A fact I discovered a few years ago was that certain graphic designers and computers don't mix, at least from the computer's point of view. The designers, of course, thought they got on very well indeed. I hasten to add that this wasn't the case with all designers, most of whom found computers a welcome new tool with which to create layouts and ads. No, the ones that deserved a swift kick up reality street and a spell away from their GUIs were the ones that took it all too far, those silly people with ponytails who once flinched at even the mention of a computer. Then suddenly their computers became cool. Before long every design magazine was full of ill-researched features about how computers were going to change the way we communicated and, of secondary importance, the world itself.
More precisely, these designers found Apple Macs cool because they wouldn't dream of playing with anything that might cause them a few problems booting up in the morning. The ease of the Mac OS gave them more time to pen cod philosophy on the power of computers instead of hacking about inside or actually doing some useful design work.
It got worse. These people, who knew nothing about computers, then started organising conferences about the computer revolution and uttering endless drivel about how computers were going to give us a new language, new alphabets - we would be one with our computers. Speech is a thing of the past! The book is dead!
The truth was far less exciting. Most of the these people had pretty dull jobs, but the onset of computers suddenly gave them a reason to pretend they were more than just mere designers. "We are revolutionaries, visionaries and iconoclasts - this is the vanguard!" There was no stopping them.
Then in the early 90s Wired came along as grist to the mill and no designer would be seen dead without a copy under his/her arm. Think of it, the ultimate endorsement - far out graphic design and more dodgy digital philosophy than anyone could hope for. And what was this Internet it kept talking about? They didn't read it of course.
But If the DTP revolution was bad, the onset of the Web is far worse.
A recent dip into the Telegraph's dreary connected section provided shocking evidence in the form of an interview with a self-styled "digital witch". That's right, a digital witch - one Emma Westecott, a "programmer" and designer of video games (www.tdv.com/html/emma_w.html).
This gushing piece confirmed my worst fears. Now the Internet has been taken over by pretentious designers speaking an extended form of the babble loved by the DTP crowd 10 years ago. Whereas they only really had the chance to mess round with typography and graphic design, this latest crop of born again computer lovers are, shock horror, getting into programming with the same warped attitude. "I dove (sic) into C++ because Director just didn't give me the alchemy of the true freedom to do whatever I want," says "gangsta grrrl" Emma.
I BEG your pardon madam, what on earth are you talking about? And what's this on Emma's Web site? "Still recovering from an ongoing love affair with technology, I am thinking about having plastic surgery to remove the ADB port from my forehead." Uh-huh. Notice that ADB port - yes she's a Mac user. Funny that.
There are hundreds more digital witches in the making going through art college, setting up their own Web sites (no one's interested in designing their own fonts anymore) and then pouring into Soho to get jobs with new media companies. No doubt the UK is blessed with an enormous number of talented people entering design. Our advertising, publishing and TV industries are often considered the best in the world, but I wish that art colleges held courses in computer realism. "Hey kids, worried that your first experience with a computer is turning you into a pretentious twat? Never used one before? Is your fear of REAL programming making you realise that Lingo is really, really hard. Don't worry, just enroll in Dr Fisher's Computers are for Life not just for Design Students evening course. Only #50."
That evening: "Welcome students. Here's a computer. It runs Windows.
It's hard to set up. It can't change the world. It won't make you sexy. It's no more exciting than a phone or a family saloon. Douglas Coupland is best avoided until you're old enough to know better. Oasis are crap. That's all you need to know. Any questions? No? Good now carry on and become good designers." After this, the nation's young designers can safely be let loose on any computer without fear or, indeed, loathing - and I will be happy.
PJ Fisher is managing editor of Personal Computer World ([email protected]).
Comcast's £29.7bn winning bid more than twice the £13.7bn Rupert Murdoch valued Sky at just eight years ago
A nuclear strike has been considered, but Bruce Willis is nowhere in sight
Spray-on antenna could enable seamless integration of antennas with everyday objects
Parker Solar Probe, TESS and GOLD missions will deliver exciting data, claims NASA