June 28, 2016

Your collapsing compacting career

You too will one day be replaced by a robot.

Let's take the design field as an example of what I mean. In 1985, being a graphic designer meant something completely different than it does today in 2016. It meant that you worked with physical media for one. If you were employed as a layout designers at a magazine, you would work at a drafting table. Your main tools would be a pencil, paper, and glue. You would cut out photos with a razor blade and glue them into a layout with rubber cement. You would take blocks of typography which was typeset by someone else and glue it into place. You would take illustrations and photos created by someone else and compose the layout. Your job was to coordinate all the pieces, and deliver a perfect paste-up to the person running a stat camera, who would make a photograph to be send to the printer. 

The job of creating a piece of print design took handfuls of people, all very skilled and very specialized. 

What does that process look like now? Now you sit in front of indesign and do the work of 5 people. You do typesetting. You do layout. You do prepress. You send a print-ready pdf to the printer. Those jobs are all gone, replaced by technology. It's not that we automated those jobs away. They just collapsed down into one larger, more complex job. Your job.

Now look to the future. AI and machine learning is getting really good. It's no stretch of the imagination to envision a world where machines are doing things like layout and copywriting. I've even seen software that does design with genetic algorithms. The designer is only choosing which path to take the machine down. Be aware of this trend, and don't let yourself get calcified into a niche role that is doomed. Ride the wave and aim up the ladder.