I, Robot?

Recently I saw a bit of the current Congressional hearings on the financial crisis of 2008 on the news. While it was interesting to see another view from some back-room insiders of what these major financial institutions and the government were doing in those hectic matter of days and hours as they attempted to save the world from financial disaster, what really caught my attention and gave me something to ponder was that one of the Commissioner’s questioned automation of industry and how it affected high unemployment and the normal hiring processes. It seemed to be incongruent for the venue, but his question was still a good one.

Business owners, corporations and employees alike are faced with the automation of jobs: Is it more cost effective to automate with a machine or hire a real live person or persons to do the same work? Can a person do the task better than a machine? As technology has grown over time, especially since the industrial revolution, ways to raise productivity and benefit the company has some times seem to have been at odds with working class people and full employment.

Even in our sign-making industry we have seen the decline of people needed to perform sign manufacturing over the last decade. Digital printing has been around for slightly more than a dozen years or so, yet that is the foundation of the printing and graphics industry we know today. No longer does it take scores of people to set type and hand paint signs. It takes more complex knowledge of design, layout and typography. A sign maker now needs to be knowledgeable with computerized design software applications, proper and effective use of color and white space. And most of all it needs to be an effective design to do what it is after all supposed to do: communicate your message to your clients. Why else does anyone get a sign?

Yes, there are still demands for the company to make more effective profit with less expense and increase the bottom line. And while overseas wholesale shops can always print quantities cheap and the in ternet opens us all up to other market opportunities as well as other vulnerabilities and competitions, we don’t think sign makers will be automated for along time to come.

There will always be a need for a business to develop a relationship of trust with a graphics provider; trust in their design skills and manufacturing experience, especially if the client has a need for signs and graphics on an ongoing basis like many businesses do. Especially if you’re someone who wants that of genuine spark of human creativity you just can’t find in a machine. That will just have to wait for a good science fiction story!

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