Why flat files are flatlining

Piet Saegeman.jpg

Today's creative professionals find themselves in a very challenging marketCustomer loyalty is virtually non-existent.

- Freelance platforms like Fiverr, Gigster, 99designs, Upwork, and people per hour force professionals to compete with thousands of their peers worldwide. 

- Creatives are expected to deliver work at rock-bottom prices AND relinquish control over their designs while doing so. 

So even though creative work is based on design thinking and a specialized skill set that took years to develop, the creative process often ends up being devalued and commoditized. 

What happened?

Stagnation, for one thing. If you think about it, there have been no significant disruptions in the graphic design process since the mid-80’s. That’s when Apple Computer, Aldus, Adobe and Hewlett-Packard introduced technologies that would - when combined - bring desktop publishing to life, and replace phototypesetting. Graphics has been mostly more-of-the-same ever since, only faster and/or cheaper.

We’ve seen different designers using different tools and workflows to create the same graphic. Why? The graphic is usually destined for different output channels and will need to be delivered in different file types. Each designer has a speciality, and each asset goes through iterations until the marketer has what (s)he needs. Assets for a website may be created by one creative, while another creates content for social media, and yet another builds documents for print. That’s how we flow, right?

On top of this, a growing number of variants are required. More and more graphics need to be translated, localized, customized and personalized. This is where the creative process ends, and the work becomes production-line repetitive. The creative professional’s output capacity is limited by the number of hours per day, and the process can only scale by adding human capital. For now, let’s not even talk about the increased likelihood of human errors.

What will happen?

We believe the creative industry is ready for its share of the digital transformation, and that the next revolution in graphics is very close. Tomorrow’s graphics separate the creative process - where true value is created - from the repetitive, high-bandwidth production work. By using intelligent templates, creative professionals can now eliminate much of this low-value, high-bandwidth production work, and offer self-service as a business model. 

Working with templates has a very important advantage for the creative: it brings back control to the designer. Templates are difficult to reverse-engineer and offer high-level asset protection. Especially in comparison with flat files, which can be easily copied
 and reverse-engineered.

The end of silos as we know them

Templates are responsive, automatically adapting to varying sizes. That’s how they can break down the silos between print, digital and social. The same template can be used to generate graphics for many different output channels and can be configured to change its content, like colors, images and text, on the fly. Templates can also be connected to a variety of external data sources, curated assets, and product information. Templates will create all required variants of output, not only for digital and social, but also print, including packaging and even large format. So long, silos of yore. 

Stop selling time, start selling value

The templates used in tomorrow’s graphics allow designers to scale their creativity. They enable them to create value, independently of the number of billable hours in a day. Templates also let them enlarge their footprint at customers. Templates give their creative work more impact, thanks to their omnichannel deployment. 

This transition puts two challenges to designers, though. Not only will they have rethink their pricing and stop selling their time. They’ll have to begin selling value, educating customers, and becoming the go-to resource for all communication needs, for all channels.

Are you up for it? Flat files may be flatlining, the designer shouldn’t.


CHILI publisher has proven to be the weapon of choice for hundreds of organizations, who have already made the transition to tomorrow’s graphics. Join my session at Pure Digital on April 17th at 14h30 until 15h. Learn all about how creatives can go beyond flat files and take control. Or call my bluff. As you like.