What is the future for print designers?

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Moving forward under the assumption that eZines like iGizmo take off massively and become a key part of modern publishing, what role will a print designer play?

As Brand Art Editor of iGizmo I have been lucky enough to be in a position where by I feel I have made a positive contribution to the future of publishing and magazine design. Having been in the job since launch (just over a year now) I consider myself in a unique position to comment though my comments are purely my own and in no way affiliated with the company I work for.

One battle I find myself having during pub discussions is the idea that web designers are taking over from print designers. After all eZines are online, surely it makes perfect sense to have web designers at the forefront of this new medium? In fact it must an essential right? Well not up until now. I have always treated iGizmo as a print magazine and have designed it as such, 10 years of print design experience have gone into what I produce and past experiences have moulded what I deem to be one of the best eZines out there.

I use Adobe InDesign to lay out all the pages using multiple layers to show various levels of interactivity, i.e. pop ups. Then the InDesign docs are exported as XFL docs and given to our Flash Designer who then follows my direction and animates any interactivity before exporting a SWF. This SWF along with a static PDF are combined to make a page.

But is this the most efficient way of making an eZine? No would be a popular answer.

Why not do the whole lot in Flash? Or even Illustrator? 2 reasons, one all members of an editorial team are now required to write on page and not using Word docs. Writers write on page as dictated by my design. InDesign is already known by a lot of editorial staff and is much more accessible then Illustrator. Secondly InDesgin is primarily a layout package. It is made to be used as a design tool for laying out magazines. It’s better than Flash or Illustrator for this function, in fact it’s fantastic. It gives me complete control over a page and allows me to easily modify or completely change existing or new layouts. Why use another programme that doesn’t allow you that ease of freedom?

A year on however it is becoming clear this may not be the best way to do things. What is? Well I’m not that sure to be honest. A lot of people still tell me I shouldn’t be using InDesign and should do all the work in Flash.

In the next year or two I can see Print Designers that work on eZines being slowly pushed out of a job by people with good Flash skills. Why employ a print designer and a Flash designer when one person should be able to the whole lot?

My advice would be to start learning Flash. Not an easy task at all, it’s a huge programme, but get started anyway, in two years time when hopefully more of these magazines will be around, you’ll find it a lot easier to get a job. You will have the ability to design and publish a magazine on your own without need for people like me.

If this happens will companies try and train their existing print designer in Flash or will they just make redundancies and look elsewhere? I would love to say the former but the expense and time involved would make me sway towards the latter. Flash designers are ten-a-penny in London at the moment, you can get them for a smaller wage than ever, and most publishing company’s only care about the cash.

I do believe however that if you push out all the print designers and their valuable experience quality will slide which may result in the whole medium failing to grow. Not that web designers aren’t good or can learn, we all know they can, my point is they have spent the last X amount of years looking at different things, designing in a different way for a different format. Print designers need to always be a part of the process if you are trying to imitate a print product on line. Their experience is an indispensable asset in the future of eZines, so don’t push them away just yet, it’s still early days and you need a good print designer as much as you need a good Flash designer.

Have I started to learn Flash? Not yet, it’s on my list of things to do but there are only so many hours in the day. My job takes up most of my time and normally when I get home I like to relax or do other things besides sit behind a computer. But when I do get a chance I’ll be learning whatever I can, my future may very well depend on it.

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