With new versions of InDesign, Quark, and Photoshop, expect print to be this year's mini skirt.

It's typical of this time of year for columnists to dust-off the metaphorical crystal ball, and pretend to gaze into the future with all the outward assurance of the bastard child of Mystic Meg and Nostradamus. Yet the reality is a little more like randomly plucking fortune cookies from a jar, rewriting them from a creative technology point of view, and then trumpeting them as sure-fire bets that you can stake the company on.

Utter nonsense, really, but there are a few tidbits that make fortune cookies seem like paper oracles. So, in the spirit of all columnists stuck for something to write for publication in January, I've consumed my own bodyweight in chinese snacks, have fortune cookie paper cuts up my arms, and can predict these will absolutely happen. Probably.

Cookie 1: This cookie will self-destruct in five seconds... Humm, tough one this. However, if you rewrite it, it could say creative companies as we know it will self-destruct in five years. Much better. Actually, this is a very accurate prediction, if the latest research from MORI in the creative market is anything to go by. The polling organization found that 47 per cent of designers felt that, in the future, technology would free up their time to do more enjoyable things, with a whopping 52 per cent wanting to be able to control the hours they spend working, and only to work when appropriate. In a bonus prediction - that your studio manager will be gasping for breath as she reads this - 75 per cent of workers want a return to a four-day week. With such a ground-swell of support, I predict that we'll all be designing from home in front of the TV in 2004 without bothering to get dressed, while blaming 'dodgy' broadband connections for lack of work. See, technology will free up our time.

Cookie 2: Hard work will lead to much self-esteem. Lets face it, 2003 was a tough year for the creative industry. Companies merged, jobs merged, and many designers found themselves having to multitask to such a degree that it seemed easier to setup your laptop in the reception area so you had easier access to the switchboard and the dry quips of couriers. So, the year 2004 means we'll be working harder. Maybe you could master not only a 2D package, but a 3D application, and possibly a video-editing solution as well. Heck, with telecoms shrinking our world, you should throw in learning a smattering of Mandrin as well. However, work hard in 2004, and you'll be able to head off into the realm of freelancing and make a ton of money. See cookie 1 for more on that gig.

Kooky cookies

Cookie 3: There is no spoon. Or, rewrite that as there are no wires. 2004 will be the year of Wi-Fi - wireless access to the network that spells an end to the dead octopus of cables lurking under your desk. You'll be able to log onto the Internet from MacDonalds (presumably with your big Apple Mac), send graphic files through walls to another art department, and browse other people's iTunes music collection without them knowing. Bonus prediction for 2004 - a spate of lawsuits after the high doses of Wi-Fi radio waves fry our noodles and make us all see martians.

Cookie 4: Beware the paper tiger. Wow - these cookies are uncanny (and a little soft). I guess the cookie is telling us that DTP and print are going to be the hot tickets in 2004. Video streamed in 2003, and 3D reached interactive heights, but with new versions of InDesign, Quark, and Photoshop, expect print to be this year's mini skirt. It'll be looked on with the kind of rose-tinted glasses we don when playing retro arcade games, and we can all savour the smelling of printing ink that online 3D worlds simply can't deliver.

Cookie 5: A dwarf on giant's shoulders sees more than the giant. Obviously, we're either predicting a surprise fourth installment to The Lord Of The Rings movies, or we're saying that the creative industry is going to get much better. I think it's the latter and that as we pull out of the economic abyss, we're going to see the graphic arts industry recover. Let's hope so, so we can all afford more fortune cookies. Happy new year!

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