Fluff and nonsense

Recently on Facebook I posted the following video by Mike Rich from the Steering YouTube channel. In it he discusses whether Graphic Design could be considered art.

This is an often discussed topic, particularly amongst design students. I certainly have very firm views on the subject, and contend that they are different disciplines. As a result I find it difficult not to be drawn in to such debates.

In response to posting the video, several friends commented with their views—some defensively, some more measured. Most were people who identify themselves as artists, or designer/artists, and their different takes on the topic are interesting.

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Virtually speaking

I recently wrote an article for Eye magazine’s blog about the wealth of online talks and interviews that have sprung up as a result of Covid-19 and lockdown.

These have been a godsend to my students, and I’m sure a great many more. I go on to write about my hope that such initiatives continue post-Covid, in particular for the sake of students from the regions, (and around the world), who can’t afford to access talks in London and other big cities.

You can read the post here.

ACDHE review—The graphic design process

Image: Bloomsbury

I recently wrote a review of the 2019 Bloomsbury title: The Graphic Design Process: How to be Successful in Design School by Anitra Nottingham and Jeremy Stout, for the journal Art, Communication & Design in Higher Education.

The book explores the design process through varying approaches to graphic design education—from brief to crit to exploratory practice to presenting outcomes—with contributions from university and college lecturers from around the world.

The review is available to purchase here, and the journal here.

Common affairs

The state of design criticism, it could be argued, has never been in better shape. There are the big guns, such as Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand’s printed compilation of fifteen years of online discourse at the Design Observer with Culture Is Not Always Popular. Likewise, AIGA’s Eye On Design magazine which covers topics interrogated on a given theme, (see previous Field Readings post Thoughts on discussions on criticism). Mike Monteiro’s recent Ruined By Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It, is an accessible takedown of poor design choices and the importance of ethics to design decisions, while Mode of Criticism‘s self-titled publication is a diversely rich academic and theoretical critique of design in a time of neoliberalism.

One publication that caught my eye recently that I wanted to specifically highlight is the House of Common Affairs journal. It comes out of a forum held at the Royal College of Art in London, and moderated by the journal’s editor Paula Minelgaite, that sought to question the relationship between creative practice, current affairs and the way information is communicated to the general public. The journal specifically looks to discuss Fourth Estate utopias.

An image of the House of Common Affairs journal cover
Image © Paula Minelgaite

In the introduction of issue one, Minelgaite says: “HOCA journal provides an opportunity to challenge the niche and yet popular field that exists in the overlap between the arts and journalism. HOCA attempts to address the issues it presents to its readers by avoiding elitist design snobbery that perpetuates discrimination, dogmatism and self-righteousness. It does this this by moving the project outside the RCA and inviting a more diverse range of voices into the conversation.”

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Collaboration

I was recently asked to feed into a Creative Review report on creative collaboration. Published this week, it also features educators Tash Willcocks, Joe McCullagh, Pam Bowman and Dr Cathy Gale discussing teaching collaboration. Matthew Beardsell, Tom Harding and Stuart Radford of Music, Made by Many, and Superunion respectively, were asked about the importance of collaborative practice to their studios. The report also publishes the results of the Creative Review Design Employer Survey on what skills matter most to them.

The report can be downloaded via the Creative Review website here.

CR_DB_CollabReport

So long Shad Thames

Turn right down Bishopsgate, cross the road and go down Bevis Marks until you reach St Mary’s Axe. So started many walks with graphic design students from Liverpool Street Station to the Design Museum, always accompanied by a lecture on architecture . I initially learnt the route from a colleague of mine, (thanks Lindsey), which I then honed over the years. And it is a great shame that I won’t be taking this journey with students again, for last week, the Design Museum shut its Shad Thames doors as it relocates to Kensington.

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Officer scribble

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Scribble cover. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

When you work with someone on a regular basis you tend to get to know them well. You tell each other stories, you share aspects of your life and you get to know their working nuances intimately. But just recently I’ve been spending time with my work colleague, friend and ex-tutor Russell Walker a lot more than I would normally outside of typical ‘office’ working hours. This is because Russell Walker, designer, illustrator and educator of some 30+ years has just published a book of his creative and educational life called Scribble, and I’ve been immersing myself in it.

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Change a coming?

For a long time I’ve been quietly critical of D&AD’s education stance. Not that it hasn’t had one, but that it is overshadowed by its other activities to the extent it felt like a platitude. Further, it seemed that the opportunities that were available for students and their courses tended to be London centric and concentrated on those institutions with big reputations and long histories. Having a stand at the graduate New Blood exhibition several years ago was a daunting experience for lowly Suffolk students, not to mention expensive. They didn’t get a single look of interest in the two years in attendance and this wasn’t because of the quality of the work or their talent. But when faced with big guns like Ravonsbourne, Kingston et al, who seem to have unlimited resources to throw at their stand and a reputation that means industry creatives seek them out first and ignore the rest, it tends to leave a bitter taste. Initially I put this down to my own cynicism, until I heard other lecturers from regional colleges and Universities say similar things. And then they stopped running the XChange conference, where inspirational speakers addressed design lecturers in a fantastic networking opportunity. All this when the D&AD website proudly claimed ‘For Education’ next to their logo. It is not surprising that D&AD’s University Network numbers appear to have dropped in the last couple of years, if comparing the amount of stands at New Blood 4 years ago and the Universities listed on their website is anything to go by.

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