Via Fraser Speirs, an article by Alan J Reid called Instructional Designers Wanted: No Experience Necessary:
Apple recently unveiled its digital book-authoring program, iBooks Author, and I’m scared.
The last three years that I have dedicated to pursuing my Ph.D. in instructional design & technology, which centers on interactive digital text, have given me a new perspective on the delicate balance that is necessary for classroom technologies to be productive and fruitful rather than novel and superficial. The seemingly endless hours that I have spent reading journal articles, writing papers, reading book chapters, taking in lectures, reading conference proceedings, and reading some more, have left me feeling as though I have earned some sort of badge that licenses me to make qualified observations about new educational technologies.
But that’s just the problem; you don’t need to be qualified. iBooks Author allows any Apple user to design and develop an interactive, multitouch textbook. No design experience necessary.
Reid’s text echoes concerns we’ve seen in practically every single industry where digital has marched (and, sometimes, blundered) in and opened up that particular discipline. We’ve heard the same arguments in desktop publishing, photography and web design, and now we’re hearing it about textbooks.
I can’t deny that user-friendly digital products can make things tougher for professionals, because there’s a line of thinking that ‘anyone can do it’. But here’s the thing: eventually, enough companies come to the realisation that everyone can’t do it. I’m seeing graphic designers I know getting more work of late as companies stop faffing about creating their own botched attempts at marketing material and instead get professional designers to produce it. And online, web designers are once again finding that companies are understanding that, no, the MD’s nephew armed with an old copy of FrontPage isn’t the best way to present themselves to the world. These things are always cyclical, with professions mostly reverting to the pros—or at least those professionals who truly are great at what they do.
But that doesn’t mean we should ever rally against opening up creative pursuits to the masses. The fact that anyone can now make a website, or publish some photos, or—in the case of iBooks Author—create an interactive book is a fantastic thing. It means some people will find talents they never knew they had; others may be able to fill niche gaps that professionals and publishers cannot or will not; and in cases where funds simply aren’t available, I’d sooner someone bashes together a (hopefully) factually accurate digital book with perhaps less-than-optimal design using iBooks Author than have those they are teaching go without.
In short, empowering the masses is great; but there will always be room for good designers for things that need good design.