Time to reconsider Photoshop? The digital creative toolkit in 2013

Time to reconsider Photoshop? The digital creative toolkit in 2013

Imagination experience labs

Imagination's blog for industry insight, innovation, inspiration and general life contemplation.
  • Martyn Gooding
  • Digital Creative Director

Time to reconsider Photoshop? The digital creative toolkit in 2013

We write a lot of job specs here at Imagination, and fortunately we are lucky to be able to recruit interesting creative talent.

We’d like to think we’re pretty forward-thinking in what we need from candidates. So, rather than keeping our requirements to the job specs, I’d thought I'd share some opinions on where a digital creative’s hands-on skills need to lie in 2013.
Partly this is due to frustration borne out of young people in the industry making potentially career-affecting mistakes. But also as a bit of a kick up the **** to keep us all relevant.
But, before we start, a comment on a phrase we hear too much:
“I don’t do digital”
We’ve heard 22 year olds say this. With (if you’re lucky) 40 years ahead of you in your design career, you can’t be making yourself irrelevant this soon. Besides, even designing for print is done on computers, so learn what a pixel is and stop siloing yourself.
Now on to the main skills:
Pen and paper
Not being able to draw even basic scamps is crazy if you’re a creative person. How did you get to being a professional designer if you didn’t draw as a kid? We all went to art class, so not being able to draw, for me, is a bit of deal breaker.
If you need to communicate your ideas quickly and easily, there’s no better way.
There was a time when Coldplay and Simon Cowell were unknown. Big Brother hadn’t happened and TVs were fish bowl shaped and as deep as the Mariana Trench.
This was a good time to be using Flash as a layout and animation tool.
I actually animated a TV title sequence in it once. It was the new thing to be using and to be able to output for broadcast and the web was a very useful skill to have.
But now... not so much. Yes, you can output to iOS and Android apps, but you’re unlikely to need those skills outside of a hobby as a designer.
Leave it as the ‘Flash in the pan’ it was. If you’re young and thinking of learning it you’d be better off looking further down this list.
HTML, Actionscript - or any other dev language
We’re past the days of designers coding and deploying websites. Dev teams are broad and varied. HTML, CSS, AJAX etc are mature languages where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Even for personal sites there’s really usable front-ends and content management systems. So there’s really not a great deal of need to be able to write code so long as you can work with and understand the most complex language used by developers: the one that comes out of their mouths.
Yeah, it’s awful. Get over it. You have to use it.
I’m going to say this is becoming less useful. Which will be controversial.
I don’t believe it’s a redundant skill at all, but other software exists that is far more powerful in creating visuals than this. Illustrator is a far better tool for graphic design and for everything else, you have:
After Effects
The last decade has seen digital imagery spring into life with the requirement for animation becoming more and more frequent.
After Effects’ tool set has become so powerful with its 3D capabilities and plug-ins that we find visualising work as part of the production pipeline is often easier when running work straight into After Effects Art Directors than Photoshop Art Directors.
And when that doesn’t work, we have:
Cinema 4D
Ten years ago, you could get this cheap on cover CDs of Macworld. It was very much in the shadow of Maya, 3D Studio Max and Lightwave.
Now, it couldn’t be more different. It’s amazingly intuitive and easy to use. It’s a far faster and more powerful visualisation tool than Photoshop and not anything like as complex to use as 3D software a generation ago. It really should be a part of the digital designer’s skill set.
And some other bits:
Social media
I really expect people working in this industry to be tweeting and blogging, even video blogging. Not because they feel they have to. But because their interest and curiosity leads them to. Social media is becoming so ingrained into common society that my Dad tweets and uses Instagram. If he does, and budding digital creatives don’t, questions need to be asked.
When I get a CV, I’ll go looking for Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram activity. Not to find incriminating evidence to use in the salary negotiations, but to see how socially active they are. If you’re finding, tweeting and commenting on modern culture, then you’re clearly going to be full of good ideas. Retweeting celebrity #YOLO statements doesn’t count.
Serious bonus points if you’re dabbling with Sina Weibo too.
Arduino or toys - internet-connected objects should be drawing your interest. Even if it’s just that you have a limited-edition season one Spyro from Skylanders, it’s a great time to be playing around on the cheap with physical/digital objects.
And with that, I’ll throw it over to the comments. This is an individual perspective, that I’m sure people will have alternative views on. What do you think? Let us know.


Great comments Will. Clearly

Great comments Will. Clearly if people also have skills like cinder and processing then that's great. But as a broad skill set for a visual person we see the above as fundamentals.

These opinions seem to be

These opinions seem to be gross oversimplifications of the state of the industry. Flash is just "flash in the pan", designers should stay away from code, photoshop is on its way out...

but somehow powerpoint's important? Wow.

The landscape of Flash has definitely changed and - though Im a big fan of it - the fact that we'll be seeing less is maybe a good thing, as much Flash out there is poorly done and needn't be Flash anyway. Still though, kind of sounds like you're just on the Steve Jobs bandwagon like everyone else. I recently spoke to an amazing, world class digital designer (who's terribly skilled at coding despite it being a secondary skill to him). He wouldn't call himself a Flash designer despite winning numerous big-deal awards through his work in it. He did, however, tell me that he believes Flash is and will continue to grow into a tool for experimenting with real world, novel interfaces.

I would think this is important to a company like yours, given your focus on installations. Which brings me to my next point:

Processing? Quartz Composer? Cinder++ ? Why haven't you mentioned any of these? Oh, because you dont think codings important. Im pretty sure this line of thinking is leftover from the industrial revolution, before we realized that knowledge-based work doesnt scale up the same way assembly line work in factories does. The distinction between designer and developer is pretty arbitrary in my opinion. Not to say every designer should be a serious dev or vice versa, but its merely a holdover in thinking that causes many to believe doing both well is unfeasible. The split also makes it convenient to manage people within company hierarchies - ie: rate their pay level, promote them, distribute work on projects, etc. Fred Brooks had already disproved the existence of the Mythical Man Month like three decades ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythical_man_month)

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