Johnny-cash-gives-the-birdThese were my considered reasons for not joining the Society of Publication Designers when I first moved to New York. Clearly this was the mindset of a post-punk tabloid-esque European Idiot, when I finally joined a year later I discovered just what a fine resource the SPD really is.

Apart from the world-class work skilfully documented in the SPD annuals, the biggest gift is the community of liked minded souls. It sounds cheesy, but to an Englishman this is another representation of America at its best. The industry here is big enough and inclusive enough to make a group like this work, with it apparently running on nothing more than pure passion, iron resolve and an acceptable level of self-interest.

Editorial design has changed. In fact it’s changed so far and so fast that none of us really know what we’re meant to be doing anymore. Are we now selling ads, managing reader feedback, incorporating native, generating commercial content, or just becoming the primary brand champion?

As ever, the answer is all of things and more. Because the one thing that has not changed, is that design is the only publishing discipline that touches every single part of the user experience, whatever the platform.

My old mentor in the UK, David Hepworth, told me decades ago that ‘how it looks is how it is’, Steve Jobs backed that up when years later he asserted that ‘the interface is the product’.

In my view, we’re all designers now, and that’s a good thing. The tools are free to all; the opportunity for everyone to tell fluent stories through every medium is now taken as read.

But as professionals we have an edge. Like any obsession, the constant mental exercise, the endless visual effort, rethinking, reworking and then retrieving it all from the bin and starting again pays real dividends. We’ve got better eyes, better brains, and often, although not in my case, better dress sense.

So what does the future hold for us, with all this expertise and hard-won experience? Clearly, only a fool would attempt to lay that out. So instead, this fool plans to deliver a bunch of stories over the week that have inspired me, stretched me, and allowed me to borrow a few good ideas for myself.

(This post was first made during my week as guest editor of the SPD blog)

 Image by Jim Marshall