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August 4, 2010 / Gina D.

Pro-templates ≠ Anti-design

All the “end-of-the-world” talk among the news design community reminds me of when I was a kid…

Two words you never said in my house: “I’m bored.” If you dared speak this phrase within earshot of either of my parents — but especially my dad — you were immediately given a list of chores to occupy your otherwise “boring” existence. Us kids honestly believed that dad (a farmer) spent the bulk of his hours in the field thinking up things for us to do around the house/farm.

The din of news designers across the industry lamenting the impending implosion of news design (um… nope…) is starting to sound a lot like “I’m bored” to me.

Personally, I recommend keeping YOURSELF busy. Much more enjoyable — and, I gotta think, constructive — that way. Heck, you just might make yourself a bit indispensable in the process.

I’ve made some comments elsewhere you might use to jump-start your own To Do list while they’re busy engraving the tombstone. Here’s some highlights:

On “Roger Black on Ready-Media, templates and the future of design“:

“If a template or other sort of ‘cookie-cutter’ device or concept can help my paginators’ treadmill keep spinning at an acceptable level without a lot of extra help from me, then it allows me the freedom — yes, I said FREEDOM — to pick and choose what topics/projects/ideas to focus the bulk of my time on.

“If your worst paginator is raised to the lowest common denominator, then an opportunity presents itself: TIME. Time to inject creativity into places it may not currently live, or ponder creative ways to do so.”

~snip~

“…I’m sure others will skewer me for saying so, in a way, moving our copy desks elsewhere give us all a little more room for maneuver…”

On “An open letter on the value of Design“:

“It’s a philosophy shift from ‘How do we GET readers?’ to ‘How do we maintain our value to readers?’ We need to start thinking less about catching new eyes and more about what we’re offering up to the brains we’ve already got. The second we take any readers for granted by thinking their attention spans are so low they need design gimmicks to maintain interest… we’ve lost them.

“Now is the time for designers to take stock, rethink their priorities (so they better align with readers), and reinvent themselves accordingly. Design isn’t going away, it’s just changing — and change it must.”

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4 Comments

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  1. Jim McBee / Aug 4 2010 8:49 PM

    While I agree that templates are not automatically some sort of death knell, the notion that somehow by dint of working extra hard and smart you’re going to avoid the chopping block that your lazier/dumber counterparts are subjected to in the name of efficiency is wishful thinking.

    A friend is fond of reminding me that corporations don’t exist to provide jobs, they exist to make money for shareholders. They don’t care about the reader’s experience, let alone ‘design culture’ or editorial integrity or what-have-you — the farthest they look is the numbers for next quarter. And if sacrificing you or me or that schlub everyone hates can tweak those numbers, guess what?

    So, while I agree that the hand-wringing and name-calling is sorta unconstructive, I don’t think putting on a brave smile and embracing whatever short-sighted crap comes down the pipe is necessarily more constructive. But you know my ‘solution’ already: If you believe that whatever you love is being shortchanged by The Man, figure out a way to do it outside the corporate world. It’s dreadfully uncertain out there, but then so are all our journalistic futures, anyway. And mainstream media is vulnerable to competition, in large part due to the bosses’ mistakes and the shareholders’ myopia.

  2. designergina / Aug 4 2010 10:54 PM

    At my most altruistic moment, I may toss in the word “embrace.” I’ll try to stop that because really “accept” is a more accurate description of what I’m advocating for here.

    Anyway…

    Unless I’m missing something, we seem to be on the same page here with one notable difference: I’m suggesting working outside the box inside your cubicle; you seem to want to save that sort of thinking for outside the office. Personally, I prefer getting paid for it, but… OK. ;-)

    But seriously…

    I realize bean counters will always see me as a sack of beans. Can’t do beans about that. But the second I see my own value in only those terms, I’ll hang it all up and go get a job as a barista or something.

    Not willing to run up that white flag just yet.

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