Research Reading #4: On (Design) Bullshit

28 Feb

Michael Bierut

  • starts with an event: the design of the Getty Center in Los Angeles between Richard Meier and Artist Robert Irwin. Irwin creates the central garden but does not regard the orthonography of the building and is this whimsical organic form. Meier and his team begin a reasoned, strongly felt critique and because Irwin already sensed that the client liked his proposal, he responds to the critique with one word, “bullshit”
  • What is the relationship of bullshit and design?
  • It’s been a subject of inquiry with Frankfurt’s (Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton) volume, “On Bullshit”
  • He’s careful to distinguish bullshit from lies, bullshit is not giving audience a false belief about what state of affairs may be the topic but that its primary intention is to give its audience a false impression concerning what’s going on in the mind of the speaker
  • Follows that every design presentation is at least an exercise in bullshit
  • Design process combines functional goals with countless intuitive even irrational decisions (needs a bathroom vs I set headline in Bodini)
  • Theories about the symbolic quality of colours or typefaces; unprovable claims about historical inevitability of certain shapes, fanciful forced marriages of arbitrary design elements to hard headed business goals
  • must only be desire to conceal one’s private intentions in the service of a larger goal, getting your client to do it the way you like
  • both Irwin and Meier could be accused of being single-minded and obstinate during the endless process of designing and building the getty and proposal of the garden
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