Specialist in Graphics Technology

What is the best title for a person who specializes in the technology of delivering graphics these days? We are not talking about a “technical graphic” designer/artist (one who specializes in technical graphics). We’re talking about a person who is a designated (hardware, software, procedural)expert in figuring out solutions to new/unusual technical challenges in delivering any type of graphics.

I’ve seen many people in these roles and have sometimes (accidentally) fallen into them myself. I’ve primarily avoided getting stuck in these positions. But now I’m thinking that I would have been better off embracing them. Creative content work is often misunderstood, misused, abused, over-celebrated, under-compensated, all of the above. At least technical work is a little more WYSIWYG amongst staffing professionals.

Let’s face it, people have always been in this role in graphic-design-related fields. I imagine they predate the graphic design profession and will probably outlive it. Many people who start out as graphic designers gravitate towards these primarily technical roles, and some are pushed into it against their will. Some even come from (IT) information technology, coding, marketing, communication, or administration backgrounds. Whether or not it’s embraced or despised, official or unofficial, primary or secondary, these roles are necessary. If it isn’t the way it should be already, then how should it be?

What should be the official title?

  • Graphic Technologist
  • Graphics Engineer
  • Graphics Production Specialist
  • Production Manager
  • Production Artist (glorified)
  • Multimedia Specialist

0 voters

How should the role be prioritized?

  • Secondary role of every graphic designer
  • Primary role of every graphic designer
  • Designated role (graphic design experience only prerequisite)
  • Designated role (IT/coding experience only prerequisite)
  • Designated role (graphic design and IT/coding experience prerequisites)
  • Designated role (no graphic design or IT/coding experience prerequisites)
  • Secondary role of IT/coding specialist (graphic design experience required)
  • Secondary role of IT/coding specialist (no graphic design experience required)

0 voters

What compensation does the role deserve compared to creative content designers?

  • Less than average
  • Equal to average
  • More than average

0 voters

What compensation does the role deserve compared to IT/coding specialists?

  • Less than average
  • Equal to average
  • More than average

0 voters

I’m gonna qualify my vote here cuz the priority of the role depends on exactly what you mean by “technology.”

Do you mean specifically web-served design? (whether inter or intra)
Or do you mean having the knowledge to produce graphics that work for whatever situation is required and knowing how to specify them? Like signage?

Thanks for weighing in PD. I was especially interested in your feedback.

I do mean whatever situation is required for any delivery medium from print to electronic, web or any other electronic display. I wouldn’t expect that the person be an expert in specifying in terms of syntax or vocabulary of any one particular language. But I would expect that they can specify in general (structural) technical terms. Postscript, Java, C++ would be examples of the former. “Raster,” “vector,” “render,” “halftone,” “meta tag,” “cache,” “buffer,” and “refresh rate” would be examples of the latter. I know those latter terms are pretty basic, but you get the point about structural language.

It isn’t so much the structural language, that can change almost county to county. I talk different words to printers in TX or CA than I would to my local guys. You can’t imagine how many different ways there are to say, “adhere the image to the back side of a piece of non-glare plexiglass so it reads through the non-glare face of the plexi…”
But I digress…

I don’t expect designers to know specific terminology. That can take years and years of specialization that no longer exists in the Graphic Design world. Nor would I expect them to know all the different ways to hang a sign on a wall, or light up a logo, or set up a file for stage scenery or know what product will last 10 years outdoors. What I would more expect though, is at least the ability to sketch what they think they want. That requires some knowledge and research. It might be a rabbit hole sometimes, but at least the ability to discuss options needs to be there.

That’s why it irks me when I see these student projects where they design their office space. That project should not occur until their senior year, it should be prefaced with class presentations and research, and then it should not be quite so forgiving. Are you impressing your clients with rad 2D and 3D decor, or are you doing off-the-shelf tradeshow quality stuff that looks spindly and often cheesy simply because you don’t know what to look for? /rant

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I can see where you are coming from when it comes to dealing with “traditional” (non electronic) media. There’s just too much to know when it comes to dealing with physical material, inks, and press equipment. Structural electronic media language is a bit more standardized and universal.

A graphic production specialist (what I call a “graphics engineer”) doesn’t necessarily need to be a graphic designer. However, they should know enough about what is possible from both a graphic design and a media technology discipline that they can reel in the design from the more creative types just enough to make it possible, and plan production with someone more specialized (like yourself) enough to avoid spending too much money. That requires knowing more of the universal technical language than average.

An example of what I’m talking about, I once had a problem with banding while outputting a banner. My boss was expecting the output techs to fix it. But I knew that I could fix it on my end by dithering the graphics in the file a bit more. If I were more technically skilled, I would have never sent it to output without dithering.

That was decades ago. I’m sure output equipment is higher resolution and more optimized now. At the time, my boss praised the output tech for fixing the problem. But the output tech knew he didn’t change a thing. He just ran the modified file. He was looking at me with an awkward bewildered smile, wondering if I was going to take the deserved credit for fixing it. But that would have meant also taking the deserved blame for sending the original file without dithering. I let him keep the credit, and everyone was happy.

We’re still dithering gradients, LOL. Though 16-bit has helped, it isn’t always placeable in layout programs.

What you’re describing is a more Graphics Technical Consultant. You run into those words together more in the Broadcast design arena where someone really does have to do that kind of coordination on a daily basis. Also Creative Director.

To me the word “Engineer” is too non-creative sounding and implies more structural than graphical interfaces.

That’s actually what I was aiming for. But it doesn’t only apply to interfaces. It can also apply to procedures such as automating the production of graphics, figuring out how to capture images more precisely (like technical photography,) or how to 3D model and animate images more precisely.

I don’t pay much attention to official titles. They’re largely meaningless and vary from one place to the next, as do the jobs themselves. Technician, specialist, coordinator, analyst, engineer, whatever, they’re words that could be applied to most any job.

Aside from the title or the translation from one company to another, what about the role?

With Engineer, to me anyway, there is the implication that the person has some kind of degree or licensing that accompanies their supposed expertise. Most times people cannot just call themselves an engineer.

Unfortunately, in this industry, skill at the level we’re describing here only comes from experience, and often under the tutelage of a very good mentor. Not a lot of that happening any more. I just hope I can retire before the train wreck.

Interesting what comes up when I google “graphics engineer:”

https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/graphics-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,17.htm

Not as much shows up for “graphic production specialist.” It translates to Graphic Production Artist more often than not.

I do a lot of design for print and would attribute this skillset with production artist (singular) or production manager (leader).

I think the challenge in finding the right title for this is it seems to have a different title depending on the industry/location. Independently I’ve heard graphic technician, Graphics specialists; In video, Its sometimes called a digital image specialist. And while not images at all, in audio this person would be an engineer, or engineering assistant. Maybe graphics engineer works?

In terms of role, this might depend on size of the company. In some larger companies there might be a dedicated position for this for assisting company across multiple teams. In smaller teams, those duties probably land on the most tech savvy of the bunch and the ‘specialist’ position eventually creates itself.

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