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Managing Changing Technology: Strategic and Tactical Lessons, Part One

(September 2006) posted on Tue Oct 03, 2006

Explore impact of new technology and the benefits of timing its implementation properly.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Creative artists rarely have the stomach for the level of detail and technical understanding reserved for production art. It doesn't help that the creative guys usually get paid more than production art. I've visited dozens of shops in which production art is assigned the responsibility of cleaning up after the creative guys. Production artists are faced with impossible deadlines and files that are a nightmare to prepare. They have no choice but to bite down and grind out the work.

This deadline-driven, high-stress, under-appreciated workflow is precisely what makes the production artist reluctant to undertake new, challenging technologies, software, or a different workflow. These people are all about getting the job done the first time with no surprises. New ideas and methods imply experimentation, adjustment, and compromise. Translated through the eyes of the production artist, it means working late again.

Here's another dimension to consider: Most production artists have little formal education. They may have a couple of years at a junior college, but rarely will they have a four-year degree in commercial art, graphic communications, or graphic-reproduction processes. Most of those grads end up in management or creative positions. The guy in the trenches usually gets his education from on-the-job training, learning by doing the day-to-day production jobs that are his craft.

When it comes to production artists, knowledge is their value to the company. If they're asked to change, more often than not the anxiety alarms go off and the brakes slam down on forward progress. Fear of the unknown is the biggest obstacle we face when implementing new ideas. The production artist is all about protecting his position, income, and value to the company. If we put him into the position of having to risk, learn, and demonstrate new, unfamiliar skills, we have a recipe for disaster. Anything new is a disruption and threat to what production artists know and do well. Nothing indicates to them that innovation will make their lives better. Quite the contrary; they are viewed as overhead, so anything new usually means downsizing and replacing those who can't make the grade. In addition, pressure to be productive is there from the outset. Everything about this is a negative for them. The downside is large, and the upside speculative.


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