Computer Commandos Are Coming For You

Sometime around 2000, they were doing this thing at The Guardian. They’d pack the staff into a tiny room upstairs for some kind of training. If you didn’t know what they were doing in that room, as you walked by, seeing the stiff backs of grown men and women as some stranger talked at them, you’d be confused.

But I could tell that the programme was mandatory, because you heard the workers talk about it in the hallways, at the canteen, in the newsroom. QuarkXpress this, QuarkXpress that.

“Have you taken your QuarkXpress training?”

“Oh me? Never gonna take it.”

“I think they’ll fire you if you don’t do it.”

“Oh for sure? I guess I’ll have to take it then.”

Quark Express. That’s what the training was about.

QuarkXpress was a new, revolutionary piece of software — made newspaper page design a breeze. Before it, God knows how they did page layout. I heard that at a time they literally had to do cut-and-paste. Manual cut-and-paste. But Quark Express, and its cousin Adobe InDesign, finally destroyed all that.

You’d import your text to QuarkXpress, point the cursor where you wanted the text and bam! You could even reflow your copy at any time. It was so easy it made me mad.

I was mad because, a year earlier, I had taken a course in Graphics of Mass Communication — in pursuit of a diploma in Mass Communications.

That course was a crazy witch. Because of it, I could feel the pain of Nigerian computer science students who had to study computer science without ever seeing a computer. Everything in Graphics of Mass Communication was done by hand.

You had to learn the fonts by sight and memorise their shapes and kerning. I knew what Bodoni Bold looked like. You had to plot your pages, estimate the amount of column-inches it would take to run a certain number of words. If you made a mistake, you must get yourself a new dummy sheet (that’s what the page-planning paper was called – no space to teach you the details).

On top of that, GMC was a 4-unit course. Fail it and you would have to come back for an extra semester.

So, imagine my disappointment to find out it didn’t need to be that hard.

I asked one of the lecturers in school why we had to take that course. He said, “You needed to know how to do it with your hands. What if you didn’t have a computer?”

Dude. What?

Are you referring to post-apocalyptic publishing, when mankind would have lost all of its technology and have reverted to the stone ages?

It’s like saying, learn to write on rocks for when you won’t have paper and pen. You know that’s going to be a wild scenario, right?

People who go about saying things like that are the same people who’d choose hardship over convenience.

They’d spare the calculator so they could do algebra with their brain, avoid the vacuum cleaner because they can’t trust those mechanical things — rather use the good old broom. They think the washing machine is for lazy people. It’s the same people who would thump their nose at Canva.

If the job doesn’t break their back, it’s not real.

Someone once said to me: real artists don’t use Canva.

Why? Because real artists prefer to manually trace a picture to remove its background than to click a button and watch that background disappear.

They’d rather endlessly search google for creative commons images than pick from thousands of high-res royalty-free images on Canva.

They’d spend hours to build their logo and poster layouts from scratch than modify any of the thousands of templates on Canva.

It’s the same people who used to say WordPress was not for real web developers.

Today, WordPress powers almost 40% of the world’s sites. I’m great at WordPress by the way.

And Canva. It keeps adding new features and is more intuitive than ever.

Ironically, because of their experience and talent, trained artists should find Canva easy to manipulate for the most astonishing results. If they’d just get off their high horses.

Their propensity for struggle is killing them and wasting my time — as a frequent client.

However hard they may push back, though, AI and automation will still take their jobs. No amount of resistance can defeat advancing technology.

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I poke at ideas to see what's inside. A lot of times I generate my own. Sometimes, people pay for those ideas. And, obviously, I like to tell stories about creativity.

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