Sitting in San Francisco International Airport, staring dumbly at the Ten Winners of the 2011 National Design Awards, it occurred to me that the Polaroid photos that define a previous generation are now widely available for us all in digital form, and that helps us as a generation define those of the Polaroid years. However, we also use the professional design of those times to define those times. Everything visual, really.
What I mean is this: in the same sense that the history of the Revolutionary War can be condensed into a textbook for us to read and learn from, so too can the pictures of the past be placed onto a website for our viewing pleasure. The ease with which we are able to see so many photos that were not intended to be on the internet gives us, the internet users, the power to define the history. We can reshape it and display those photos as we see fit, and tell the story our own way.
And the design of our times – in all aspects of life, not just casual photography – this, too, is available for us to see on the internet. The sheer number of eyeballs viewing these artistic endeavors (and the not-so-artistic ones) was completely unimaginable 30 years ago.
And watch where technology takes us. I’ll bet you in 30 years it will be even easier to see our silly games and passionate efforts, and our children will have the power to define us by the images they see on their chosen media.
And all our graphic design – the professional work of trained individuals – will most likely be lumped in with the impulsive, amateurish photos we take for no other reason than to have fun…pretty much the same way we look at outdated design styles and lump them in with the old Polaroids.
At least, I do that. I assume others do, too.
Think about it: those orange and brown stripes on the wall at an old bowling alley and the sitcom-esque font used to display the name of the joint. They could just as easily be in a roller rink where tall people in short shorts and long hair cruised in circles to the dulcet tones of Adam Ant. But the people who bowled and the people who roller skated were not necessarily the same people, were they?
I’ll be honest: my hope is that thanks to all this digital publishing, future generations will have a much wider scope of their vision of the past than I do. I hope they are better able to tell that people have always been diverse, and yet we mix together like marbles in a bag.