Thursday, February 26th, 2009
When someone in the SPI office suggested that I do a blog post here, my initial reaction was “What could a graphic designer say about plastics?” I walked back to my office, sat at my desk and got busy with the next task on my “to do” list: designing a new logo for one of SPI’s Industry Groups. But that question about graphic design and plastics kept running through my mind. After a few sips of my Grande Apple Chai, I realized the answer was literally right in front of me.
I did a quick count of the array of items on my desk (see photo and click on it for a closer view), and counted more than 20 different items that were made (at least partially) of plastic. More importantly, I realized I couldn’t do my work as a graphic designer without the benefit of plastics.
All computer set-ups these days use plastics much more than we realize. Even I, a former electrical engineer, was amazed. From the monitor – which often has a plastic case and sometimes a plastic screen – to the keyboard and even the mouse (which is almost completely plastic except for the little metal conductors for recharging). For you nerds out there, once you start opening your PC tower or laptop and start looking at the guts of the computer – the motherboard, wiring, memory, cable connectors and even some of the component level items (such as FETs and diodes) you might be amazed at how much of that stuff is made from plastics. For example, look inside Apple Inc.’s MacBook laptop here. Almost six minutes in, the video shows you the insides of the computer — be sure to note all the plastic parts. But enough of the electrical engineer stuff, let’s get back to plastics.
Why is plastic so prevalent in electronics? First, it’s cheap. Those $400 computers you’re able to buy online would be much, much more expensive if they were built using alternative material (if any alternative material could even be used.) Second, it’s lightweight. I highly doubt that laptops would be as ubiquitous as they are now if they were made out of steel or glass. I can guess how well a 20 pound laptop would go over in today’s marketplace. Not well. Third, plastic is non-conductive. Those of you who have stuck paper clips into electrical sockets (come on, admit it)* will understand the importance of the thin insulation layer of plastic that surrounds each wire or cable. Finally, it is versatile. Plastic can take on practically any shape and any color, enabling our electronic devices to be high-tech, sleek and cool.
So what does a graphic designer care about plastics? I don’t know about the other designers out there, but I certainly care a lot about plastics. Without the technology that uses plastics, I wouldn’t have a job, because I can’t design without my mouse and monitor.
*SPI does not condone sticking paper clips into electrical sockets. This is dangerous and hazardous to your health.