I go back a bit further than most here.
I remember what graphic design was about in the mid-'70s. There were no computers and no do-it-yourself solutions for average business owners who had no idea how to use our tools. When they needed something printed, they described what they needed to a local printer, then the printer — rarely with any design training — would do his best.
Trained graphic designers (commercial artists) had been around at design studios and ad agencies in big cities for years, but they were fewer and much further between than today. Most of the time, we were regarded as an extravagance, people that bigger companies hired, and ad agencies used to help make their services more appealing to consumers.
With the Macintosh, desktop publishing began to take off in the mid-1980s, and it gradually changed everything. Suddenly, graphic designers with computer skills were in high demand. When the internet and digital cameras came along, they changed things again. Relatively cheap digital printing changed it even further.
Over the course of a few years, the profession expanded as every business owner needed their promotional materials to look as good as their competitors’ materials. In other words, there became a vibrant lower- and mid-range demand for the work that hadn’t existed before.
In some ways, the field is going full circle, the mid- and lower-range clients are moving to even cheaper overseas work or using do-it-yourself, template-based online solutions, which for them, work fine. The printers take their work, fix it as needed, and print it.
As was the case since sometime in the 1950s, higher-end clients with bigger budgets will still need custom solutions. They’re not going to spend a million dollars on a promotional campaign, then have an administrative assistant put something together using Canva.
Unfortunately, this change will leave the majority of graphic designers, who are still entering the field in record numbers, without work or working for meager wages doing odds and ends.
I got into the field at the right time, rode the wave for a few decades, and will be leaving it at just the right time too. I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I can’t help feeling a bit sad about the whole thing.