That New Design Smell
Following a certain line of thinking from my Ugliness article, I recently discovered the work of Michèle Champagne, designer and editor of the critical design magazine That New Design Smell. Michele is doing some really interesting work (out of Toronto!) that seems to share a lot of my current interests, though her expression of them is quite different (she’s far funnier/more optimistic than I am).
Check out her work here.
PS. On a slightly related note, here’s a refreshing article by Michael Bierut on the sad state of design criticism (and a heated comments thread, though a lot of the comments are logocentric and missing the fine point at the end of Bierut’s article calling for a reengagement with critical design writing) .
In yesterday’s lengthy post I touched on notions of trend cycles in graphic design. And then I discovered Trend List, an amazing and overwhelming catalogue documenting current stylistic tendencies in graphic design.
At the root of what I’m thinking about, and what I assume most graphic designers think about, is how cultural/political currents become embedded into the formal structures of design, and vice versa. Maybe staring at this site for a few hours will help…
Illegibility, Ugliness and Counter-Hegemony
A contentious spread from 032c issue #13
In my current phase of design research, I’ve been enjoying a wealth of ecclectic readings. My friend and craft theorist extraordinaire Nicole Burisch pointed me in the direction of Judith (or rather, Jack) Halberstam‘s excellent introduction to The Queer Art of Failure. In referencing James C. Scott’s Seeing Like A State, he writes:
For Scott, to “see like a state” means to accept the order of things and to internalize them; it means that we begin to deploy and think with the logic of the superiority of orderliness and that we erase and indeed sacrifice other, more local practices of knowledge, practices that may be less efficient, may yield less marketable results, but may also, in the long term, be more sustaining. What is at stake in arguing for the trees and against the forest? Scott identifies “legibility” as the favored technique of high moderism for sorting, organizing and profiting from land and people and for abstracting systems of knowledge from local knowledge pratices. (…) “Legibility,” writes scott, “is a condition of manipulation”. He favors instead, borrowing from European anarchist thought, more practical forms of knowledge that he calls metis and that empahsize mutuality, collectivity, plasticity, diversity, and adaptability. Illegibility may in fact be one way of escaping the political manipulation to which all university fields and disciplines are subject.
Albeit largely due to the use of the term “legibility”, this section sparked some interesting ideas in relation to the material practice of graphic design and typography. Translating the argument literally (pun intended) to design practice, I can’t help but think of the so-called “legibility wars” of the 90s, and to a lesser extent the ideas of vernacular design put forth by the practice of Tibor Kalman. I’ve always felt the deconstructionist work being done by this generation of designers was abandoned too soon (or at least the theory was), as discourse shifted towards “new media” (with a brief moment of introspection on the political potential of design) and aesthetics shifted towards a nostalgic, serious, and safe, faux-modernist/classicist current (largely due, imho, to the events on 9/11 and Dave Eggers).
LOKi design now on Pinterest
I honestly didn’t think it would come to this, especially with all the social/bookmarking networks I’m already on, but I’ve finally started using Pinterest, and I’m actually finding it pretty useful and fun! Not so much as a way of discovering, but more as a way of keeping track of various and often ephemeral inspirations.
Follow me here!
2 quotes + an image
Tomato, mmm… skyscraper, I love you.
“…in the best instances, a double reflexivity is at work: a medium is (re)constituted in a recursive way that is nonetheless open to social content—in a way, moreover, that reminds us that “form” is often nothing but “content” that has become historically sedimented.”
– Hal Foster, This Funeral is for the Wrong Corpse
“Literature in the written sense represents the triumph of language over writing: the subversion of writing for purposes that have little or nothing to do with social and economic control.”
– Robert Bringhurst, The Solid Form of Language
Thinking through some things as I embark on the research and conception phase for the next issue of Four Minutes to Midnight, specifically around the materiality of texts. It’s all a little vague right now, but I feel I’m working towards something quite original and interesting. Here’s hoping. I’ll be documenting my process on here as I go…
Expozine! Expozine! Expozine!
Expozine 2012 poster by Simon Bossé
It’s that time of year again, the smell of toner is in the air and the copyshops are all a hustle. Expozine is taking place this weekend, and we’re really excited here at Four Minutes HQ. We’ve been working hard to organise the event and put the catalogue together, and things are crazy hectic right now, but this year’s festival promises to be a good one.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a new issue out, but John and I will still be pulling together a few smaller items for you, including a new “chapbook” of 2 poems, a rough-cut CD of music by John/Triangles, and a selection of prints I’ve produced over the last year (I’m very excited about the limited edition C.R.E.A.M. diptych). Of course, we’ll also have previous issues of Four Minutes for sale, including our special Expozine edition from last year!
The exhibitors list this year looks really impressive, and I can’t wait to discover everyone’s new creations and hang out with my fellow zinesters.
See you there!
Artivistic: Fuse Special Issue
Promiscuous Infrastructures are a strategy of resistance within a political and economic environment hostile to creativity. PI are about community building across practices, disciplines, categories and identities. PI are affectionate, trustworthy, anticapitalist, antiauthoritarian, experimental and fun.
Artivistic‘s Promiscuous Infrastructures project continues with a deep collaboration between Artivistic, Skol, and Fuse magazine. We’ve been working very hard over the last few months, as the guest editors for the next issue of Fuse; a special bilingual edition, that engages with the current social uprising in Québec against neoliberal austerity politics. The issue interweaves elements of the material culture and imagery of the strike, while presenting a broad-ranging analysis and contextualisation of the student-led movement. Beyond acting as a document of the strike, we wanted to look at the complex network of issues surrounding it, including a thorough historical critique of the university itself, reports from student struggles abroad, and the role of artistic practice as resistance.
More info here (including some great subscription deals!)
Working Towards (a) Meaning
I’m pleased to present this very special guest post by Vancouver-based graphic designer Amy Novak, sharing a series of beautiful images from her collections. Enjoy…