I’ve been meaning write this post for a while but couldn’t really decided what angle to take with it. I’ve decided to put my thoughts out there as a question and see what people think.
People in their 30′s are well aware that the hardware technology we used as children have become collectible items and are sought after enough for people to pay through the nose for good examples. We also know that recent limited edition printed artwork (like Banksy prints) can also reach thousands in auctions and it got me thinking about original, source digital artwork, sound and media files and if, at some point in the future they could become collectible?
Once a JPEG file gets put out on the web it can be saved, copied and distributed without restriction (although I guess you can add digital watermarks?) so you never really know how many versions of that file exist. What if, for example, as a designer you worked on the original Google logo as a Photoshop file and that particular source file never left your PC or Mac? Or if you worked on mock-ups for the current BBC website and kept the original Firework file? What about if you, the video editor for a really popular YouTube video had the source file? Would those files eventually become collectible?
I guess access would be an issue. Source files are software dependent so we have no idea if a 50 year old PSD file will be functional in Photoshop editions of the future. We can also assume that operating systems, hard drives and connectivity will also have advanced beyond recognition so that suggests that it’s not just the source files that will become collectible but also the hardware they exist on and the software they were created in would also be part of the collection?
Perhaps complete PC’s or Macs that belonged to famous digital designers would be the desired item.
I ran my thoughts past Anthony Butterfield, Digital Art Director at Designate (a top UK design agency in Brighton, UK) and here is what he said:
“I agree that digital files could become antique in the future. Design trends are changing all the time and its hard not to be influenced by whats en-vogue. If I look back at design I created 5 years ago you can see a difference to the work I do today, part of that is to do with personal development (getting better at design), and part of that is to do with the trends and styles and technology from 5 years ago being different to today’s. I’ve got serveal books cataloging digital design from a while back and the trends where things like tiny fonts, content in boxes with on corner sliced diagonally, Techno/Grunge trashed up graphics. Nowadays it’s all Web.2, Large fonts, White space etc. I think there could be a lot of interest in looking back at these old designs in the future, see how things have changed. The only difference I can see between a digital antique and one you would find in a shop is that the original can be copied exactly infinitely. (unless you limit that with some kind of rights management, but we saw what happened with that in the music industry and it wasn’t good).”
A couple of years ago artist Gilbert and George released some digital artwork for a limited time (48 Hours) and made it available to download in 9 separate files. They instructed the down-loaders to print the files out in any size or medium they desired. The idea was that of Alan Yentob who said “This sort of thing has never been done before, but when I saw how Gilbert and George made their pictures it was clear that this would be a perfect match.”. The JPEG artwork can be found all over the place now just do a Google search
So will digital source files become collectible? Should we hold onto original software DVD’s and hardware? Comment below and lets get the ball rolling.