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Emigre 66 › Preface

It’s been almost a year since Emigre 64 shook these digital walls. (Looking back it is, in my opinion, the single best thread of design discussion we have ever had). After Rant, came If We’re Standing on the Shoulders of Giants…, which like many sequels didn’t have the same punch as the original. Where Rant was incisive, poignant and challenging Standing fell short of high expectations [I might have had]. Now, number 66, Nudging Graphic Design, comes along — and it packs some heat.

There are many good topics and thoughts to cover in this issue; it would be hard to try to condense them into one single post and would inevitably become a confusing discussion with the varied subjects. Having said that, during the next weeks I’ll be highlighting specific essays for discussion. Notably, Mr. Keedy’s and Kenneth FitzGerald’s, which I think demonstrate the best — and sharpest — that critical writing in design has to offer.

Just as most design magazines are perking up and covering blogs, Nudging was a step ahead (but a month behind — because of production) in recognizing their relevance. In his introduction Rudy talks extensively about blogs; Speak Up and Design Observer included, highlighted, compared and utopially paired: “If only the authors of Design Observer had combined their efforts with those of Speak Up, their respective strengths would have shown us the absolute best graphic design has to offer…” said Rudy. He expresses optimism for blogs as a viable and credible vehicle for design writing and criticism: “I wonder if design blogs like Speak Up and Design Observer will make magazines such as Emigre obsolete”. Yet at the same time remains skeptic because of blogs’ self-sustained nature: “Or will they simply implode? Most of these blogs are labors of love”. Lastly, and probably the reason why blogs have caught graphic designers’ (writers, practitioners, teachers, students) attention is because they simply exist — to which Rudy concludes: “With so much design chatter, at least for now, it feels a lot less lonely out there.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel flattered by the recognition given to Speak Up in one of the most critical magazines in design. Specially when a few of the essays mention Speak Up in good or bad light — specifically the response by two thirds of the Visitations authors, who experienced the most scrutiny. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The [my] Interview by Rudy VanderLans, however I won’t, can’t and shan’t discern it myself as it is obviously too pegged for an objective opinion.

Since the inception of the new format, this is the strongest issue yet. (Case in point: both David Lee Roth and Pee Wee Herman are paraphrased). Writing has caught up with Rant’s call for smarter and stronger content… now it’s time for design to catch up.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1949 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON May.14.2004 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
kevinhopp’s comment is:

Armin,

Great to hear that you've been mentioned in Emigre.

Great to hear you're employing an individual discussion per entry.

Sad to hear that you think Emigre is where all designers' heads should be ...

Writing has caught up with Rant’s call for smarter and stronger content… now it’s time for design to catch up.

Sure you're referencing the "tortilla flats" entry when commenting about post Rant stronger writing/content, riiighhhht.

But seriously, how can something catch up with itself?

Maybe as a writer that seems like a great way to spin the end of an article, but as a designer it makes no sense.

I'm not buying it.

-I'm not buying into the thought that Emigre is "the way" and can universally comment on each style, aspect, and approach in graphic design.

-I'm not buying into the mentality of people who only observe and never do.

-I'm not buying any holistic critique on an industry that is made up of exclusive conditions (timing, client, budget, etc)

Since I just sneer at ranting without suggestion (see the Rant issue of Emigre) I will have to say that, at this point I'm more intrigued to hear from people who actually use design i.e. commercial, government than someone who only knows design, and design only. It's like talking about books with a typist.

Honestly, I'm tired of afflicted and washed up designers/professors/writers. Bring on the second grade comments and questions case study, then maybe we'll learn something clairvoyent and worth seriously thinking about.

On May.14.2004 at 04:06 PM
Steven’s comment is:

SU and DO are like the "punk rock" of Design Literature. Scrappy, rough-edged, immediate, imperfect, and yet honest and "real," blogs provide a vibrant and dynamically interactive communication medium that the more traditional forms of design magazines or journals just can't compete with.

But I don't think that this is necessarily a problem for magazines like Emigre. I think there's a proper place for both mediums to coexist. Printed media, in general, provides a more considered and formal structure to address complex issues and concerns. Print, by its very nature, facilitates more indepth and perhaps insightful commentary than is usually afforded in the off-the-top-of-your-head, quick-response world of blogs. And yet, both mediums influence one another.

In a sense, blogs provide a quick churning of ideas, which are then taken up in greater depth within design mags, which are then given even greater consideration within books and academic programs: Small cycles within larger cycles within even larger cycles, all dynamically influencing each other at all levels, sort of like a "conceptual ecosystem."

I was coincidentally reading #65 and #66 just the past couple of days while I was on brief vacation up at Sea Ranch (beautifully rugged CA Mendocino north coast). I want to gather my thoughts before commenting on the design issues they bring up. I will say now, though, that Mr. Keedy's article didn't strike a chord with me, even though I agree with a lot of what he says. I guess it's the cranky, sarcastic way in which everything is framed. His writing style frequently makes me wonder if Keedy is ever in a good mood.

On May.14.2004 at 04:12 PM
Su’s comment is:

Regarding the Lorraine Wild question in your interview, I'm always irked by the qualifying "...BUT" that often comes up in people praising web resources, and demand she burn her copy of whatever it was that published her statement. Or let it sit in water. Or rip it to bits. Or leave it out in the sun a while. Any number of other horrible things. I'm sure that if she sees a book or magazine with material she thinks is important, she obtains a personal copy if possible and then takes some basic care of it, because those things go out of print. People who think web publications are impermanent(like say, print runs) seem unable to transfer that concern.

With some simple and often-free software, a bit of patience, and a little drive space, I can make my own bit-perfect archive of just about any site in case I don't trust the admin, the Internet Archive, the Google cache or any of the other organizations making their own backups of everything they run across on the net. Then I can burn it to CD, and watch it be destroyed by fire, or let it sit in water, etc. Funny, that. Everything new is old again.

Lorraine may be a historian, but historians are end-users of what archivists do, and are not the people to proclaim a medium's validity.

On May.14.2004 at 04:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Sad to hear that you think Emigre is where all designers' heads should be ...

Did I imply that? Designers' heads can be anywhere they want. Sadly, many times they are only up their asses.

> Sure you're referencing the "tortilla flats" entry when commenting about post Rant stronger writing/content, riiighhhht.

Um, no, not exactly. I was referring to the content in Emigre 66.

> -I'm not buying into the thought that Emigre is "the way" and can universally comment on each style, aspect, and approach in graphic design.

I'm not selling that. Neither is Rudy, nor the writers who contribute to Emigre.

> -I'm not buying into the mentality of people who only observe and never do.

If you are referring to tha authors in Emigre, I think in this issue, 90% of the contributors do, not only observe.

> Bring on the second grade comments and questions case study, then maybe we'll learn something clairvoyent and worth seriously thinking about.

How about a subscription to HOW, Print, Dynamic Graphics or STEP?

On May.14.2004 at 04:19 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

I'd just like to say....

Please don't comment on any of the articles like Steven just did about the Keedy essay......otherwise this entry will lose the original focus.

And that is the big difference between written journals and blogs, FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.

Getting back to the initial blog, Armin mentioned Rudy's paranoia of Emigre becoming extinct due to blogging. Let's make sure he has nothing to worry about, and that we all, even you Rudy, still enjoy a bound book and the written word.

On May.14.2004 at 04:30 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

How about a subscription to HOW, Print, Dynamic Graphics or STEP?

You obviously missed my point.

All this incestual thinking is unhealthy.

I'm not selling that. Neither is Rudy, nor the writers who contribute to Emigre.

So what exactly did you mean by ...now it's time for design to catch up. And I'm not talkin' to Rudy, or the contributing writers to Emigre. I'm talkin' with you.

I'm at a loss....it really appears that you're saying that design (designers) needs to catch up....to what Armin....what do all of us out here designing for a living have to catch up...or better yet, what do all the people who read your blog need to catch up with.....

Please Armin, tell us, we are so in the dark, and we need you and your life's work and thought to tell us, what do we need to catch up with, or on?

On May.14.2004 at 04:54 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

The wonderful choice of Emigre, to step away from depiction and/or promotion of print design advances, has amplified the model which has helped to provide the contemporary content we now chew. However, publications which now choose to print words about design instead of the firsthand sparkle may potentially fall victim to their much more up to date and influential online counterparts. Of course words are beautiful on paper, but is that all?

On May.14.2004 at 05:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Please Armin, tell us, we are so in the dark, and we need you and your life's work and thought to tell us, what do we need to catch up with, or on?

I sense a slight bit of sarcasm there hopp. I'll just skip to the questions where we can actually have a mature conversation.

> So what exactly did you mean by ...now it's time for design to catch up. And I'm not talkin' to Rudy, or the contributing writers to Emigre. I'm talkin' with you.

As much as I was irked inititally by Drentell and Helfand's presentation in Vancouver they actually touched on what is missing in graphic design: a why behind the how. They are not the first ones to say it, Tibor said it a long time ago too. From where I'm sitting — and take this with many grains of salt — 75% of design is looks. And that may be fine, but I don't think is enough. Enough for who? You may ask, right? Enough for whomever wants to be more than a decorator and who finds value in texts other than second grade comments and case studies.

You can do as you well please, you don't have to listen (read) to a single word I say (write). You have somehow taken issue to it, so you figure that on your own.

> what do all of us out here designing for a living have to catch up

You are going to love this: that's for each person to figure out and decide what they want to catch up with — think of this as the "tortilla flats" of questions.

On May.14.2004 at 05:15 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

I sense slight a slight bit of sarcasm there hopp.

yes, you do, very much so, and of course I like the way you accentuated my name there...as if we're possibly communicating outside of the usual blog entry. Ya know, the despondently dry and for the most part self-fulfilling.

You've invested emotion, as so have I.....now we're getting somewhere... or possibly we're only on to our second drink at the Flats, where ever that may be.

Enough for whomever wants to be more than a decorator and who finds value in texts other than second grade comments and case studies.

Honestly I'm not going to breakdown your generalization, I'm not mature enough.

What I'm getting from your chair, is you're feeling that design is predominately saturated in misapproriated logic, and vanity.

That IS a problem, and yah, I understand the t-flats comment/question. It's the open-ended.

*thinking - hmm, I don't feel like paying for the next round, maybe we'lll just go Dutch

On May.14.2004 at 06:15 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Uh, hello Kevin?!? My comment about Keedy's article is not completely "out of focus" from the general direction of this thread. Nor was it intended to create "topic anarchy." It's an aside that was put at the end of my primary initial comment, in response to Armin's specific mentioning in the initial thread statement. But whatever. I'm not interested in "defocusing" any further than this response.

Ryan, I would agree that text-only bookish format of #64 to #66 does in some way compromise the emotive in favor of the cerebrial. In a way, it's a formal structural statement used reinforce credibility and focus. The irony, though, is that Emigre has always had a fair amount of credibility, even in it's visually-exuberent former self. But, perhaps it's current format is a response to the Neo-Modern influences that are currently prevalent and seem to counter much of what Emigre has historically promoted. My personal hope is that this current "cocooned" format will eventually re-emerge in a visually richer format in the future, which, while alluding to its former self, will be a different beast altogether.

In any event, I have a hard time seeing either Emigre or Speak Up replacing one another. Besides not functioning in the same media space, the very nature of different medias brings forth different yet equally valid forms of expression. That is, the writing on SU is different than the writing in Emigre and therefore they perform different functions, all the while still influencing one another.

Whether or not you agree with everything they print or post, a core value of SU and DO and Emigre and Eye is that they push us to think about our profession in ways that aren't found in the sugar-coated, self-congratulatory brand babble of others mags and sites. And they will only "implode" when Armin, Rudy, and others stop caring about design; which from what I can tell, ain't going to be happening any time soon.

On May.14.2004 at 07:01 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

Steven,

I've witnessed plenty of defocusing.

Thanks,

Sharks in Tanks

On May.14.2004 at 07:30 PM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Though I enjoyed the issue quite a bit (especially Fitz and Keedy), after reading it I felt like it must be incredibly tiring to constantly write about the same stuff over and over again. Not that it isn't worth writing about and all... just that it seems the same territory has been covered in so many issues of Emigre already.

Sure, recognition of blogs is nice and all. But, from my perspective, it's last years news. As for design catching up with the writing... maybe I'm dense but I didn't see any new theories of design in the issue to try/explore.

I haven't yet even tried to write anything for Emigre much less gotten it publishable so I don't want to be a whiney bitch though. I'm very grateful for the publication (especially since it returned to a publication with more words than ummm other stuff). And sooner or later I'll put my pen where my mouth is.

I'm eagerly looking forward to the future posts on this topic. Thanks for taking them one at a time.

gahlord

On May.14.2004 at 10:34 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

In this context you're the furthest thing from a whiney bitch.

ms dewald, you're a breath of fresh air.....

On May.15.2004 at 11:01 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Frisk:

Of course the beauty of type on a page is not all (however hard it is for us designers to contemplate). The beauty of a thought in a mind: that's what more there is. Sometimes images are used to cloud the mind, creating sparkle where there is little worthy of sparkling. It is harder to create such an illusion with words alone.

Re: Format of Emigre/Blogs Replacing Emigre

Mmmmm what a nice topic of discussion. Sorry if it's been done to death (there must have been a long thread on this back at #64 but I've only recently added SU to my "daily" safari tab). I promise my post will have some worth regardless.

A book, from a practical point-of-view, must encourage concise (ink costs money) and articulate expression in words. Our clients aren't often visual-communicators (that's why they pay us); a publication that encourages us to communicate as our clients do is worthwhile.

There already exists an excess of "emotive" commentary on design. The "cerebral" nature of the book format helps to balance it out. Emigre is the authoritative voice if you want thinking+design. That's the niche it owns.

Maybe they'll return to a magazine-style format someday. But for now, to have an edited/selected, no-images forum on graphic design... I'm grateful. I'm very very grateful. I can get my pretty pictures+some words from Print, I can get my pulse from SU, I can get my latest trickery from HOW. But Emigre is the only one that makes me stop and think for an afternoon.

That Emigre has been spinning their wheels for three issues isn't a sign that design needs to catch up with design-writing... it's a sign that there needs to be a new way to look at design-writing. We've done form vs. function; there's little left to say given our current understanding. If there's nothing else to talk about then we should just shut up and get back to work.

If DO posted longer/more-frequent then Emigre could worry about replacement; those folks seem to edit and think and go for the long-thought. As it is though, SU would replace Print quicker than Emigre.

SU has pulse, quick-review, and immediacy owned, and it does so without falling into "mere" journalism: there are solid ideas crossing the wires here. And those glossy pages of Print with self-produced, self-funded, self-designed award-winning business card... whatever.

Except I like those paper ads and stuff.

gahlord

[*chuckles at Kev* I'm a dude, dude. Avoid gender-specific pronouns on unusual names. ;)]

On May.15.2004 at 04:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Writing has caught up with Rant’s call for smarter and stronger content… now it’s time for design to catch up.

OK, OK, I guess I should clarify. I didn't realize this comment would create such hubbub. What I meant to say — and I agree that I wasn't clear and should have worded it more clearly — is that at least, and so far, the writing in Emigre has caught up. Rant was all about ranting and a call for something more, Nudging, in my opinion steps up to its own call. That's the writing I was referring to. Sorry for the confusion.

On May.16.2004 at 09:38 AM
kevinhopp’s comment is:

Yep you're right I shouldn't have given you the Ms. I hope I didn't offend you Gahlord, I actually just breezed by your name.

I guess I have a bit of advice for you too. When someone complements your thinking, I'd say, thank them first, acknowledge problem second.

It's a common practice of people with empathy and strong morals, and can be applied to your personal and business relationships.

On May.16.2004 at 12:51 PM
pk’s comment is:

i personally saw nothing particularly interesting about the issue.

armin, you seem overly excited to get some validation out of it, so congratulations for that. but remember that emigre's acceptance doesn't make Speak Up any more or less relevant.

the interview with you was about as insightful as a press release, and i was dismayed to see keedy yet again asked to do his comedy act. he's turning into design's joan rivers. it's getting really, really old. i want to like his writing, but he's so concerned with his own wit that his critical writing gets completely drowned.

On May.16.2004 at 02:06 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Maybe I'm biased in my opinion and perhaps my comments were short-sighted… I'll be the first to admit that. Not that I take it back, because what I wrote was what my reaction and opinion is and I stand by it.

So, if Emigre isn't living up to aything apparently, what or who is?

> the interview with you was about as insightful as a press release

Hey, press releases can be exciting.

but remember that emigre's acceptance doesn't make Speak Up any more or less relevant.

pk (this is not some smart-assed response): whose or what acceptance does make something more or less relevant? Is it even acceptance what makes something relevant?

On May.16.2004 at 05:52 PM
pk’s comment is:

Hey, press releases can be exciting.

sure. they're also used to generate sales or publicity and are therefore one-sided if not completely untrue for the sake of creating hype.

whose or what acceptance does make something more or less relevant?

i don't think acceptance creates relevance. i don't think acceptance by a widely-accepted cognoscenti is important at all, especially in a subjective field in which definitions are used as ammunition against each other.

if i seem overly bitter whenever the topic of popularity in reference to Speak Up comes up, it's because i don't trust it.

armin, i think you're a good man and a smart designer. i also think you're a fantastic ringleader in this medium, and Speak Up is capable of doing some good work.

i also see your need to be famous and widely liked, and i think your work becomes skewed whenever that is part of the equation. i hesitate to trust that part of your thinking because you've flirted with speaking about those desires, but never said why you want to be popular. you practically said as much in your interview, and i always wonder why it's such a big deal to you. it's a question that gets whispered about in private conversation among Speak Up participants, but never asked publicly, yet it should be—especially in this thread. so i'll ask:

armin, why do you care about being famous?

On May.16.2004 at 06:45 PM
Armin’s comment is:

My, how blunt *grin*

Well, there is no easy answer. First off all I can't say I don't want to be famous but I can't say either that is what I'm after as my ultimate goal. My first reaction to the question is: Why not?

For the first time in my life I have found something I'm good at. That something happens to be this and I'm not exactly sure what it is. I'm not a great writer, I'm not the most talented designer, I'm shy, I avoid social interaction as much as possible (unless it's people I like obviously) but this… this I'm good at — and people seem to respond to it — and I'll be damn silly if I didn't make the best of it. And in this case "making the best of it" has meant putting my name out there and, yes, having people like me — because I'm a fucking lovable person. I don't see fame as something bad, being "popular" is not that terrible a thing. Man, I don't know…

Being "famous" has led me to meet some great people, has granted me little opportunities to express my own point of view in slighlty more public forums, I have been able to meet (in person, e-mail or phone) some of the people I look up to… what I say or do has more reach than if I were a complete unknown. That some people don't like what I say or do is another issue and not one that completely bothers me. Do I want people to know who I am? Sure. Do I want people to hear what I have to say? Ditto. Do I seek fame? No… it found me. And I enjoy it… and it changes me as a person. For good. for bad. We'll see.

The thing is, I am what I am. What you see is what you get and nothing else. Pretentiousness, silliness, friendliness, snobiness, stupidness, awkwardness… all of it.

On May.16.2004 at 10:02 PM
pk’s comment is:

My, how blunt *grin*

you said you liked it when i was blunt. heh.

My first reaction to the question is: Why not?

you're being evasive. you know my feelings on the subject; feel free to not answer. this subject is highly relevant to speak up's nature, but it may be too much for public discussion.

anyway, back to emigre 66:

your interview: he started by asking how you learned to write english so well. i thought it was tacky, especially from another non-american, but i could be missing something. that was really the only standout moment in the interview.

as for the rest of the issue, i'm still soaking in it. fitzgerald's work never does much for me. his work always seems to underline things i've been thinking for a while upon observation in the field. it's never much of a surprise. i do, however, get the impression he doesn't think much of working designers. that's a nice feeling.

and that keedy fellow certainly is funny. does he even have a portfolio online? i've never seen him anywhere besides design magazines and i wanna see what his work's like, since he clearly dislikes much of what's going on these days.

On May.16.2004 at 11:04 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> you're being evasive.

I thought the three paragraphs after Why not? were not "evasive".

On May.17.2004 at 08:21 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

So, if Emigre isn't living up to anything apparently, what or who is?

This is the sort of thing that reminds me of something I think Oscar Wilde said (if not him, then one of his crew) about needing to "live up to one's teapot." He was speaking in terms of admiration of the aesthetic qualities of a fine object of some sort. It takes the thought of "living up to" to the extreme. And it's relevant in discussing Emigre.

Emigre is like a fine fine object to us all, I'm sure. I know it probably saved my soul more than once. But "it" lacks consciousness and isn't a living being. As such, it can't live up to anything. Moreover, it doesn't really need to.

Emigre just is what it is. Sometimes we like it, sometimes we don't. If there's anything Emigre needs to live up to, it's our own expectations of the magazine itself.

People on the other hand (the writers, the editor, ourselves, our colleagues, our clients)... people do have to live up to something. Something inside. Now I'm getting cornball so I'll stop. But don't confuse inanimate objects with people. It deflects responsibility.

that keedy fellow certainly is funny. does he even have a portfolio online?

He doesn't need an online porftolio. You see the result of his work at least twice a day if not more.

gahlord

On May.17.2004 at 10:43 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

(Case in point: both David Lee Roth and Pee Wee Herman are paraphrased).

Can we expect a David Lee Roth and Pee Wee Herman SU interview soon!?

On May.17.2004 at 10:53 AM
mazzei’s comment is:

I feel like I’m in some bad “design therapy” session.

As for Armin’s answer to “why do I want to be famous” which I will print out to remind me how much sketch comedy is right in front of my face:

“I'm not a great writer, I'm not the most talented designer, I'm shy, I avoid social interaction as much as possible (unless it's people I like obviously) but this… this I'm good at — and people seem to respond to it — and I'll be damn silly if I didn't make the best of it.” This is straight out of some bad “design soap opera”, didn’t Madonna say something like this in Truth or Dare? Like.. “I know I’m not the best singer or dancer I just want to push people’s buttons.” Armin, when you make a book of SU this should be the intro on the cover. Brilliant!

Then you could end the book with:

The thing is, I am what I am. What you see is what you get and nothing else.

Pretentiousness, silliness, friendliness, snobiness, stupidness, awkwardness… all of it.

Then sell the book rights to The Hallmark Channel they’ll make a movie of the week out of it.

Spare me.

All I have to say is “ditto” to what Mr. Keedy said: “We need to have more designers talking about design honestly and intelligently without self-promotion and moral posturing.”

On May.17.2004 at 11:28 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Somehow I'm not surprised that this makes for great pickings for your endless sarcasm Nancy. And to be honest — and off-topic and even territorial — it's a little sad that 4 out of 5 comments you leave on Speak Up have some smarty-better-than-thou quip about something I said. Just let it go. I think everybody here gets it that you don't like me. I get it.

Spare me.

On May.17.2004 at 11:37 AM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

"it's a question that gets whispered about in private conversation among Speak Up participants"

What up, PK. I must have been absent from gym class that day. Let's catch up in Algebra.

"I think everybody here gets it that you don't like me. I get it."

Armin, don't you know that girls beat you up on the playground when they do like you.

On May.17.2004 at 11:48 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Isn't it a somewhat standard human response to move towards affection and away from negative influences? I don't see why people are upset with Armin's fame (infamy?, notoriety?) or willingness to publicize Speak Up. I haven't seen it as pure self-promotion. Is he to tell Rudy Vanderlans to stop calling him? "Sorry, Rudy, but I really should keep a low profile these days. People might think I actually like this."

There's a big difference between "Real World" fame and earned fame. Those TV folks actively seek it and work their 15 minutes into complete self-delusion. Armin's recognition is simply because Speak Up has clearly touched a nerve amongst designers and it needs to be covered - by Print, Step, Emigre, et. al. As long as he keeps a normal sized head about himself, then things should be fine.

And if mass popularity were his goal, his "Spare me" response to Nancy wouldn't have happened.

On May.17.2004 at 12:04 PM
pk’s comment is:

He doesn't need an online porftolio. You see the result of his work at least twice a day if not more.

please share. all i know about his work is keedy sans, numerous pieces of writing, a specimen book for keedy, and some disreputable gossip from an old alleged girlfriend that he might or might not be a huge drama queen. that's it. nothing else.

I thought the three paragraphs after Why not? were not "evasive".

it was the results of having found a degree of fame, not a motivation to do so in the first place. different but related enough to be a pretty decent answer.

On May.17.2004 at 01:06 PM
Su’s comment is:

He doesn't need an online porftolio. You see the result of his work at least twice a day if not more.

*cough*Bullshit!*cough*

Could you take a moment to define "result of his work," please? It just seems odd to me that you didn't say we see his work directly.

On May.17.2004 at 01:16 PM
Su’s comment is:

Oh, great. Again with the tag-team act.

Seriously. Unplanned.

On May.17.2004 at 01:17 PM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Though I personally don't care for Keedy Sans that much, in it's anesthetized state it makes up the letters "Dunkin Donuts." The new Burger King logo uses something a bit more like the real thing. Maybe the design of typefaces somehow doesn't count here... I dunno. *shrug*

Maybe I'll just cede the point altogether, but then instead ask: Is it important that those who write critically for/about/of design have a stunning portfolio? Or can their words alone, as observers, have value and meaning to the profession? Is the call for a portfolio show our equivalent of an ad hominem?

Not being a smartass here, just curious.

gahlord

On May.17.2004 at 07:00 PM
pk’s comment is:

The new Burger King logo uses something a bit more like the real thing.

get out. proof that advertising can render anything harmless.

Maybe I'll just cede the point altogether, but then instead ask: Is it important that those who write critically for/about/of design have a stunning portfolio?

i think so, but only because design simply wouldn't exist without its service component, and that service component is more than likely going to be a motivating factor for designers for a while now. i don't think theory which removes itself from practical usage is relevant at this point. if ideas in this discipline don't work in the real world, then they just don't work and should be either shelved or kept for future usage. i wanna see utilisation of ideas.

On May.17.2004 at 08:46 PM
Su’s comment is:

Is it important that those [...] have a stunning portfolio? Or can their words alone, as observers, have value and meaning to the profession?

My turn, huh? Okay. I'd be a hypocrite to claim that words have no value, seeing as I 1> Don't consider myself a designer and 2> Don't have any obvious portfolio, either. On the other hand, neither am I snidely pontificating in national publications, nor claiming authority. To clarify, I'd actually thought "result of his work" might've been a suggestion that his students' output would somehow validate him.

To your point, though, Keedy Sans is not a portfolio. It's a single 15year-old font. And unless Keedy did the Dunkin' Donuts or Burger King work himself, then they don't count, either. I might be more forgiving on the issue if he came across a bit more reasonably. Instead, I'm continually wondering why someone who by appearances has created near nothing since 1989(The first result for his name from Google is a 1995 appearance for FUSE) feels entitled to run around screaming that everything done now is crap. The age of the font isn't even the issue so much as that there doesn't seem to be anything but the font.

I'd just like a little background. When someone is as...opinionated as he is, then can't point out something that is good, or back it up with their own work, I find it a bit suspect.

On May.17.2004 at 09:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

So, what about, say, Rick Poynor? Should his (vast) opinion be dismissed because he has no portfolio?

On May.17.2004 at 09:45 PM
Christopher Risdon’s comment is:

Well, Poyner, Heller, etc., are writers and critics by trade. Now a person can wear multiple hats, so Keedy is allowed to be respected for his opinions as a writer as well. It's just that he supposedly wears a designer hat, too (as far as I've assumed) and that makes one curious to see how his work is or isn't reflected in his printed opinion. I don't think it directly makes his writing any more or less relevent or incisive, bit it would be interesting to see if there is a body of work.

Maybe he considers himself pretty much a writer now and doesn't practice design?

On May.17.2004 at 09:59 PM
Jonathon’s comment is:

Rick Poynor makes it well known that he is not a designer, but a designer writer, and his opinions come from an outside view. I have never seen that from Keedy.

On May.17.2004 at 11:11 PM
pk’s comment is:

So, what about, say, Rick Poynor? Should his (vast) opinion be dismissed because he has no portfolio?

apples to oranges. nowhere does poynor claim to be a designer.

keedy's suspect because he claims to be a designer (and i know this to be somehwat true since he's published at least one designed object through emigre), yet doesn't show us the money.

quoting su:

When someone is as...opinionated as he is, then can't point out something that is good, or back it up with their own work, I find it a bit suspect.

poynor curates that which he thinks is worthwhile with examples of good and bad. that's what's always made him valuable to design: he speaks to us from the outside with an objective voice.

keedy, on the other hand, just objects. he almost gets constructive with his pinpointing of changes in conceptual language (see the paragraphs in his essay about context), but then there's no follow-through. if everything's so wrong, then make something you think is right. and furthermore, try to make it work on the same playing fields you're criticizing.

On May.17.2004 at 11:12 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Aizan and I were recently thinking about Keedy. I've never actually talked to him, but I think I would like to.

There's a good article about him in Rick Poynor's Eye anthology, Design Without Boundaries. There, the same observation is made: that he hasn't done much design work, or that the work he's done hasn't been out-standing. My own appreciation for Keedy though, comes from the recognition that he was one of the first to say that designers should write. I assume that he is a bit like me, thinking that the work of thinking about design is in fact design work, and that argumentation is an important part of the design process. I described him as one of the fathers of neo-modernism in this regard, and said that we are "Keedy's Bastards" (a reference to the book Voltaire's Bastards); the basic idea of the analogy is that we almost universally disagree with him now and feel that his thinking is alien (we wouldn't recognize him as our father), and he probably didn't intend for the future to become what it has become (he wouldn't recognize us as his offspring).

I also assumed, when it was said that "you see the results of his work at least twice a day", that this referred to SpeakUp. Keedy's in-your-face attitude, the way he throws ideas around and rejects proper scholarship, etc... these were the seeds for something like SpeakUp to happen.

Obviously, "show me the portfolio" falls flat because it assumes that designers of the future should follow all the norms of designers of the past. It is a way of thinking that will certainly inhibit progress. You can't reject, for example, Art Chantry as a great designer for not having done design work for a big corporation.

The difference with Keedy, though, seems to be that he calls himself a designer, not "just a writer" like Poynor or Heller. Therefore he is making a unique statement that neither Poynor or Heller even try to make.

On May.17.2004 at 11:39 PM
Su’s comment is:

Funny enough, Tom, I almost used you as an example earlier. When you eventually did start posting work at your site, it at least gave context to your statements.

Obviously, "show me the portfolio" falls flat because it assumes that designers of the future should follow all the norms of designers of the past.

We're not concerned with all the norms, and your statement doesn't hold up anyway. Norms are constantly being tossed. Regardless, I don't think the concept of portfolio is going away anytime soon, and I'm not aware of any designers—except, I suppose, with the exception of Keedy, which is what we're trying to establish here—who have their jobs based strictly upon their ideas.

You can't reject, for example, Art Chantry as a great designer for not having done design work for a big corporation.

I don't, because he did. Do work, that is. The size or type of client, even allowing for personal work, has not been made an issue. For that matter, we're barely even discussing quality(Chantry doesn't do it for me.) I'm just asking for proof of existence at this point.

[...] he calls himself a designer, not "just a writer" like Poynor or Heller. Therefore he is making a unique statement[...]

Naming and being are not equal things, except maybe with magicians. So for the sake of definitions, I'm arguing from the perspective that a pretty picture can be design. So could one of Keedy's essays, when nicely typeset. The text(read: content) of said essay, however, is not. While the structure and flow of the ideas in a piece of writing could arguably be designed(hey, I like Nabokov), I think at that point, you're already too far down the pipe to pure thought. Therefore, Keedy is no more a designer than that guy with a wrench and an opinion is a mechanic.

On May.18.2004 at 12:36 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

When you eventually did start posting work at your site, it at least gave context to your statements.

That's what I was hoping. I don't want to pretend to be something I'm not, so I'm not ashamed of showing where I'm at, even if it is generally not-so-good and doesn't exemplify my thinking per se.

I'm not aware of any designers...who have their jobs based strictly upon their ideas.

Just thinking here... isn't that what art directors are? And aren't art directors what most designers want to become? They have to have proven themselves competent in some way, I guess. But Keedy Sans is perhaps the most perfect example of double-coded, postmodern type. It is certainly a concrete achievement.

I don't, because he did. Do work, that is. (Chantry)

Well, I suppose I don't know enough about him. What I'm saying is that Chantry has made a kind of contribution that would be lost to anyone who had a certain kind of preconcieved notion about what a design portfolio should be and, based on that, refused to at least consider him as a graphic designer. It may not be a great example, but I think you know what I'm saying. He would have a hard time getting a job at certain places. Likewise, Keedy has a hard time getting accepted by people who don't see writing, ideas, thinking, as part of what design is all about. I was using Chantry as a simpler example; Keedy, in the way I have interpreted him, is more radical, but in the same direction--breaking away from preconceived notions about what designers should do.

Also, my interpretation may be incorrect. He is probably quite interested in creating examples of his thinking; he probably doesn't have a lot of time to do real work, though, because I believe he is a teacher and an experimenter first and foremost. (--that may also be wrong...again, I don't know him.) The Keedy cirriculum outlined in Heller's book was very intensely directed toward the production of and academic experimentation with imagery. It seemed like open experimentation and learning, rather than goal-oriented, typical and overtly saleable design strategy.

I do think that Keedy Sans (and the booklet that displays it, which goes far beyond just the font and indeed could be considered a portfolio in itself) is quite sufficient proof of his existence.

a pretty picture can be design...The text(read: content) of said essay, however, is not.

I'll agree that you can't call writing "graphic" design. But design issues are very much a part of the writing process. What you can learn about design through writing is very important. We are talking about an academic who is interested in teaching, learning, and evolving. I would suggest that many graphic designers have the "graphic" part but not the "design" part. They would do well to get a fresh sense of "design" through other media.

Keedy is no more a designer than that guy with a wrench and an opinion is a mechanic.

Again, though, you're putting design in a box, and Keedy is thinking outside of it. In the end, maybe we can't call writing "graphic design", but that doesn't mean Keedy is not doing the "work" toward "graphic design" through his writing.

On May.18.2004 at 02:32 AM
pk’s comment is:

I'm not aware of any designers...who have their jobs based strictly upon their ideas.

Just thinking here... isn't that what art directors are?

no.

the point, tom, which you're busily abstracting away, is that keedy's words are breeding mistrust because 1) he is calling himself a designer, 2) he's not making any further definition of that position to himself than is applied to anyone else in the profession, 3) he isn't supporting his alleged belonging to the profession by showing any sort of work whatsoever, even though he 4) does a lot of naysaying against current practitioners.

Well, I suppose I don't know enough about him. What I'm saying is that Chantry has made a kind of contribution that would be lost to anyone who had a certain kind of preconcieved notion about what a design portfolio should be and, based on that, refused to at least consider him as a graphic designer.

the point is not what type of designed work, but the very existence of designed work.

i'm sure there are several people who could do what he is doing, which is, as far as evidence shows, finger-wagging. but frankly, if you don't know what it is to reason something out to a client and convince them of your intentions as well as convincing them that your intentions are made on behalf of their best intentions, then you have no real place preaching to the rest of the profession about how wrong its thoughts are.

i am not talking about theoretical scenarios, nor am i talking about scholarly debate. i am talking about the simple, hard reality of design on a day to day basis: that we must balance our own artfulness against businessfolk who are paying us for a concrete goal—people who probably have not got a ton of experience in the aethetic disciplines, and are more than likely completely flummoxed at the very idea of having a designer not only proclaim that green is better than red, but that it is better for a reason based in some sort of deeply abstract philosophy which is somehow relevant to their need for a new logo and sales materials.

now, framed in that conundrum, please tell me how unimportant it is to have practical experience in evidence before making accusation of wrongful practice. ideas don't last a second if you can't get them onto into agenda somewhere for discussion and later implementation.

On May.18.2004 at 03:30 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

When you eventually did start posting work at your site, it at least gave context to your statements.

Dammit. That means I need to get my site back up, doesn't it?

On May.18.2004 at 09:33 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Odd conversation. I’m as likely to say nasty things about Jeff as the next guy but he has done graphic design. His work that I'm familiar with has been mainly for cultural institutions—art museums, schools, etc. While I might agree that a broader range of clients might better prepare someone to teach graphic design (Tom and I can argue about that later) it’s not accurate to pretend that the closest thing to graphic design Jeff’s done is his eponymous typeface and specialization of work doesn’t preclude breadth of opinion.

As to people not having seen his work, I haven’t seen the work of most people posting to this thread and I suspect most of you aren’t familiar with mine.

It does strike me as valid to point out that his work, like that of much of his late ’80s/early ’90s CalArts/Cranbrook brethren’s, seemed to be more about sticking it in the eye of Massimo Vignelli, et al, than anything else. There seems to be some connection between work that seems to know what it’s against but is less clear about what it’s for and Jeff’s hammering away at the evils of modernism in his writing. It strikes me as a mistake, however, to dismiss his writing on the basis of one’s unfamiliarity with his design work. There are so many good reasons to dismiss his writing; why go for something as silly as that?

On May.18.2004 at 03:14 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Thanks Gunnar,

I agree. I'm not going to talk anymore about Emigre until I get my copy (still waiting for it). Our differences of opinion about the experience required to teach are related to the issues of academic autonomy v. vocationalism. Hopefully we'll get to talk more about that elsewhere.

On May.18.2004 at 06:26 PM
Shawn Wolfe’s comment is:

Wow.

On May.18.2004 at 07:06 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Totally.

On May.18.2004 at 09:05 PM
Lorraine Wild’s comment is:

Nevermind.

On May.19.2004 at 03:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Sure?

On May.19.2004 at 03:32 PM
Andrew Breitenberg’s comment is:

yes, I'm sure.

On May.19.2004 at 04:02 PM
Tom’s comment is:

what?

On May.19.2004 at 04:16 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Lorraine?

On May.19.2004 at 04:25 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

Wait a second, did you say the Dunkin' Donuts logo is based on Keedy Sans?

Back to my James Brown: Sex Machine Live in Augusta Georgia cd

On May.19.2004 at 05:22 PM
Andrew Breitenberg’s comment is:

Just joking the spiralling confusion Lorraine -

Sex Machine Live? Now that is a funky album.

On May.19.2004 at 05:51 PM
Lorraine Wild’s comment is:

While Dunkin' Donuts may have, in a clumsy moment of typographic enthusiasm, paired Keepy Sans with their logotype for collateral (as have several other manufacturers of sugary delights, go figure) , I believe the logotype is VAG Rounded, or more likely, propriatory.

On the "nevermind": several people work very hard (six or seven re-writes for me, at least) on the essays for Emigre; Armin Vit clearly takes his time and adds his thoughts in a review; and this results in a thread that traverses the following territory:

some sort of re-hashing over the legitimacy of Emigre versus the "punk rock" of the blogs;

some gnashing of teeth over whether or not Armin Vit has been corrupted by appearing in Emigre;

some grinding over whether or not Mr. Keedy has any legitimate right to the attention of readers;

and finally, in one of the funniest postings ever, Tom Gleason's admission that it might be good to read the thing that is allegedly "under consideration."

hmmm...a donut would be really good around now...

On May.19.2004 at 06:02 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

It's not really that funny, since I just felt like talking about Keedy even though it was technically off-topic. That seems to be allowed in more-liberal blogs such as this one. But I'm glad I could give you a laugh. Hope it feels good. Notice that your comment, as well, critiques the thread and not the Preface.

I've written elsewhere about the difficulty I've had in finding and affording a copy of this issue, and the recognition of the disturbing (but seemingly unavoidable) link between being able to buy things (books) and being taken seriously in certain conversations. Luckily, a very generous grad student ordered it for me as a gift.

8 dollars for shipping from Emigre? No more subscriptions?

On May.19.2004 at 07:27 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

Okay. After some careful comparison, I've concluded that the Dunkin' Donuts logo is based on donuts.

Sorry to go off topic.

On May.20.2004 at 06:53 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

The whole Jeff Keedy thing seems to be more about authority or "authority" depending on how you view it; particularly the criteria for establishing it.

Am I understanding this correctly that somehow it's ok for Poynor to talk about design because he says he's not a designer but it's wrong for Keedy to write about design because the only evidence of his design on google is an old Fuse article? I'm not trying to be an ass, just trying to understand what the criteria is for establishing authority as a design critic/writer.

PK seems to argue that a design critic/writer should have to work with real-world problems and clients. Given that Poynor doesn't deal with design clients, wouldn't his thoughts be dismissable by the criteria of having actual design clients? Or is he absolved from this criteria by stating that he's not a designer?

What I took away from Keedy's article was not so much a criticism of existing practice as a criticism of existing design conversations (probably very much like this one). PK, what was your impression of the article?

gahlord

On May.20.2004 at 07:25 AM
pk’s comment is:

and with that, i drop this.

On May.20.2004 at 12:35 PM
marian’s comment is:

When, oh when, will my issue arrive?

And where are my donuts??

Back to my The Tragically Hip: Fully Completely CD

On May.20.2004 at 03:38 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

PK, have you ever met Rick Poynor?

I would not agree with:

offers constructive criticism,

offers counterargument when

argument is made, and

possibly the rest as well.

On May.20.2004 at 07:48 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

Keedy has a great writing style it’s funny, shocking, honest, true, not true etc.. he’s not trying to fit into any norms. I enjoy his writing because I read alot of stuff by “popular” design critics they seem to write the same piece over and over it gets boring. It feels they are “reporting” on design rather than “involved” in design. Keedy wears his heart on his sleeve and in most cases says what everyone else is thinking but are afraid to put out there because they wont be invited to write again. As for his work vs, writing who cares? Isn’t a well “written” design article just as valuable/entertaining as a good logo no matter who does it?

On May.24.2004 at 04:00 PM