Design in the Twenty-first Century
By TIM JACOBY and MOLLY REINHOUDT
Having come of age at a time when the computer was introduced and subsequently embraced as a radical new design tool and solution, I and other designers of my generation are seeing it now dominate almost every aspect of design. Design is fundamentally idea-oriented, and designers carry profound influence in their power to shape and communicate cultural concepts. The future of design lies as much in this active and critical role within society as it does in the further development of technology.”
A Professional Designer’s Perspective
COLUMBUS—Tim Jacoby is an experienced creative professional with more than ten years of experience designing websites, videos, DVD interfaces, and printed work. His design career began with a host of corporate clients, including Nationwide Financial Services, Sanford Fine Writing, and CompuServe Interactive Services, where he designed for a proprietary, pre-Mozilla user interface. “This was before there was a visual interface for the World Wide Web and the CompuServe browser was the only game in town,” he states.
In addition, Jacoby has designed extensively for the arts, including the first website and virtual tours of historic local theaters for the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and animation, research, and interactive design for choreographer William Forsythe and the Forsythe Company, Frankfurt. While pursuing his MFA at The Ohio State University, he spent three years in the award-winning Design Department at The Wexner Center for the Arts, where he created visual designs for the online Wexner Center Store, monthly film/video brochures, posters, postcards, advertising, and installation graphics and gallery signage. In addition, he took product shots for the Store and panoramic photography of exhibition galleries and installations. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such a great design shop, such amazing designers. I learned more about typography and layout in the time I was there than I had in my entire career.”
Before beginning his graduate degree, Jacoby was the Art Director for an e-business consultancy in Chicago’s Loop, where his responsibilities included new business development and managing a team of designers and information architects. He left Chicago in 2003 to travel abroad, deepening his fascination with art, architecture, and design. Reflecting on the experience, he claims it opened his eyes to the importance of design in the real world. “I saw so many beautiful places, so many beautiful things, so many things that seemed to work perfectly,” he says. At the time, he had considered an abrupt career change—returning to school to study physics—but his experiences abroad had a profound effect on him, leading him back to design. “I found myself constantly studying way-finding systems and maps for subways and mass transit. They were these beautiful, wonderful little gems. Brilliant. Wonderful parks. I remember visiting the bookstore at the Barcelona Pavilion, being around all these exquisitely designed books, this amazing building I’d studied in school. How could I abandon all this?” Several months later, Mr. Jacoby enrolled in graduate school, vowing to somehow combine two of his passions: video and interactive media.
Teaching. Learning. Collaborating.
Mr. Jacoby currently teaches full-time in the Department of Industrial, Interior, and Visual Communication Design at The Ohio State University, which U.S. News & World Report continually ranks as one of the top industrial design programs nationally. Teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses such as Information Design, Typography, Design History, as well as sophomore foundation studios, he believes the collaborative and interactive nature of his courses are his greatest reward. “I’m continually amazed at the level of invention and creativity here,” Jacoby says, “and I find the entire process inspiring and extremely humbling. What I love the most is that every solution is unique. I always wonder ‘how in the world did they come up with that?’” Regardless of the novelty and aesthetic appeal of their creations, Jacoby hopes to instill an appreciation for the larger cultural context of their work—that is, he hopes for responsible design. “It wasn’t until a few years ago that I’d even heard of sustainable design, but it seems to be something students know about. My hope is that they can keep their idealism” after the realities of professional practice intercede, but he has high hopes. “Design is one of those fields where the work you do actually matters. We care about what we do. I don’t think they’ll give up their values so easily.”
Reflecting. Adapting. Innovating.
Jacoby is convinced that changes in technology should be embraced by designers and he is particularly interested in merging high-quality video and animation within robust web-based user interfaces, including tablets. The end result, he states, will completely change the way educational content, in particular, is delivered. “Universities everywhere have begun to create their own videos, which are typically poorly lit, poorly shot, and poorly edited,” he says. Furthermore, these educational videos are often limited to recordings of talking heads in lecture halls or even simpler white-board presentations and usually exist as stand-alone segments, with no effective way to track student progress, integrate them with testing, or hyperlink them to related material. Jacoby believes that there is a huge opportunity for improvement here, if the unique skill sets of designers, animators, and filmmakers are tapped. The majority of his graduate school colleagues with a focus on animation left after graduation to work with firms like Pixar and Dreamworks, which “is unfortunate,” he says, “because their skills are needed in academia.” Jacoby notes that the hard sciences, engineering, medicine, and architecture, in particular, are wide open. “With a relatively inexpensive camera, a couple of good lenses, and some editing and animation software, we’re in business.” Because the production capabilities of small, dedicated teams has so astronomically improved in the past few years, high-quality work is now possible on a budget. What this means, according to Jacoby, is a change in the game: like-minded people coming together to create media-rich, high-quality, targeted interactive content, that can be widely distributed through robust content-management systems—without going broke. “It won’t happen overnight, but its coming. And designers, animators, and educators should be very excited.”