Basic problems

Over at, David Brin argues that the lack of BASIC programming on today's computers is letting down the next generation of code jockeys.

As with the programmers, so with designers.

Brin's argument is twofold. Firstly, he's concerned that the modern computer experience is focussed on consumption rather than production - a not unfamiliar argument to readers of this humble blog.

Secondly, and more importantly however, Brin argues that it is a failure of teaching:

In medical school, professors insist that students have some knowledge of chemistry and DNA before they are allowed to cut open folks. In architecture, you are at least exposed to some physics. But in the high-tech, razzle-dazzle world of software? According to the masters of IT, line coding is not a deep-fabric topic worth studying.

There are parallels here with the design industry. How many young designers and students today know anything, or indeed care, about bromides, imagesetters, hot wax, hot metal or process cameras?

Of course, there are still a few purists using ancient techniques but usually for artistic purposes or as a pose, not for any real commercial work. Today, the computer - and, increasingly, Adobe - rules the roost.

The question is: does it matter? I think it does - and I'm not old enough to have used any of the above.
Before the widespread adoption of the Macintosh, Quark, Photoshop and all of the rest of it, graphic design was produced manually - and slowly. It was tedious, difficult and painstaking, yes, but as a result of that it had a lot of craft.

More than anything else, typography was important and texts were studied, not just blatted into the design.

Today things are much more slapdash. The DTP revolution made it bad and the internet has made it worse - for heaven's sake, on this blog I am reduced to using hyphens instead of dashes so that they appear consistently across browsers. Copy-fitting calculations today? Don't make me laugh. Just squeeze the tracking a bit. And on the internet? Forget about it - sure the virtual page is limitless anyway.

Computers are wonderful tools and they have undoubtedly unleashed a wave of creativity that would have been impossible in the past, but I cannot escape the feeling that somewhere in the design education process - I'm not sure where: it could be in college, it could be on the job - fundamental principles are not being taught.

Well, who cares what I think? Clearly I am some kind of antediluvian idiot who had no idea what he's talking about. After all, ''if you can point and click with a mouse, you can make $100,000 a year or more with a desktop graphic design career'.

So there you have it.

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