Research Readings #5: I Come to bury Graphic Design

13 Mar

Kenneth Fitzgerald

  • to consider teaching or theorizing about graphic design, ask: What is its ultimate goal?
  • agrees improving life is one of design’s ambitions but it’s not design’s primary objective
  • it’s first concern is reproduction
  • this motivation is often to the exclusion of better-place-making the world
  • most theory – whether it is academic or practical – also comes down to procreation: assuring the creation of more professional design
  • while desiring awareness of and recognition for its activity, design deliberately makes little real substantive effort to reach out to non-designers to explain what it’s doing and why
  • argues that design professionals should be given more work
  • a thorough appreciation of design leads to demise as a specialist profession, should elicit the desire to do it yourself
  • isn’t this where little designers come from? designers would be everywhere and nowhere
  • example is Rem Koolhaas – an architect who formed a design studio – as art director – works are contemporary, capable and forgettable
  • Another one is Mac temp Dave Eggars, who only designs for his literary journals and associated products
  • his approach is anti-design style, flouting professional treatment
  • from a different perspective, untrained design can make inroads into information design
  • Edward Tufte – genius of information design – fails to account for the subjective realities of culture – culture as broad social forces and as smaller group dynamics
  • design has a death wish, constantly wishes to eradicate itself, designers will instinctively reject this notion
  • to detractors, vernacular design is crude, subjective
  • designers are seen as possessing an elitist aesthetic agenda insensitive to people’s needs
  • modernist rejection of the vernacular may come from recognizing the true risk to designers
  • it’s not that commerce – the public exchange of ideas, goods and services – will not be able to function without design, but that it will
  • design also has a fascination with and frequently embraces the vernacular
  • bracing reality check for over-theorized design
  • in its passion, design stalks contemporary art and outsider art
  • uncritical use of vernacular sources has received extensive critique
  • fad for vernacular bad taste may be attempt by designers to survive by blending into the landscape, designers abandoning their identity, acting on death wish
  • design education is where little designers come from
  • notion that design is on the job learning experience continues to dominate
  • successful design program is defined as one that produces professional design and designers
  • also accumulation of knowledge for its own sake: the goal of the liberal arts
  • can studying graphic design be of general, not just professional, interest?
  • anything to offer outside of the sometimes questionable promise of a job?
  • design education should strive for the idealism of education, educators on quest for legitimacy
  • For them, design education is entirely about producing designers. It’s vocational training.
  • There’s nothing wrong with that—unless you’re claiming to be engaged in something else.
  • Swanson, however, is discussing education, in a design context
  • Here is a real world certainty every design educator must confront: the majority of design students will not go into professional practice. What is our responsibility to them? Does design care about anything other than producing more designers)? An education through design rather than in design should be the goal.
  • A shift in education away from a professional emphasis may also benefit students dedicated to a career of making
  • Design’s vital aspect of craft is a product of a cognitive awareness
  • A liberal arts model may also exacerbate the anti-intellectualism rampant in the field
  • Designers occasionally talk about “educating the client.” But if designers are so dismissive of their education—by designers—what makes them thinkclients will take lessons?
  • Just as the profession can’t form a critical writing, it’s unable to best represent its own interests
  • Design constructed itself as professional service—formal speech to commune with industry. Business styles itself as rational, tangible, and methodical. But a glance at any day’s business news shows that those are affectations
  • Mismanagement, indecision, and fantasy are the prevalent attributes
  • Design is just a job to most of its practitioners. The majority of studios and corporate art departments are factories. How would certification rectify this?
  • I’ve previously suggested that the AIGA should reconstitute itself as a union
  • Professionalizing design is a mechanism to cover the bizarre nature of the activity. Design is a dislocated art form born out of industrialization
  • The idea of professional artists is fairly implausible, certainly as a way to consistently generate fresh insight
  • activity inevitably becomes routinized and formulaic when required to be on demand. The product turns distant, abstract, and impersonal
  • we get a lot of admirable, formally accomplished work
  • It’s no mystery that the most celebrated, expressive, and inspiring design is either self-motivated or when the designer is truly empowered and entrusted. You must have a personal stake. This is the norm. Its the itinerant artist model that’s an aberration. Why else do designers have creative side projects to, as they describe it, gratify their creative urges? Shouldn’t this tell them that they’re in the wrong business? Or that design shouldn’t be a business?
  • Design must join the culture and abandon attempts to seduce, party with, or ride herd on it. Those projects are doomed to failure, as they should be. The results of the modernist program—decay into formal gestures, creation of “merely a designer-culture”—are a proof

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