Nico Macdonald | Spy   Communication, facilitation, research and consultancy around design and technology

The future shape of graphic design and visual communication
22 September 2004, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London
Panel as part of the Interact1 series of events and exhibition, sponsored by PlayStation®2

102 Seddon House
Barbican, London
United Kingdom
[was 103 Seddon House]

 Online map


The London College of Communication planned a parallel series of events and an exhibition, under the banner Interact1, looking forward to the future of graphic design. These events were complementary to the Communicate exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, and included an exhibition and seminar series. The exhibition ran from 23 September–28 October at the Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle. [Map]

Discussion and Post-event notes

Notes will be posted during the week of 18 April [was 21 March – been kind of busy]. LCC can’t find the audio of panel.


Nick Bell, Una (London)
Patrick Burgoyne, editor, Creative Review
Hugo Manassei, Graduate Pioneer Director, NESTA
Nico Macdonald (chair), writer and interactive media consultant


The objectives of the panel were to:

  • Develop a better understand the future of graphic design and visual communication and what is shaping it
  • Consider how practice and organisation might change to increase the impact of these disciplines
  • Consider how design education and research needs to develop to support this and the development of design knowledge

Panelist’s themes (top level)

Patrick Burgoyne

With developments in software, graphic designers can get involved in things that aren’t just about print, such as film, exhibition graphics, interactive media. Some projects that can’t even be categorised.

New people coming into graphic design from other routes (such as product design), and this will push things in a different direction. They also have different heroes.

Design solutions are tending to be lead by the idea that they won’t just be on paper, so they don’t need to start from there.

Hugo Manassei

Not into predicting the future, but I think some interesting trends that we that may indicate where visual communication is heading

We need to split ‘Design’ into two: Designer Makers and Design, which is a process of receiving information, exploring interesting problems or situations and coming up with creative ideas around those situations to produce design solutions

Two trends in Visual Communications channels: almost all distribution channels developed over the last 100 years are broken, and as a result visual communications by way of advertising spend are being de-prioritised. Second, we are overloaded with images and the focus of marketing is about getting messages to people through channels other than their eyes.

This is leading to a blurring of media. But quality is also becoming more critical and designers have to be brilliant in order to differentiate themselves

We will see a diversification of design thinking. The brilliant Design Maker will be ineven more demand than ever. But there will also be a new type of visual designer, who develops ideas that weave into people’s consciousness in new ways.

Nick Bell

Formally and in aesthetic terms graphic design hasn’t changed that much but there are other things that have changed in immeasurably

Marketing departments and brand guidelines impose completely different agendas to designers’. They lack and understanding about what it is or what it is for. Graphic design becomes the mechanism through which strategies are acted out.

This is a product of design discovering it could be great service.

We are not getting as close to the people in power as our predecessors.

Biggest change in graphic design is ways of thinking about end users, prompted by the Web. On the Web graphic designers need to build on the tradition of making information accessible.

Possible themes for discussion

  • Background: technological, business, social, political, cultural, geographical

  • Relationship of design to clients/business

  • Relationship of design to people

  • Changing nature of design

  • New influences

  • De-skilling and New areas of learning

  • Ethics, social role of design and design activism

  • Challenges

  • Future of education/students

  • Design research

  • Design discourse in public, in print, online


Chair’s introduction: 5-10 minutes
Panelist’s comments: 5-7 minutes each
Chair questions to panellists: up to 10 minutes
Audience points and questions: 40 minutes
Summation and finish by 9:30 pm


Last updated:
Nico Macdonald | Spy 2005