Graphic designers – the silent revolutionaries of modern day society

When a new CEO is appointed, often at the top of his or her agenda is a new company logo. Same as when you’re favorite restaurant is bought by a new owner – it’s likely to change its name as well as the logo you are all too familiar with. After all, what better way to project the enterprise’s redirected mission as well as to stamp the authority of the new regime? Carmen Gunkel, head of department: graphic design, at the Design School Southern Africa, examines that often forgotten critical role that graphic designers play in our day to day decisions as well as their impact on our value system.

We live in a world so profoundly and silently shaped by the work of graphic artists, and yet when we think of their work, we often only associate it with that of artists that design logos and packaging for our favorite, and at times not so favorite, brands. These range from the cereal we eat every morning, to the designer label of our favorite jacket, to the emblem on your trusted sports car. While it is true that commercial entities have over the years effectively perfected their exploitation of these imaginative energies in manipulating us to purchase their products or access their services; so too have politicians, opinion leaders and governments understood the potency of graphic devices and are content to invest large sums of money in their creation.

For instance, when you’re driving and you come across a sign indicating a school crossing ahead, you instinctively know to slow down. When you see the South African flag or the Protea and Springbok emblems, you’re often filled with national pride because of the symbolism behind them. When you cast your vote next to the poster of your favorite political party, you do so in the hope that they become the next government. All those decisions and emotions are influenced greatly by the graphic artist behind the design of these elements.

Despite their presence in daily life, those responsible for our posters, advertisements, lettering, labels, packages, census forms, websites, maps, instruction manuals and even our ballot papers, among many other things, attract little popular attention or criticism, except when something goes wrong. Their work is often unsigned and, just as often, unremarked on.

It is because of this intrinsic understanding of the role of design in society that the Design School Southern Africa (DSSA), a cornerstone of the local design industry, has for the past 25 years laid the foundation to mold innovative creative’s that shape the context of both industry and society.

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) Higher Certificate in Art and Design develops student’s creative thinking skills through teaching conceptual development techniques which are then applied in the foundation design and visual studies subjects. Whereas The IIE BA degree in Graphic Design is an intensive three year full time qualification, is designed to supply students with a sound platform from which to enter this dynamic and expanding field. Students who desire to engage with graphic design on a higher intellectual and professional level go on to do The IIE Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in Graphic Design through part time study.

As an educational brand of The IIE, the leading registered provider of higher education in South Africa, DSSA harnesses pioneering and challenging teaching techniques in an environment that supports an understanding and awareness of social values and differences. This process focuses on learning through application, with a unique balance of theory and practical skills, to develop an individual voice for students as they solve visual challenges in a creative manner.

As the modern world continues to evolve, so too will we continue to develop and train graphic designers who understand as well as assert their social function strongly.

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