To Infinity and Beyond

Reflecting on the past, I’m amazed how accurately history repeats itself. Technology and luxury change drastically to fulfill the visions of Tomorrowland, but the essence of what we do is cyclical and will repeat through the generations in years to come.

I remember, as a child, I loved visiting my dad at work. “Channel 41 – WUHQ – Battle Creek/Kalamazoo!”

I remember walls of layouts, all hand cut, rubber cemented, Xeroxed and photographed. Volumes of Letraset clip art binders and dry transfer lettering over hundreds of colors of markers and watercolors. I’d watch him sketch a layout in non-photo blue during the day and see the same graphic that weekend on TV. He’d occasionally put me in commercials and I’d get to see the whole crew in action; it was so neat how they used simple effects like smoke cookies and lens filters to make a backyard look like a Wild West ranch on the Ponderosa.

Thinking back, I now realize as a web designer, I am following directly in his footsteps. Essentially, my father was an artist who took his skills with traditional arts and materials and experimented with the advancing technologies of communication. My Letraset is Shutterstock ( …and Google), my Xerox is Photoshop, my graphics have taken on a third and fourth dimension and the screens I communicate through are of desktop, tablet, and mobile variety.

As I grew, I saw the industry change for my father and I watched his methods change to keep ahead of the game. Eventually the typewriter, photocopier, lens effects, graphics, and editing gear all shrunk down into one little Intel-based box on his desk. No more paper cuts. No more fumes from spray mount and carbon arc lights. It’s almost laughable the difference in size of broadcast cameras from using giant off-board Betacam cartridges to today’s built-in, bite-size memory cards.

It all makes me wonder, what will MY office look like in 30 years? My career is fairly young, and I can certainly joke about how serious I was with Hypercard and 16-bit graphics 15 years ago, but I can’t even fathom what the future holds for the tools of our trade. I just know that like my father, I must adapt to whatever changes may come. I have personally seen tradesmen get left behind in architecture, television, and formal illustration and it’s taught me that time is unstoppable and if you don’t leap headfirst into the future, you will go the way of the vinyl LP.

I was fortunate to have a family that always kept computers in the house and a school with a decent computer lab. Equally important, however, is that I was able to speak to a few key old folks about how they got where they are. I ran into a few discouraging folks here and there – some bitter about not attaining their dreams, and some just resentful of their own obsolescence. Remembering these things is why I’ve made a certain resolution for the New Year and I encourage others to join me. We can’t predict the future, but, if we remember that it’s fueled by the past, we can certainly guide it. Not just by doing our best at what we do, but by passing on what we have learned and supporting the youth and their education. It is through the youth that the wildest dreams become reality and innovation becomes tradition. As we head into 2012, lets make the time to blog about our experiences or post tutorials on recent work we’ve done. Let’s take every opportunity to speak to youth and encourage them to go beyond and never to be afraid of the new thing. Let’s reflect on the things our mentors taught us and pass along the things we’ve found to be right on. Let’s be sure to support our local schools and ensure that a fully rounded education, including art, music, and accurate history can be attained. I think this is important even if you don’t have kids of your own, because the youth of today will be in charge sooner than you know. The future is here – and some of them are kind of scared – sometimes all they need is to know that we’ve all been there and we’re still standing. Furthermore, be sure to listen to what the youth have to say. We’ve all got some growing to do, at any age, and a fresh perspective can pull you out of a rut. 

So, its 2012 and we’ve got our robot maids, video phones and flying cars – but let’s not define ourselves by what we can have, let’s define ourselves by what our community and our children can be. Teach your children well and love thy neighbor. We’re all in this together – Happy New Year!