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  • Writer's pictureStephen Nderitu

The Changing Faces of Graphic Design in an Era of 'Digital First'

I graduated with my graphic design degree from UoN back in 2004, that's 20 years ago! We were the first batch in the Design Department to use computers in design work then, after we went on strike in ADD to get a few desktops for classwork in 3rd year I remember. Almost all design work went to print those days. Posters, magazines, banners, pamphlets-everything.


From a very early stage, as back as 2006, I knew I could not just settle with being a graphic designer. I couldn’t just spend the rest of my life with Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. I knew I wanted more.

Fast-forward to 2024, we live on a totally different planet. First of all, most of what is produced today is a slave of social media trends and mobile-first/digital-first approach. Everything we produce will have to be formatted and packaged for online platforms. You will even design a banner for print and the client will tell you, give me a jpeg for facebook, Twitter and IG.


Then of course graphic designers, like other professionals in creative and comms, have become magicians. We now have to do Adobe After Effects, edit videos, take photos everyday, create copy, learn digital marketing and of course, learn to prompt Firefly, Midjourney and Dalle-E. We are not graphic designers any more. We will soon learn how to part the Red See.


At a photo exhibition with Women Rep Esther Passaris. When I found a comfort zone in photography, I went all out, that for many years I was the Chair of the Photographers Association, a field that greatly compliments graphic design, but now watered down by AI and other industry disruptions.

One other huge disruption in our visual design space is the accessibility or availability of design tools. Canva leads the pack, then Capcut have their free design platform, and numerous others. Liberalized now, not the high society we were back then. Everyone now can do a Valentines poster, a birthday invite, and a happy new year poster. But we are still waiting for you to create brand manuals and complete professional campaigns. Hapo mtang'ang'ana kiasi.


One other huge disruption in our visual design space is the accessibility or availability of design tools. Canva leads the pack, then Capcut have their free design platform, and numerous others.


Finally, we are in the middle of an exponential demand for visual content (for daily posting on socials). This also means content has to be produced faster and sooner- no time to wait and get approvals by bureaucratic art directors and creative directors. Ni kusonga kusonga!


I hope that as you craft your content strategies, design your own posters, carve an online brand and do digital marketing, you are completely in touch with the latest trends in visual communication design. This will help you be more effective and efficient.

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