February 2009


This is the OLD blogsite.

My new blogsite is here: http://www.suecampbellgraphicdesign.com/

It’s nowhere near complete. There will soon be design samples located there too. But the blog itself is live! Please update your bookmarks or get the RSS feed at the new site. Thanks.

I’ll be updating the blog over there from now on.

We are on the cusp of a new paradigm in the information industry. That’s what we are. We aren’t book designers, publishers, authors, newspaper or magazine (or even e-zine) journalists, TV anchors, advertising professionals, or artists, or entertainers. We are information producers and providers. What’s changing fast is the delivery system and the choices of our consumers.

crwodsourcingThis book: Crowdsourcing appeared last August, so I hope I’m not too late to the party. (Ironically, produced on paper first.) This video is a nice overview. I like how he uses photography as an example of a paradigm shift. It’s something we designers are very familiar with and can easily understand. The book cover itself was a case study for his thesis. A contest was held and designers submitted cover designs on which the “public” (people who pay attention to such things) voted. Like American Idol, but um, not. Many of us professional designers just hate design contests, because it reduces us to the level of say, the yodeling, tap dancing farmer hoping to win a spot on the aforementioned TV show and possibly see a profit from our speculative efforts. It’s not really a fair thing to ask of a “professional” is it? And yet, we seem to be willing to do it—the risk is worth the possible reward. But that’s a whole other rant story. I mention this book mainly to illustrate the following example.

Back to the paradigm. Think about the photography example. Technology, and delivery systems changed the way photos were made, sold, and delivered. Abundance of producers using these new technologies to create and make photos available changed the pricing of them. The result was photographers had to change the way they marketed and sold their wares and services or face extinction.
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I hesitate to write this. Like the kid who wishes another kid ill, and then it happens. The kid in his magical thinking figures it’s his fault. But it’s not looking good for print. It’s not looking good for advertising either. I’ve long known that advertising is the first thing companies cut when times get tough. Having worked in that field many years, I weathered mini-recessions time and again. Being a small time freelance designer meant that not only did I not become wildly successful and wealthy beyond my dreams, neither did downturns hurt me all that much. But I tired of the volatility of the industry just the same. Enter my first forays into publishing. I did some curriculum work for Junior Achievement. It was fun. The budgets weren’t big, but I didn’t have to go search for it either. Nor did I have do much “selling” (many a creative freelancer’s bane of existence). In short, I liked it. A lot.

So when finally an opportunity to work for an educational publisher came up I jumped at it. It was fun too, and for the first time in a long, long time I had employee benefits. Nice ones. Then years later, the company got acquired and things became not so fun anymore. Time to move on. Since then I have had lots more fun freelancing at doing trade books. But is the party over? Is it time to take the beer goggles off?  I hope not, I still love my dates. They still look good to me.

However, the writing is on the wall … if not in the books. (groan) This article: “The Financial Storm may Very Well Kill Print Media” is a sobering looking at the facts of life in the world of print media. We can hang on longer, maybe, doing what we do. But at the same time we better be thinking pretty hard about the changing world we work in and coming up with other strategies for surviving and thriving as publications designers, writers, and publishers. (And advertising workers better be thinking twice as fast.)

wwgdPerhaps there’s some good lessons in this book: What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis I am going to get it, right now. I’m downloading the audio version. I know. I am a part of the problem…. I am hoping to learn how to be a part of the solution. I want to ride the crest of the next wave and land safely on the beach in the new paradigm, not be drowned in this one.

Speaking of paradigms, my next post will be about changing paradigms and how we’ve seen them before in our industry (graphic design). One of the advantages of working a long time in one field is eventually you have the benefit of hindsight, the long view. It’s propbably the only good thing about getting older. I’ll draw paralells and contrasts to then and now…

Another salvo in the changing battlefield of publishing shows that innovative and tech-saavy authors can win an audience and eventually a publisher. This article titled “Podcasting Your Novel: Publishing’s Next Wave?” reports on a fast growing trend that I have known about for a while.

I am addicted to audiobooks. If not for them I would never walk the dogs or go to the gym. I discovered Podiobooks when they first came on the scene. In the beginning there wasn’t a lot of selection, mostly scifi and some of that pretty awful. As they grew in public awareness they drew new authors too and began to post more books in many genres, and some of them really good. All of them were by novice authors, or authors completely unknown to me. Most probably never published traditionally.

Two authors really stood out though, J.C. Hutchins with 7th Son and Scott Sigler with Infected and Earthcore. J.C. Hutchins in particular produced an audio drama that rivaled anything Hollywood might produce, and a darned good thriller. All for free. Why give it away? Well, read the article. These two have a loyal “listenership” and now are on the bestseller list for real money. Kudos and congrats to them both.

Incidentally on the article the writer asserts that the audience is/was mostly young male scifi geeks. I’m not sure that was true, after all I’m an older woman. I’ve listened to books on tape on car trips and when walking or exercising for years and years. By the way you can also listen to many many old books that are now in the public domain also for free on Librivox. These books are recorded by volunteers so the perfomance quality varies, but it’s painless way to catch up on those classics of literature you’ve always meant to read.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the audiobook will completely supplant the ink and paper book anytime soon… at least I hope not. But, I am in favor of authors getting their work out there and finding an audience. It’s a moment of change, and change can be scary. It will all shake out in time and anything that helps authors and readers connect can’t be bad.