Modern technology and declining artwork standards

declining artwork standards: children's paint and crayons on work documents

Scott West

Studio Manager

Posted on March 3, 2015

Modern software is making graphic design easier. Rather than having to apprentice in a studio or go to art school, anybody can now create and edit artwork themselves using easily-available software.

But easy doesn’t necessarily mean good. Are artwork standards declining? Or are they just changing?

One size fits all

It used to be that professional design software, like InDesign and Illustrator, was not only expensive but also difficult to use. Designers, artists and studio workers could only create visual magic with such software because they had studied the myriad of tools and complex processes involved.

In the last few years, however, such tools have become increasingly accessible to the everyday user. People have posted in-depth tutorials online and there’s a YouTube video for practically any feature you need.

The software itself has also become easier to use. Take Photoshop for example. You used to need a lot of skill and time to professionally retouch photos; now, with features like the Content Aware and Healing Brush tools, all you have to do is highlight an area or press a button, and the software matches the retouch to its surroundings automatically.

All of this means businesses can avoid the cost of contracting out to agencies and studios, as they can quickly train someone up internally. But should they?

Better software, poorer artwork standards

While the software might be easier to manipulate, you still need design skill and training to know how to create something that looks professional and can be adapted easily for future campaigns. Good design means sticking to certain standards and conventions, which amateurs rarely know about.

If a business creates something in-house and botches the basic design, when it’s eventually passed on to an agency to edit and incorporate into another campaign, it will be much harder to adapt it and make it look good.

Tight budgets have driven many businesses to ‘make do’ in house when it comes to artwork for marketing campaigns. As a result, it’s all started to look a bit cheap. Cost has become more important than the overall look and feel of the design. (And yet look at the success of companies that prioritise good design, such as Apple.)

It’s not all bad news

While ‘on the hoof’ design should never replace high-quality, well-trained studio professionals, there are some benefits to the democratisation of art working, which simpler software has sparked:

  • Tweaking and reusing. In order to keep costs down, it is now much easier for an agency to create templates and artwork for long-term branding, which clients can then tweak and reuse across particular campaigns, without having to call the agency back in on each occasion.
  • Speedy editing. Clients can now edit text and small elements of professionally-designed documents, meaning the review and compliance procedures can be completed entirely in-house.
  • Better for the professionals. The fact the software is easier to use is better for studio designers too: it allows them to cut down on studio time spent on fiddly tasks that don’t necessarily make the most of their talents. More focus on the ‘art’ and less on the ‘work’.

A back-to-front benefit

Declining artwork standards certainly aren’t a good thing, but the fact more businesses are opting for cheaper, in-house design, means there is a bigger opportunity to make your artwork stand out.

Using a specialist finance sector agency to produce eye-catching, professional artwork gives you a competitive advantage over the majority of mediocre ‘make do’ work that’s out there and indicates you care about high standards across the board.