Mediocrity and the Digital Designer: A Call to Arms

“Technology has paved the way for ordinary design, making it harder to create exceptional work.”

One of the hallmarks of the digital age is the elimination of barriers. This has resulted, according to Steven Heller writing in Print Magazine, in a proliferation of mediocrity in graphic design.

“Before the computer,” Heller writes, “there was a clear distinction between highly skilled, indeed, inspired design and the surfeit of amateur attempts.

“Since the computer,” he continues, “craft remains essential, but the lack of it is easily masked by pro-templates, programs and, most importantly, access to real typefaces once available only through professional type houses and composed by rarefied typographers.”

The gulf between professional and amateur design – which used to be huge and obvious – has been filled with what Heller terms the mediocre.

“While good and bad design will always be poles apart, mediocre floats somewhere between ordinary and slightly better – in other words, not great,” he explains.

This, in a roundabout way, has made it harder to do exceptional, stand-out work. Heller believes that, thanks to technology, it’s fairly straightforward to do flawless, technically correct work. So much of what is mediocre passes as pretty good stuff. The baseline, in other words, has risen.

To those designers looking to truly excel, Heller offers some advice:

“Make sure your output doesn’t look like a computer did it, even if you did it on a computer. Use mediocrity to fight mediocrity. And let that be a call to arms.”