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If the Web is the New Canavas, Who are the New Masters?

Friday, June 17, 2011 - 10:30

When visual communication was rendered through oil on canvas one would not have a hard time arguing that it was the oil, and not the canvas that mattered most. While a well-crafted substrate was essential it was also something to take for granted. The great masters were painters and the skill with which they applied their medium was the measure of that greatness.

Today’s canvas of choice is the web. It is so powerful, dynamic and ubiquitous that it has devoured all other forms of media. Music, theater, film and even traditional art are now most commonly seen on the Internet. Often times created for the sole purpose of being consumed there.

But if we accept the web is the modern canvas it is important to ask what happened to the old masters – the visual types whose artistry was commissioned by popes and kings? It would be logical to say their modern descendants are now the visual designers and the content creators. A conclusion that would appear to suggest a great turning of the tables has occurred.

I say that because Netflix, a purveyor of movies on the web, now is the financial envy of the major motion picture studios that create them. Professional writers and journalists have seen their works reduced to the level of being a commodity. Meanwhile musicians see diminished returns on a la carte song downloads while Apple’s profits soar.

Even visual designers have seen their creative opportunities marginalized by the limitations of what their CMS will output or the overly prescriptive wireframes of an architect.

So who’s your master now?

If you follow this line of thought it is of course the developer. Not necessarily the coders, but those that are responsible for innovating the web itself. After all, it is their creativity that has spawned the likes of aforementioned as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. All of which are platforms less renowned for their aesthetic than for their functionality and the manner in which they aggregate other people’s content.

So what are the content creators and visual types to do?

They need to stop taking the canvas for granted and recognize that it was always a part of ‘the art’. It may require an investment of time to understand the technology, but it is the only way to take full ownership of their work.

Creativity is not just something to apply to the surface of the web like paint. To be a modern master it must be brought to bear on the web itself.

John Gavula
Contributed By John Gavula

John is the creative director of Gavula Design. He has provided design and illustrator services for many of New York and the region's biggest brand consultancies. Leveraging this experience, and his multidisciplinary background he now works closely with Gavula Design’s clients as a trusted branding partner and steward.