Once again, we find ourselves inspired by the cosmic optimism of a new millennium. I can recall being seven years old, skimming the pages of the y2k space issue of Chickadee magazine—a formative work of print marked by an explosion of post-modern typography, textures, and ideas that set me on this course of helping to define the next stage of human visualization, through design.
My time at Night Shift thus far has granted me the freedom, (at a relatively young age in designer years) to cultivate my craft and skills in a way that builds upon those early foundations. We are a studio that sets high standards for our work, in both conception and execution, balancing those strong goals with longevity and sustainability in mind.
Art and design trends move like seasons in solar orbit, ideally cycling back under a new lens as we grow through time. This is true of the recent trends of the last decade. Most notably, we’ve adapted the craft for automation. The day Apple released iOS 7, with its vector interface felt like the true dawn of digital design. What followed was strangely, a speedrun of romanticizing the entire latter half of the 20th century; through art, music, fashion, and film. Design became a codified system of styles that made life less stressful for the creative brain, and therefore almost unchallenged. It was too easy to quickly exploit these systems and their outputs—soulless, iterative, digital images mass produced via a series of mathematical equations have become the new expectation. It feels as if humans have become starved of meaningful innovation. Especially now, we recontextualize periods of careful, authentic evolution into cheap commodities, that those controlling the means of production hope will be enough to satiate that strange void within us begging for something more. I mean, they keep feeding us the same capeshit flick that clings on the back of coin-op titles and 8-bit dialogue, and really thought we wouldn’t notice.
How do we confront this phenomenon of feeling starved of meaning? Has postmodernism finally run its course of good ideas? In retrospect, those neon-coloured hipster grills from 2011 were terrible for your eyesight. Have we reached the apex of our creative capacity, opting for comfortably packaged familiarity, to be effortlessly marketed and consumed? Or is the truth that we can no longer pretend the way in which we regulate ourselves, and our professional practices are sustainable?
Admittedly, I’m enjoying reliving this resurgence of the neo-futurism of my youth, but I know that we still struggle to leverage that kind of idealism in our professional practice. In the coming years, creatives working within the industry will continue to be challenged in overcoming rigid calculation. Artists and designers will fight to defend the integrity of our livelihoods over the rise of AI, in a world where true innovation continues to be stifled by the consolidation of power and profit, and that absolute maximum click through rate.
I think it’s only inevitable that there will be an enlivened demand for radical creativity. We’re already seeing it, with streaming services stumbling to put out easy content that sustains an audience, when that audience is demanding a higher caliber of experience. Designers will utilize our ever developing repertoire of tools to create stories and brands that are grounded and compelling, while still packaged for the digital future. We hold the means to turn all of this around in our favour. If I’m drawing upon that ‘familiar optimism’, I’ll think of this turbulent moment as a revised starting point from which we can visualize the 21st century—hopefully into a world that genuinely seeks to overcome challenges rather than become accustomed to them— to truly make life better for more people. I envision the concept of human-centered design put to the forefront of the process, and that we’ll continue to expand the reach of what this means—in our workflow, its impact, and its longevity. There’s so much work to do. I’ve already got one foot off the ground.