Advertising: A Warning

  • Echerd on Ads

  • Sources of Taste

  • Student Work

   font manipulation

   group project
 • Student Work

   • public service

   • identity: business cards
  • Student Work

   • commercial design

   iWeb gallery

Multimedia Today
As recently as the late 1980's, graphic design and the media arts were the province of specialists. Typesetters set type, photographers worked their darkroom alchemy, cameramen rarely ventured into the video editing booth, and graphic designers perfected the art of pasteup. Those walls of specialization began to crumble, however, with the advent of Adobe software and Apple computers. More than any two companies, Apple and Adobe brought incredible creative power to the desktop. Through computer-based image and audio manipulation software, the average middle class person could suddenly afford equipment that effectively consolidated many creative disciplines. Instead of hiring out her creative work, she could—with online research, reading, trial and error, and "play," become her own designer, advertising specialist, independent videographer, or music producer.

Such revolutions inevitably cause seasoned practitioners to grow defensive. We were the experts, they say, and now our role is being usurped by amateurs. Fair enough. But if the experts are just that—experts—they have nothing to fear. All the equipment in the world does not make a great film producer, audio engineer, or graphic designer. Instead, the media arts must be learned through instruction, experience, observation of others's work, and countless mistakes. That's one of the reasons a course in media arts exists at Harpeth Hall—to formalize this emerging avenue of expression and to make visual literacy the "fourth R," as some have called it, in a student's education.


At Base
Before we begin, it will be helpful to define some terms. Let's start with a definition of graphic design, which author Robin Landa describes as "the application of art and communication skills to the needs of business and industry." Clearly Landa sees this type of work as, in part, commercial—dictated by the needs of real-world clients. That said, there are instances, as in public service design work, when the aims of design are more altruistic than money-driven. The second important feature of her definition is its emphasis on both art and communication. Essentially, graphic design is a VISUAL and a LINGUISTIC medium.

We may want to extend her definition in one respect: design is a RHETORICAL activity—that is, it's an art that aims to persuade. As such, the moves that you learn in English class are very much a part of this endeavor. The graphic artist must demonstrate skill with both words AND images.

How does COMMERICAL art differ from FINE art? The distinction seems obvious: commercial artists have as their primary goal the making of money while meeting the needs of their clients; the fine artist works for more esoteric, less commercial, and more self-directed reasons. While this difference generally holds true, the line between commercial (or "applied") art and fine art can blur. Before we explore that gray area, let's look at the potential rewards and pitfalls of creating commercial art for advertising purposes.

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images and music
— sources or subjects

harpeth hall student artwork
apple computer
adobe corporation
kathleen edwards
robin landa
jason ohler