It has been 50 months, more than 1,500 posts and 37,000 comments, three versions of MovableType, four versions of the site, two AIGA National Design conferences, two Cooper-Hewitt Triennials, two terms of Bush Presidency, over twenty redesigned logos and close to thirty involved authors — among other notorious milestones — since I posted my first entry on Speak Up. It is fair to say that things have changed and rollercoastered in what now seems like an eternity. I have changed. Authors have changed. Design has dramatically changed. And Speak Up has certainly changed — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But, in a way, we have not wanted to acknowledge and face a major change in the way we all (authors and readers) approach Speak Up. So today I hope to metaphorically air out the bed, dust of the bed bugs and lay down a new set of sheets.
Speak Up became notorious for its I-have-nothing-to-lose brash attitude that attacked, questioned and poked everything in its way. Nothing was sacred. Not the AIGA. Not Emigre. Not typography. Not interviews. Not even ourselves. We cursed and blasphemed our way to attention and every answer or event was followed by “why?”. Closely followed by “fuck you” — to bigger and lesser extent throughout the years. Designers loved it. There had never been anything like it. We were the fight that broke out in a bar that everyone gathered ‘round to see and would throw in a beer bottle every now and again. With discussions around the UPS logo, Emigre’s famous Rant, and critiques of AIGA events we honed our bitching into a sharp form of criticism that while lacking rigor it never lacked passion and truthfulness. And we built our mission around that modus operandi. We asked, you answered. Recognition and devoted readership followed.
In the past twelve to sixteen months, however, we’ve run out of questions and even perhaps out of steam. Some of us (authors) have gone from outsiders to insiders. The AIGA, our Goliath when we started, became a tedious theme to discuss. Spec. Sagmeister. Contests. Awards. Music packaging. Book covers. Rebrandings. We have done it all. We started to get repetitive and, well, sometimes even boring. However, some of the posts in the past twelve months have been, to me at least, the most interesting, opinionated and relevant, even when some of those posts haven’t topped more than ten comments and some people have straight up told us that we have lost our edge, that Speak Up is not what it used to be — yes, those 150+ comment posts are almost extinct now. And for some time we have simply brushed it off. But maybe, it is the painful truth: Speak Up is not what it used to be. And, actually, I’m pretty excited that it’s not.
This allows us to move forward with a new focus. To find a new voice and a new approach. But what is this new “it”? It can’t be “fuck everything”, we are all now too close and too involved and too interconnected with one another to take this attitude. It can’t be finger-pointing (unless deserved). It can’t rely on asking questions, as the answer well seems to have dried up. From the posts that I have written in the past year and from the things that Debbie, Mark, Marian, Bryony and Jason have put up I have come to notice a more interesting thread than mere discussion for discussion’s sake. Whether we have written about David Blaine, The New York Times’ page 3, stars, bellicose web sites, quarter-of-an-inch packaging replicas or VH1’s Pop Culture Quiz we have been gunning — perhaps unknowingly in a way — for one simple thing: To find Design Relevance.
To find it in the everyday. To tie it back to what we do. To understand how our actions and concerns as graphic designers are reflected in the world. And what is most rewarding is that anything you see, anything you hold, anything you experience is somehow a manifestation of design consideration. And what we have tried to do is to find those glimmers of relevance that relate to what we do as visual communicators, as translators of culture, history, politics, economics, sports… Everything and anything. It would be easy to get lost in the vapid lure of Design with a capital “D” and claim that everything is Design and that we have a hand in shaping everything. We don’t. We play small but important roles and we want to explore where those manifestations lie. What we want to find in anything that we explore is how any given experience is relevant to design. Relevant to the practice of creating, of thinking, of processing loose ideas and requests, of assessing disparate materials, of endless hours and numb assess spent in front of a glowing monitor, of the art of the pitch, of the thrill of the end product, of the quest for flawless and innovative execution. Of design.
With this new outlook on Speak Up, we hope to bring you Design Relevance. We will do it with strong opinions and, when possible, with flair. We will share our views on what we find interesting, in the spirit that you will consider everything for its design values. In return, we would like you to lunge your opinion back at us. We want to hear from you. We want you to disagree, to tell us how you see things, how things can be better, how we may be missing a part of the picture. If our new Quipsologies blog has proved anything is that everyone of our readers has unique interests, specific points of view and we want to harness, again, this energy, knowledge and passion for graphic design that we all share.
In the coming weeks we will draft a new “about” page that will reflect this, and the next Stop Being Sheep will most likely reflect this change as well. I must admit that writing this and making it a public hearing is somewhat weird to me, but some of you have been with us since day one, others have joined late, others have come and gone but your contributions and returtn visits have always shaped our own relevance in the design community and I do feel that the least I could do is write this as an expression of our continued commitment to you and to keep this end of the interwebs as engaging as possible.
So that’s how I feel. How do you feel?