Lately I’ve been very aware of the fact that the art forms I’d like to participate in vastly outnumber my own creative capabilities. There is just too much stuff I want to do. It’s gotten me thinking about how, in its own way, the digital age compares to the Renaissance. During the Renaissance, it wasn’t enough for an artist to be a master painter or sculptor or architect. Notoriety was reserved for people who managed to master all three disciplines, and possibly more.
Before computers entered the picture, graphic design was a much more specialized profession. Designers and art directors needed to work with typesetters, photographers, illustrators, and production artists, among others, in order to get a job done. For better or worse, it’s much more common now to find one-stop shops with all of these responsibilities handled—with varying levels of proficiency—by one person.
As I see it, this is both a blessing and a curse. Owning a copy of Photoshop doesn’t make somebody a designer, nor does owning a copy of Final Cut Pro make them a filmmaker. But it sure makes it a lot easier for someone to try, and the easier it is to try, the easier it is to succeed. There are plenty of people out there doing amazing work that is based less on instruction than on observation and intuition. On the other hand, there are considerably more people out there whose work suffers from lack of training and/or specialization. The creative market is saturated with jacks of all trades, masters of none.
So what do you think? Is one head big enough to hold the myriad intricacies of typographic principles, grid systems, color theory, language composition, prepress production, shutter speeds, ActionScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, mySQL, microformats, timecode, compression codecs, Kierkegaard, quantum physics? Is this the new Renaissance, or is our generation (as my uncle would put it) going to hell in a handbasket?