pieces to be returned must be accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope or your Federal Express number. Submissions must be received no later than February 1, 2007. —Patrick Coyne ca

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