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'Movable Type,' by Willi Heidelbach. Used with gratitude under a Creative Commons license via Wikipedia.
Design reigned supreme in the 20th century, when it was an integral part of the way artists, publishers, governments and political parties communicated to the first mass audiences.
Message and presentation were inextricably intertwined, with the latter lending power, impact and even meaning to the former. Not for nothing was Marshall McLuhan able to say, with gnomic brevity but not a little insight, “the medium is the message.”
But in the 21st century, internet standards have successfully separated design and content. The two live more interdependent lives, sometimes tightly tied and sometimes completely separated from one another.
The message is now free from the medium.
In fact, it’s possible not just for publishers, but for readers and viewers to recast the message into new media, stripping it of its former context and reformatting, republishing, and reframing it at will.
Don’t like the way your book is laid out or the formats it comes in? There’s software that will convert your book into whatever format you want. Oh, you meant a paper book? No problem, you can easily digitize that too.
And, while that’s a difficult thing to accept for those of us who have spent our careers creating publications that weave content and its presentation together into seamless, beautiful packages, it’s a trend that’s only getting started.