Just Add Water

Just Add Water Publication design maestro Roger Black announced his latest venture today, Ready-Media, a collection of pre-existing templates for print and web publications. Ready-Media is a joint venture along with David and Sam Berlow of Font Bureau, publication designer Robb Rice, and newspaper designer Eduardo Danilo. The service offers a smorgasbord of already-designed magazines in a variety of formats, city/regional, trade, travel, etc., as well as newspaper and web designs. Clients can choose a variety of fonts online and even see how they'll look in the layouts. The new venture's website states "never before has world-class media design been so available, so accessible, so affordable." Pictured above are two of the formatted templates. Left is the "Trumbull," a city/regional magazine format, and right is "Vernier," for trade and B2B mags. 

Roger Black.jpgMore "world class" magazine formats, which Ready-Media designer Robb Rice says, will leave magazine designers "freed to concentrate on visual content." Left, "Ready Traveler," a travel magazine format. Center, "Lake Shore," another city/regional format. Right, "OCP," for trade and B2B magazines.

  • gl241788q

    Thanks Ready-Media, you just set us all back about 10 years. How many of us have fought hard throughout our careers to have beautiful design work shine in mainstream commercial magazines? Or try to explain to prospective clients during a tough pitch why the typography should be a certain way, finessed just so to give a magazine that perfect typographic personality that will make it stand out from all the others? Not anymore. This cookie-cutter approach is absolute anti-design and will kill any exciting magazine design innovation left out there (which is already fast becoming extinct). What a joke, and absolutely disappointing, especially coming from a "publication design maestro".

  • grace

    Correction...I meant “soul” not “sole...:-)

  • grace

    Very interesting responses everyone! I believe the “standardization” of everything creative including innovative thinking at the university level (now run by big business), is an attack on the creative, independent spirit of humanity.

    It reminds me of the years I used to give tins of homemade cookies to everyone for Christmas. Did they remember the other manufactured presents I gave them? NO! It was always about the homemade cookies made with love they remembered. That’s the analogy I am making with the templates…someone will always want to buy the boxed cookies because they won’t want to take the time to make them. Like someone said on is topic thread, it will be less hassle for a designer to use templates for difficult clients who don’t want to pay but ultimately, they may not be as memorable. On the upside, we don’t have to struggle with technical issues. Difficult clients who don’t want to pay or appreciate what we do are bad enough.

    Technology is a double-edged sword. I am thrilled that I don’t have to do some of the manual stuff I had to do in school to make a presentation. Pantone paper anyone? On the other hand, I am saddened by what is happening. It almost seems as if our “design thinking” is not appreciated, encouraged or shared in the same way it used to be.

    When I was at Ontario College of Art in the early 80’s, the Communication and Design floor was a hustling, bustling place where our desks were in an open concept foyer. In late October, brilliant works of student art were showcased. It was a chance to admire the individual design thinkers, illustrators, photographers and experimental artists at the college.

    In early November 2008, I went to visit OCA(D), now a “university.” As I walked up the steps to the C&D Department, I was excited to see the students’ work showcased along the walls just like in the 80’s. When I got there, nothing was up on the walls. The open foyer that once was home to many desks with artists in lively conversation sharing ideas and stories was a pretty bleak place and not a sole was around.

    I remembered when Dr. Fleck was pushing for OCA to become a university. There was a huge uproar from experimental artists, designers, illustrators, photographers and some teachers. They even went so far as to make buttons saying “Fleck Off” which was hilarious at the time but what good did it do? They got what they wanted. Some teachers up and quit in protest through the years when they found out that practical classes were going to be replaced by more “theory” classes.

    I have a university degree too and trust me, it took me 4 years of OCA to unwind and find my design thinking voice. Years of freelancing actually helped too.

    Technology has effects beyond design. It has leveled hierarchies and has scrubbed off our identities to some degree. It’s up to us to navigate through the shifting language. This conversation sure helps me not feel alone about what I think is happening in the graphic design profession. Some great designers have left the industry and I can’t say that I blame them.

    I read in an Applied Arts article about an illustration teacher who was concerned that his students were having a difficult time expressing themselves emotionally in their art. I wonder if technology and its effects have something to do with that.

  • Scott

    Many interesting points - and assumptions, presented here in response to Black's venture. While templates, "FiftyDollarLogos.com"-style websites and the like are on the rise, it's true that these resources will generally be used to fulfill only a certain portion of the market. Worth noting that this market share is all these resources need to justify their existence in a capitalist economy. As someone mentioned above, demand gives rise to supply. So, yes, these publication templates will yield cookie-cutter airline magazine results - but if there's a market for that, then it's fair game (hey, we need something to read on the plane, right?)

    But don't assume, Jeremy LaCroix, that "you my friend don't want those jobs." While the graphic design community ogles the year-end annuals from Print magazine (design judged by designers, not by actual market results), the reality for many designers is that such work is their bread and butter, allowing them to take on pro-bono or lower paying but more creatively interesting work. You're are right, Jeremy, that trade newsletters and such aren't really that much fun and won't make us famous designers (if that's your thing), but it's still legit work for some of designers.

    This "low-end" market is one that Paula Scher and Pentagram probably won't have to worry about much as their clientele probably (hopefully) understands what they're buying and why (i.e. custom design work from a noted design studio).

    Graphic designers are only just realizing what the music recording industry has already learned: technology changes the game whether we (designers/craftspeople/technicians) like the results or not. Many of the major analog recording studios have withered and disappeared as digital recording technology became increasingly capable. Recording engineers will complain about the loss of fidelity in compressed, downloaded audio heard via ear bud-style headphones, but the general public wants convenience, not quality. Sell that analog gear and learn Pro Tools or die. There's always some room for a couple of Steve Albini analog-purist types, but the rest had to change and hit the ground running.

    Yes, this will only make custom work stand out all the more, but don't assume, Paula, that "This always shakes out, no matter where it comes from. Trust me. I've watched this cycle for forty years." Maybe in your corner, hopefully for the rest of your lifetime. But as the global economy changes, so too does the game. Coding capabilities will only grow - far beyond anything we can currently imagine. Remember, 40 years ago, there were a lot more magazines in print than today; many have gone belly up. 40 years ago we didn't have social media, crowd sourcing, and I-pads. Jump ahead beyond the scope of this conversation and consider for a moment where nanotechnology might be in a couple of 40 year cycles...(don't worry, Paula, we'll both be dead by then...or maybe not!).

    (I imagine the letterpress printer complained bitterly when the offset press muscled in.)

    More than ever, we have to educate our current and potential clients about what their B2B purchases will get them (cookie cutter vs. custom). And we may have to work harder and learn new skills to better serve them (and win/keep their business). If you're really all that, then go prove it.

  • Rich Hollant

    There are precedents to this throughout our industry.

    You can build a website from templates using Wordpress (or less sophisticated tools). Our invoices are templated. Microsoft Word offers templates for every document imaginable. We can buy well-cut and considered type for $30 a face. I'm old enough to remember the outrage when cheap downloadable type was available—it was going to be the end of design as we knew it—and in a way, it was. It made design better... I got to spend more time thinking ans less time specing type and waiting for galleys. In fact, a pretty talented designer who posted a comment just a few statements above developed a set of templates for HP that served as both an improvement of the template form and a useful aid in getting across the context of design at the street-level. No harm, no foul...

    Templates are tools in response to a demand. Our responsibility to our profession is to help increase the level of discernment on the street-level. We are design thinkers (as opposed to text box shufflers or style sheet applicators). This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the value of what we do by contrast with the work done without the insights we have as design thinkers.

    A favorite statement of mine from Virilio's Pure War [ Semiotext(e) ] : Every technology produces, provokes, programs a specific accident. The invention of the airplane is the invention of the plane crash.

    I don't think this is as cynical as it appears initially. It highlights a part of invention that is simply inevitable. A user-friendly open source community is a great invention. Creative folks craved it and love it. Unfortunately, open source, by definition, isn't just for creatives. It's for everyone.

    Sure I can see that more access to better "organized" publishing content in the world using whatever tools necessary to create forward movements that are overall better organized with a lower time-to-market rate. That's a tremendous benefit. However, what gets me excited is when design thinkers invest less energy in designing vehicles that only marginally benefit from their thought leadership, but focus more intensely on the game shifting publications that call for cowboys and pioneers. That's what keeps us from becoming commodities. Doing work for clients who only expect (and hence will only pay for) mediocrity brings all of us down. Forward them the link to the templates and polish the relationships with those that know the difference. And get in front of business people in the forums where they convene and respectfully share the difference between thought and template.

blog comments powered by Disqus