economy


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…