Digital Design News

“It’s Now 2016, Time to Ban the Word Digital” but then what?

The word digital is becoming an irrelevance, with its use as a proxy or synonym for modern or innovative , it’s increasingly redundant, but worse than that it’s destroying the way businesses can exploit the new power of technology. – Tom Goodwin

Tom Goodwin’s article on LinkedIN – whilst providing an interesting semiotic point, I believe misses the function of ‘digital’ as a term of clarification for non-technical individuals for identifying the ‘channel’ which is the subject of the term. The term digital is a helpful adjective which for the business community provides a clear meaning. You hire a digital agency to create your website or marketing email or iPhone app. Digital makes it clear who and what you are dealing with – and often the type of person or people you are dealing with. A digital designer is a different animal to a graphic designer specialising in the design of business cards. The physical world of the graphic designer is a very different environment, requiring it own unique thought methods and set of experiences.

The clear lines around the term itself have been blurred for the the consumer however. Taking the example of the person sitting on the couch watching ‘digital TV’ on their flat screen whilst interacting with their iPad, the reality is that ‘digital TV’ is not the digital product because it is not the interactive experience. The iPad is the device which delivers the ‘digital’ experience and because t has a unique set of capabilities, the expectations for the design & development are different. Certainly the digital design process is far removed from the non-digital design process because consumerΓÇÖs requirements from digital experiences.

Digital is a non-linear, dynamically constructed dialogue – so whilst a YouTube video is not a digital experience, an interactive movie which builds itself from a profile of your most recent Facebook activity┬áis┬áa digital product – and needs the label to be effectively identified. I have worked with ‘digital’ for over 20 years now and seen what I do evolve from ‘multimedia’ to ‘new media’ to ‘e-‘ stuff to ‘digital’. Originally the term digital referred to the encoding method for distribution (binary code) but is now synonymous with method of interaction (most often a screen). Digital is now at itΓÇÖs heart an adjective to describe the wonderful world of interaction that is available to us under out finger tips.

Technologies such as augmented reality & virtual reality are different to digital and maintain their unique definition because they are a different method of interaction. The device through which you interact with the environment is unique in form – even though the information is essentially still digital (or coded information). So it is possible to have a digital website (say a standard WordPress website), an interactive website (an HTML5 website which is reactive to userΓÇÖs gesture movements) or a virtual reality website (which interacts with & presents information in a physical environment – even if it is digital).

‘Digital’ is here to stay, ensuring clarity for businesses who need to identify different areas of business and who to get to do the creative & development process. And I, for one, am happy to continue to be an expert in digital.

Jan-Erik Paul
Chief Ideas Director & Digital Expert, E-creation