Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
From the Eyes of a Student, Again and Again

Having recently started two MA programmes in Graphic Design, one at Post St. Joost in the Netherlands (last September which I dropped out of for personal reasons, no reflection on the quality of the school) and now currently at the London College of Printing (which I will hopefully complete in December) I’ve noticed a certain similarity in their introductory projects. Though in fairness to the schools I won’t reveal the exact nature of the briefs, the attempt to “de-skill/re-skill” the students is fundamental to them. Though slightly different in their approaches, they both focus on a ‘return’ to basic design principles of line, shape, colour and rythm, materials as new areas for investigation. In a way, I felt that these exercises should be taught at the undergraduate levels (in many cases I suppose they are, but not from my experience). Far be it from me to criticize this approach, as I found/am finding them very useful exercises, but it does raise some interesting questions.

In some ways, this approach seems perhaps reactionary to the rise and fall of the “deconstructionist” chic of the 90s, which may still have a stronger foothold in North America. I’m curious as to whether this simplifying methodology is being used in other MA programmes and also questioning whether this relates to a broader sentiment within the discipline.

I’m not suggesting that there is a sort of “neo-modernist” resurgence (though there very well may be, it definitely never left in Holland) but ten years after the “Carsonization” of design, have we reached a wall? Are we fed up with the lingua franca of post-modernism and its ‘experiments’. Have they become tired and played out? And if so, did “we” really push them as far as they could have gone?

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1788 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Jan.28.2004 BY Kevin
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Zed 6 contains a number of opinions on graduate education in design. One of the main points of Meredith Davis and others is that graduate education should NOT be a mere extension of undergraduate education. To reteach what should have been taught at the undergraduate level is not only a copout, but it is proof that our undergrad programs are not doing their job.

I haven't been to grad school yet but I have faced this deskilling/reskilling method head on, with mixed emotions. My introductory education to graphic design took place at a community college. I spent 2 and a half years there getting my Associates degree, and dropped out of my sixth semester for personal reasons.

When I decided to transfer to a four year school, you can imagine my shock when they told me I was going to be starting in Design 1, with sophomores who had never taken a design class before. The reason I transferred to this college was because the professor there was the teacher of most of my teachers at the community college, so I already had a good taste of the method passed on to them.

So I ended up doing a lot of basic projects over again, not that you can't always learn more, but 6 years for a BFA, and practically no acknowledgement of my transfer credits? After one year of deskilling, I realized the reskilling was still up to me anyway, and the program was really not good enough to justify its elitist attitude (everything would have been fine if they really delivered!). I found myself estranged from the other students, because all of my thinking was on the "graduate level" by my fifth year, and I felt that I had to constantly "dumb down" my work. I opted for the BA and split. I think this is a really shameful practice that is even occuring at the undergraduate level; I fought it vehemently while I was in school, and I plan to continue fighting it for the sake of others.

Far from being an indication of an emerging neo-modernism (which would definitely have to be somehow different), this is a reactionary effort on the part of the "old school", very intimidated by the radical changes that have occurred in the world of design, and intent on not facing these challenges but erasing them. The fact that these teachers were mostly ignorant of "postmodern" thinking left me to believe that they had no grand motivations to respond intelligently to postmodernism; they only had habitual methods.

On Jan.28.2004 at 09:48 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Are we fed up with the lingua franca of post-modernism and its 'experiments'. Have they become tired and played out? And if so, did "we" really push them as far as they could have gone?

That's a funny question, for me at least. Mainly because my response is a bit hypocritical. I am fed up with it but I wouldn't love graphic design as much as I do if I hadn't been exposed to it early in my career. I tried to emulate it as much as I could… I couldn't, but it helped me create my own language, which now is nothing that would resemble post-modernis... let's just say Carsonesque for the sake of not getting into what is post-modernism.

But besides style and experimentation it was not an effective means of communication. It was and still is for punk/rock/surf magazines, but not for annual reports, billboards or packaging. It looked awesome to designers but I don't think the general public liked it.

Did we push it enough? Hard to answer. What did come out of it was great, but like I said in that essay I wrote for Emigre: where is it now? Where is the work of Ed Fella, Elliot Earls? P Scott Makela was able to break through into mainstream with the title sequence for Fight Club and the title for Michael Jackson's Scream video, but that's about it.

Studio Dumbar, in the Netherlands, for a while did some really "experimental" stuff with really big clients. A mexican designer who went to Cranbrook who did some really funky stuff worked for Studio Dumbar for a while. So they sort of embrace that kind of work and are able to publish it. Other than those guys I have a hard time coming up with firms that do that kind of work on such a high scale of projects.

Nonetheless, post-modern/experimental/whatever-you-want-to-call-it work looks fuckin' bitchin'!

On Jan.28.2004 at 10:06 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

I tried to emulate it as much as I could…

The whole purpose, to me, of the postmodern exploration is to bring design thinking above and beyond the visual while not neglecting it.

Armin, you're takling about postmodernism as if it is a style, which it certainly isn't. Styles are borne out of new kinds of thinking, but to be a postmodern style-mongerer is not to engage with postmodern discourse in any significant way. I think everyone's opinions should be heard, but I am a little surprised that your article was chosen for publication in Emigre, which has traditionally focused on opinions that subvert the norm, rather than promote it.

Certain experiments may not have been very communicative, traditionally speaking, but this is because what is "signified" in postmodern experiments is often the medium rather than the message. It is essential to acknowledge and understand postmodern explorations in order to really understand what design is all about today.

Where is it now? You'll find it in the margins.

On Jan.28.2004 at 10:43 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Armin, you're takling about postmodernism as if it is a style, which it certainly isn't.

That's why I'm not a postmodern style-mongerer.

On Jan.28.2004 at 11:05 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Maybe I misunderstand you. How did it help you create your own language?

On Jan.28.2004 at 11:12 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

mongerER is probably not a word, now that I think of it, style-"monger" seems to be the right word.

On Jan.28.2004 at 11:18 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

damn this was a nice thread before you two started yakking at each other.

I'd love to hear Tom explain a little more about what his conception of post-modernism is.

To try and get it back on track (and if you two would go back delete your respective sniping then I bet we get more value from the discussion given that people always read the first two comments and then post... if we're lucky):

I think the readership of speak-up is very well situated to discuss the issue of "post-modernism" and "graphic design." We all come from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, visual styles, and training. Probably moreso than any other design-related readership.

Perhaps it would be good to throw out some terms that we can agree on...

Tom mentioned that the visual-style or other ephemera (i.e. what we all get paid to produce) is not the same as "post-modern design." Unfortunately, he didn't tell us what he thought "post-modern design" is (other than to say it's "in the margins").

We can all probably agree that to call something "Carsonesque" would be useful to us as a descriptive term. One that describes, perhaps, only the visual style. Understandably, it fails to tribute others who have contributed to that visual style... but as a handle it's useful. Visual work that results in something not-unlike-David-Carson.

So of "Carsonesque" isn't "post-modern design" what is it? Are we getting into discussions of the process involved or something? Or better yet (to our clients anyway) the results/value of our work?

Or are we really just a bunch of people who should've gone to art school but mom and dad wanted us to have steady jobs so we did design (I use the royal we here... I studied music in college; for what it's worth the same thing happens in music depts except that music education is the schill for kids who want to be performance majors... we're lucky we're not music educators eh?).

I mean, in the end the work either accomplishes it's goal or it doesn't right? Or am I not viewing this in the proper context...

Anyway, there's a ton of possibilities for this thread and a lot insightful writers and engaging (h)ranters on this site and I'd like to hear more real discussion...

Or perhaps I'd better just get some work done.


On Jan.28.2004 at 11:47 AM
Armin’s comment is:

See Tom? You and your questioning. Just to get it out of the way:

> How did it help you create your own language?

Forget about style, because you are right, it is not about style. If we narrow post-modernism to its common denominator, it being to break, question, push and stretch previously established rules, canons or in our case design styles. Maybe this is not completely accurate but that's how I see it. Anyway, by doing that (inspired by the work of Carson, Cranbrook students, Fella, whatever) I was able to find my own way visually, philosophically and so forth. But if it weren't for the work of these people, that I could see and absorb and gauge and imitate I would have never even tried pushing for something more and voila! My own language created.

On Jan.28.2004 at 12:14 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Kevin, are these projects you are doing or assigning to your students as their mentor?

On Jan.28.2004 at 12:35 PM
david e.’s comment is:

I dont agree that "postpmodernism" was anything more than a style — if it had any philosophy or set of principles to it, I've never heard them.

As far as the "Carsonization" of design, I dont believe it ever really existed. Designing for surfwear magazines and surf/punk rock culture in general is a very small niche. David Carson saw an opportunity and created a niche for himself.

I love his work, but I hate the way he was portrayed as a controversial designer who was changing graphic design. For the most part, graphic design didnt change. The only thing that changed were the design magazines who paid too much attention to this style and built it up into something more than it was. Other than designers doing movie posters (and of course, others designing for the same types of clients Carson does) who's really been influenced much by his work? No one that I can see.

I'd really like to know more about what Kevin calls the “de-skill/re-skill” of students. Are there specific skills, principles of design, or just bad habits that the schools feel designers need to unlearn? Im curious about what they are.

On Jan.28.2004 at 01:21 PM
Sam’s comment is:

If we narrow post-modernism to its common denominator, it being to break, question, push and stretch previously established rules, canons or in our case design styles.

Nyet, senor. If this were the 'common denomiator' of p.m., then postmodernism would be essentially the same thing as Marxism, Modernism, Minimalism, Cubism--pretty much every revolutionary artistic, political, stylistic, everythingistic movement that's ever been (I was sticking to the 20th c. for simplicity's sake).

One characteristic--and hardly the defining one--of p.m. is precisely that there is no common denominator, or put another way there is no unfragmented hegemony (of ideology, style, principles, etc.). Think multiculturalism. More precisely (because previous movements have been fragmented as well), the fragmented no-common-denom. aspect of p.m. is the focus of consideration and a factor in creative expression. It's not a matter simply of things looking fragmented, but rather that they are made by and intended to demonstrate a condition of fragmentation. This was Carson's point that he was making things that looked like what he saw around him (Grieman and Makela too, and I would argue also CSAnderson--one of the most postmodern designers out there). This shows an important quality of anything postmodern (design, literature, television, clothing): it is hyper-self-aware. Don't get me started.

On Jan.28.2004 at 01:28 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Thanks Sam, I plead guilty to the count of bad simplifaction.

On Jan.28.2004 at 02:40 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I think the technical term is "Poynorification." Oop!

On Jan.28.2004 at 03:05 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Ouch. Watch those claws Mr Potts!

On Jan.28.2004 at 03:30 PM
graham’s comment is:

an ideal for college; for any given instution to be aesthetically/philosophically/culturally etc. neutral. for the place/course to not be about the end result. to allow, to guide, to provoke, inspire, upset . . . but never to dictate or mould the end results; those are up to the individual student.

an ma at the very least should be a continuation of the b.a. work, and hopefully (more than that) an extension, expansion outwards or inwards towards who knows where. lots more than that. writing.

post modernism? well, it's literary/cultural theory.

i'm struggling with this because it seems to me that maybe with all these things its like one of those cube outline drawings where one person sees the thing coming towards you and the other sees the thing going away; e.g. carson-no no no- it all comes from dumbar, hard werken, why not, jon barnbrook, phil baines, weingart, dutch/swiss/u.k. stuff -even greiman and others in the u.s. so not euro exclusive- but why is he the noun? and anyway, if one does want to say 'carsonification' or what, then this-'As far as the "Carsonization" of design, I dont believe it ever really existed. Designing for surfwear magazines and surf/punk rock culture in general is a very small niche.'-what? nike, pepsi, sony, mtv, volvo, every t.v. station ident in the last 10 yrs (particularly sport), bbc-actually a list is pointless because one of the great 'failings' if you will of the odd, broken kind of work that the best of this can be is that it is now the mainstream, smoothed off and refurbished and quieter, sensibler, easier on the eyes but nontheless-like hip hop has now become the foundations for for pop music. rather than rock and roll as it was, the same is true for graphic design and that's as obvious as the nose on your face.

On Jan.28.2004 at 03:56 PM
david e.’s comment is:

well graham, that's not how i see it.

nike, pepsi, sony, mtv, have of course dabbled in carson influenced design, the same as they have always imitated what they perceive as being youth culture. But that's their demographic. What about all the other businesses, from giant corporations that make widgets and sell financial services to small mom & pop businesses? I still say that when you look at the big picture, it's a pretty small niche in the world of graphic design.

I drive down the street and see signage, i go to stores and see packaging, i look at magazines at the newsstand, etc. and I dont see much of anything (that's not youth culture oriented) that looks like it was influenced by david carson. i admit that i dont watch all that much t.v., but the network branding and motion graphics that i see don't seem to reflect carson's influence either. ESPN in particular is has a completely techno look.

Also, when i think of "post-modern", i think more of michael vanderbyl's work in the '80s and michael graves' architecture than david carson.

On Jan.28.2004 at 04:37 PM
graham’s comment is:

i was imagining that the 'carsonification' thing was an easy way, a catch-all to signify anything that could fall into the misguided 'style over idea' debate; i.e. anything interesting made within the last fifteen years, rather than work specifically influenced by david carson. that's how it was reading to me-sorry if i took it to be more general than was intended.

i see more exciting, living design, design that exists in the brief moment, like the mad gorgio moroder beat that's playing as i type, than i do design that seeks to standardise or reduce, clenched, withering, puckered and comfortable in it's smug aquiescence to appropriateness.

which sort of goes back to the college thing, and tom's first post. as he touched on in the last paragraph of his first post-it seems to be in a lot of tutors interests to allow things to be as easy for them as possible-after all, work that might grow and change, fed by emotion, responsive to circumstance and need, is a far harder thing to quantify, to 'judge', than work that either looks like something else or follows the rules of the game.

On Jan.28.2004 at 05:03 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Blah, everything can look the same to you if you look at it or think about it long enough and hard enough.

The one thing you can always count on is that people will respond to things that have soul behind them--it may not always be positive, but they'll react. The work that I've done that gets the most substantive reaction out of the normal people I know is always always always the psychotically styled pieces, the things that "look the coolest," but also have at least an amoeba of an idea behind them. There's some work--let's just call it some of the more...uh, you see it in the annual report sections of awards books a lot, for instance--that really appeals to designers more than anyone else I believe. I normally don't find too many individuals who react to it one way or another, they'll call it bland or boring or whatever.

I think people like things that contrast with their environments.

As for Carsonization, look at punk rock posters from the 1970s. It's like--wow, a copy machine! I believe I'll abuse this...I think Carson just kinda revitalized it and made it his own for his own purposes.

CORE and PYRO did some pretty aggressive work, some if it kinda Carson-esque, for clients you wouldn't expect--Monsanto being one in particular, though it bled over into stuff for golf clubs, genetics, Panera Bread, and so on. They say its because they have a solid strategy and idea behind it, and I usually agree. Attitude and thinking will beat style alone any day, but the combination of these forces is what matters most.

On Jan.28.2004 at 05:59 PM
mitch’s comment is:

OK a few responses here to a few topics:

In response to Kevin’s original article regarding the level of Graduate education, I feel obligated to bring up the 2-year vs. the 3-year degree. I can obviously only speak about what I know, but here at RISD there is a choice to be made: a 2 year MFA program for those with “a solid foundation of design knowledge and skills usually gained from undergraduate studies in graphic design (or some closely-allied field),” and a 3 year MFA program for “(students) who require preparatory work in graphic design but who have other attributes and strengths (sic) to qualify.” (Both quotes from the RISD GD website)

Being friendly with both grads and undergrads I can say that the 3 year students (who jokingly refer to themselves as �remedial students’) do exactly what Tom speaks about: essentially �entry’ level design schooling. In fact they are in classes with us undergrads, working side by side — and having seen the work it is no more or less impressive than the BFA candidates work. The 2 year students are more segregated and in their own studios. So my point is that there are varying graduate educations, the fact is you must learn the basics SOMETIME, so if you are coming from a background in basket weaving, the basic classes are needed to educate you properly. It has also been my experience in researching where to go to school for an MFA that a school with a great undergrad program does not necessarily have a great graduate program.

As far as “Post Modernism” goes I think that part of the allure of it is that it is inherently undefinable. In fact, PoMo itself is so innately postmodern it falls beyond conventional delineations of itself, thereby being even MORE postmodern. Ahhh taste that irony. The other twitchy thing (read: annoying thing) about PoMo (I feel so postmodern referring to it as “PoMo”) is that it is different things to different genres of design — PoMo architecture differs from PoMo graphic design which differs from PoMo music and so on and so on. It is so broad and undefined that I have heard food being referred to as �postmodern” (now if you don’t believe me, take a bite of this spicy Thai saffron infused brick oven baked quesadilla with extra mango chutney on the side, and then tell me I'm wrong.) Its more of a catch phrase than soemthing with real meaning - like peppering an internet marketing conversation circa 1997 with words like "dynamic" and "modular" and "scaleable." I will say as an undergrad there is no definitive "style" that is taught, however the same names do pop up over and over in terms of design precident. I will not even sit here and try and say if the names are or are not postmodern.

But I do agree with Armin — if it says “postmodern” it probably looks cool as hell.

On Jan.28.2004 at 06:04 PM
Jill’s comment is:

...I think Carson just kinda revitalized it and made it his own for his own purposes.

As they say, the Postmodernist Always Rings Twice...

On Jan.28.2004 at 09:06 PM
tommy’s comment is:

I think Mitch's definintion of postmodern ( "inherently undefinable" "It is so broad and undefined") pretty much sums it up. Postmodernism was the back lash to Modernism-- Modernism was a movement , an idea, that revolted against ornament, and style, in favour of pure forms, triangles, squares, circles. Modernism concerned itself with defining methodologies to create design, grids, modular systems, absolute pure structures, even structured methods to brainstorm ideas (the matrix)-- so modernism was concerned with rules, rules, rules, and rejecting ornament and style.

Postmodernism was a back lash to modermism and rejected the modernist ideas that design had to be created using certain rules and methodologies, grids, formulas etc...

And rejected the idea that design had to be functional--

Postmodernism embraced free expession in design, personal expression, eclecticism, ornament and reintroduced style. (Learning from Los Vegas, Venturi)

So, What Mitch said about postmodernism being "broad and undefinable" seems to be a perfect way to define a movement based on personal expression, eclecticism, appropriation of historic pastiche, and style.

And you can't "style monger" post modern style because its not just one style its an eclectic mix of many styles borrowed from the vast visual language of all cultures with liberal doses of free expression.

Infact, to me, in this postmodern era, if a graphic designer consciously works to create design that is modernist- concerned with grids, and structure, using helvetica, and rejecting all ornamentation-- the designer would be in effect imitating a historic style "modernism" and therefore is being "retro" and since retro is very postmodern- the graphic designer is being postmodern.

Because the definition of postmodernism is so broad-

everything is postmodern.

On Jan.28.2004 at 09:11 PM
pk’s comment is:

(i think i may be helping to steer this thread off-topic. sorry.)

...focusing on the idea that it all about communicating ideas.

that's an oversimplification that's been tossed around for decades now, and i think it's one of the most damaging ones in design culture. the implication always present in the statement that 'we communicate ideas' when designers make that statement to each other is that we do it with clarity and objectivity...and i don't think clarity and objectivity make for good design.

more often now than ever before, the things which require design are things which exist in a multi-product market, and very few of those products are actually very different. by way of example, i point to these CDs designed by verbatim versus these designed by 5inch. is there any real difference in those products other than the ideology presented to the consumer? no.

design is opinion. we are stylists. there is no shame in this, in fact some of my clientele have told me that they come back to me repeatedly because i have an opinion and sense of humor that jives with their own. i've seen my design implemented by other hands, and the results were horrendous because they simply weren't me...the jokes were off, the typographic scale was all wonky, and the urge for gratuitous 3D was just laughable.

"graphic designers are to our information age what engineers were to the age of steam, what scientists were to the age of reason."

that's not true at all. likening a designer to a profession which requires critical thinking to actually make something go is utterly wrong-headed. i'm sure the deaths incurred from a terrible sense of color can be counted on a single hand.*

really, when you get right down to it...designers and their audiences are just tired of the so-called carsonization of design. i get that: i change my haircolor every six months or so, simply because i'm tired of it. but once something changes—even a little thing like a color—i feel much, much better and other cascades of change begin to happen. happens to everyone, even up to a cultural scale.

*except in the case of donatella versace, whose horrific taste has laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

On Jan.29.2004 at 01:43 AM
Jonathon’s comment is:

I just started an MFA program and was told that I would be starting my design in two undergraduate level classes. I was a little confused, but went to class and got to work. As the semester went on, I discovered the reason for the "Remedial" lessons in design. I came to this school from another program in another state. The faculty did not know me or my skill level. It was a test to see how well I could think, to guage my work ethic, and to see if I was as good as I looked in my portfolio. (photoshop is an amazing thing you know)

I must have passed the test, because now I am doing my own explorations and research. I have to admit that going to these undergrad classes did help me out. I got to know the teaching style and expectations of the faculty here, and who the students are and what they are about. It has been a valuable lesson thus far.

And i have to agree with pk. I have never really liked the deconstructionist design because it is not my style.

On Jan.29.2004 at 09:19 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

critics work hard to rationalize what graphic designers do, and to elevate its academic worth by rejecting the idea that graphic design is governed by fashion, trend and style and focusing on the idea that it all about communicating ideas.

The fact that anyone would have to rationalize what designers do indicates that something is seriously wrong--its my biggest problem with the profession, all the jibber-jabber (sorry, Mr. T thoughts again...) about "the power of design" serves little if any purpose. For me all it does is continue to relegate designers to the "exotic menials" niche that "Michael B." mentioned re: Matthew Carter (cool guy) & MoMA logo redesign.

PK will appreciate this--"You can wear fashion but you can't buy style."

The maxim here is pretty simple; if you have to ask, you don't have it. If you have to say it, you probably aren't.

Face it: design is style! design is fun! design is frivolous! design is making things look cool! design is trend! design is fashion! design is candy coating! design is bursting with fruit flavor!

Design really incorporates all the things I love in life, which in so many words is basically "loud music and things that go fast." If the value of this profession and craft is to be determined by what other people think, specifically that other people think its important, then we're fucked. I love to make shit. I love to make shit look cool. And I love it when things work for my clients and when they keep coming back. But really, I like living and having as much fun as humanly possible.

And another thing--my older bro is a pediatrician, a real dedicated one. Went to med school and came out w/ strong ideals and convictions, found a helluva lot of purpose in being a doctor. Awesome. BUT, what he found, and this wasn't a compromise of anything on his part, just more of a discovery, is that being a doctor is basically just a job.

"We do what we like and we like what we do."

--Andrew W.K.

On Jan.29.2004 at 10:28 AM
pk’s comment is:

You can wear fashion but you can't buy style.

more true is "those who have no style but desperately want it resort to having taste."

plop that one down on your eames lounge.

On Jan.29.2004 at 10:50 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Awesome. I'm glad that I have lousy taste in pretty much everything. Long live network primetime reality TV! Stay with me for all time books with puffy type on the covers!

Critics have taste. And anyone can be a critic.

On Jan.29.2004 at 01:59 PM
Steven’s comment is:


Design really incorporates all the things I love in life, which in so many words is basically "loud music and things that go fast."

Ah-HA! See, you do have a design philosophy! One towards which I have a lot of empathy: loud music; things that go fast.

pk and others-

I would agree that design is about having fun and indulging in style, even with all of my fancy-pants design theory ideas.

I think that the rationalist business community's obsession with strategic, logical ROI drives some of this need for "substance over style." I also think that some designers, caught in a similar rationalist focus ("I'm a problem-solver, not a decorator"), use this, as well.

Personally, I think that it's a little of both worlds. To the extent that we have defined, pragmatic objectives, we create toward a functional goal. But after that, it's all about personal aesthetic expression, in which I also include esoteric creative theory that helps to shape our aesthetic sensibilities.

Coincidentally, yesterday, a client for whom I'm designing a Web site said that my intial concepts didn't have that "Steven look" about them. Ironically, I was trying to be more conservative and cater to some of her more corporate clients. So, I took that statement as a big ol' green light to launch head-long into unabashed style. Yee-Ha!


It's not a matter simply of things looking fragmented, but rather that they are made by and intended to demonstrate a condition of fragmentation.

Well, isn't this ultimately the same thing? If you're "demonstrating a condition of fragmentation," I'll be willing to bet that it's going to be "looking fragmented." They're essentially the same thing, only one has more theoretical spin to it.

I think this is precisely why PoMo has lost some of its luster. It embodied a style(s) that was(were) somewhat easy to emulate. Stylists subverted the theorists and it became a nit-picky dialog of credibility. Not to mention that as a roughly defined "style," it lost its ambiguity and ability to be read in different contexts. It became a defined "thing" and therefore contradicted itself.

Also, as mentioned in Design Writing Research, the naming of this orientation towards design is in itself nebulous and driven by stylistic concerns. Is it Post Modern? Oh no, that implies the architecture of Michael Graves. Is it Deconstructism? Oh no, that implies the fragmented architecture of Morphosis. Is it Post Structuralist? Oh, well maybe, but does this reconnect back to all of the literary theory from whence it came?

Getting back to the original thread topic-

It would not surprise me at all if the motivations behind some these seemingly more traditional masters programs was to take back what was gained in the 90's. We like to think of our lives running in linear paths, when really things are much more recursive: re-examining and reprocessing aspects of things in the past with conditions in the now.

On Jan.29.2004 at 06:18 PM
surts’s comment is:

design = style

sad, I think you're selling yourself short with that type of equation.

On Jan.29.2004 at 06:46 PM
Steven’s comment is:

for me:

design = (style + idea) / subjectivity

On Jan.29.2004 at 08:13 PM
pk’s comment is:

design = style

that's not what i said. i said that saying you're a communicator is fine and everything, but that's just the most basic level of design. you gotta communicate, yeah, but it needs to have a personality before it really works. it's gotta be cute. that's style.

On Jan.29.2004 at 10:56 PM
surts’s comment is:

patrick, I like how you instigated things and took offense to what good ol'bradley was saying —I was reacting to his essay. It's interesting to note how many words it took him to get his idea out.

I appreciate aesthetics, but I'm starting to think most of the world is visually dyslexic. I'll fight hard to get an illustrator's/photographer's work turned live, but it takes a lot of maneuvering for those that trust me to get that to happen. They care cause I give them return, not b/c it's cute.

On Jan.30.2004 at 12:14 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

design = style

Nor what I said either--its that and a bunch of other stuff too. Do not put words into my mouth again, pal.

It's interesting to note how many words it took him to get his idea out.

Sense of humor for sale at house o' "good ol' Bradley" for $7.

NOW I remember why I wandered into ad world.....

On Jan.30.2004 at 10:19 AM
pk’s comment is:

patrick, I like how you instigated things and took offense to what good ol'bradley was saying —I was reacting to his essay.

i didn't take offense to what he was saying. we were actually fairly in sync with each other.

It's interesting to note how many words it took him to get his idea out.

it's one thing to put forth a position against someone's point. it's quite another to make backhanded swipes.

On Jan.30.2004 at 12:37 PM
surts’s comment is:

I've dealt with my comments privately and will leave it at that.

On Jan.30.2004 at 12:54 PM
laura’s comment is:

Instead of giving answers, shouldn't we leave impressions? That way we can all be brothers.

On Feb.02.2004 at 04:10 PM
Jason W. Howell’s comment is:

I think the role of postmodernism in design education is the key to understanding this problem, but in a different aspect. I think we all would agree that most graduate schools have to fill in the gaps created at the undergraduate level. Though I have no hard evidence, I would venture to say that most design programs are embedded in institutions that are centered on the instruction of art. My question to all is what is the role of postmodernism in art education? How has that notion filtered through to the education of designers?

Some anecdotal evidence may be of help, but at least it will give us a reason to get upset. Some schools with Carnegie Level research status have tenured faculty that do not hold degrees or specializations in design. Not that a degree or lack thereof indicates competency, but it could explain why students do not know the finer points of design. In another instance, I know of a foundations professor who, upon being hired to supervise the instruction of over 100 students said s/he was not going to teach that “Bauhaus bullsh*t”. The majority of the students in those courses were interested in design. No attention was given people like Albers or Itten. Yet design education is begun in that course there. Another instructor does pop art, and according to the director, the instructor has sufficient knowledge of design to begin the instruction.

The hand skills needed to create design twenty years ago are no longer as important as they once were. The computer is a tool we designers take for granted. It social implications are now being felt in the academic world. Because of the computer, we realize that design is more than cosmetic. The most successful designers in history have always known this. The role of the designer is now shifting from the postmodern notion of unique aesthetics to structuring information and organizing content visually with the purpose of making the artifact or experience useful (communicative). Visual art theory is important. History and culture is also a key to accessing creativity. The Swiss grid is a valuable tool for creating organization, but it is not the best solution for every problem. Art instruction is still vital, but in the framework of design.

It is my opinion that the postmodernism notion in art is what is creating the difficulties for design. The retooling of design education will take longer than we all want to wait. If I remember correctly, postmodernism in art began in the 1950’s and 60’s. In the US, design colleges and schools began in the late 1970’s? PhD programs (which is another issue) are still new. The academic (educational) administration does not see the role of design the way we do. People with our mindset our now filtering into the system. But it is hard, when the people granting tenure do not understand the subtleties and the scope of our field.

I am not trying to bash on art schools. There are exceptions to everything, but it is the majority (in the middle of America) that I am most concerned. I see design as a hybrid being. It is both function and style; content and form. But for political and economic reasons the status quo is hard to change.

Disclaimer! Of course this is all based on my experience. Let me know what you think.

On Feb.03.2004 at 10:52 AM
Steven’s comment is:


I think you made some good points.

I'm inclined to edit one of your statement, though:

"The role of the designer is now shifting from the postmodern notion of unique aesthetics [and non-specific context] to structuring information and organizing content visually [and contextually] with the purpose of making the artifact or experience useful (communicative)."


On Feb.03.2004 at 09:14 PM
Jason W. Howell’s comment is:


I think your edits are a welcome clarification. Thanks

On Feb.04.2004 at 09:00 AM
janine crawford’s comment is:

are you lot jounlists or something?

On Jan.26.2006 at 05:46 AM