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Speak Up: Now What?

It has been 50 months, more than 1,500 posts and 37,000 comments, three versions of MovableType, four versions of the site, two AIGA National Design conferences, two Cooper-Hewitt Triennials, two terms of Bush Presidency, over twenty redesigned logos and close to thirty involved authors — among other notorious milestones — since I posted my first entry on Speak Up. It is fair to say that things have changed and rollercoastered in what now seems like an eternity. I have changed. Authors have changed. Design has dramatically changed. And Speak Up has certainly changed — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But, in a way, we have not wanted to acknowledge and face a major change in the way we all (authors and readers) approach Speak Up. So today I hope to metaphorically air out the bed, dust of the bed bugs and lay down a new set of sheets.

Speak Up became notorious for its I-have-nothing-to-lose brash attitude that attacked, questioned and poked everything in its way. Nothing was sacred. Not the AIGA. Not Emigre. Not typography. Not interviews. Not even ourselves. We cursed and blasphemed our way to attention and every answer or event was followed by “why?”. Closely followed by “fuck you” — to bigger and lesser extent throughout the years. Designers loved it. There had never been anything like it. We were the fight that broke out in a bar that everyone gathered ‘round to see and would throw in a beer bottle every now and again. With discussions around the UPS logo, Emigre’s famous Rant, and critiques of AIGA events we honed our bitching into a sharp form of criticism that while lacking rigor it never lacked passion and truthfulness. And we built our mission around that modus operandi. We asked, you answered. Recognition and devoted readership followed.

In the past twelve to sixteen months, however, we’ve run out of questions and even perhaps out of steam. Some of us (authors) have gone from outsiders to insiders. The AIGA, our Goliath when we started, became a tedious theme to discuss. Spec. Sagmeister. Contests. Awards. Music packaging. Book covers. Rebrandings. We have done it all. We started to get repetitive and, well, sometimes even boring. However, some of the posts in the past twelve months have been, to me at least, the most interesting, opinionated and relevant, even when some of those posts haven’t topped more than ten comments and some people have straight up told us that we have lost our edge, that Speak Up is not what it used to be — yes, those 150+ comment posts are almost extinct now. And for some time we have simply brushed it off. But maybe, it is the painful truth: Speak Up is not what it used to be. And, actually, I’m pretty excited that it’s not.

This allows us to move forward with a new focus. To find a new voice and a new approach. But what is this new “it”? It can’t be “fuck everything”, we are all now too close and too involved and too interconnected with one another to take this attitude. It can’t be finger-pointing (unless deserved). It can’t rely on asking questions, as the answer well seems to have dried up. From the posts that I have written in the past year and from the things that Debbie, Mark, Marian, Bryony and Jason have put up I have come to notice a more interesting thread than mere discussion for discussion’s sake. Whether we have written about David Blaine, The New York Times’ page 3, stars, bellicose web sites, quarter-of-an-inch packaging replicas or VH1’s Pop Culture Quiz we have been gunning — perhaps unknowingly in a way — for one simple thing: To find Design Relevance.

To find it in the everyday. To tie it back to what we do. To understand how our actions and concerns as graphic designers are reflected in the world. And what is most rewarding is that anything you see, anything you hold, anything you experience is somehow a manifestation of design consideration. And what we have tried to do is to find those glimmers of relevance that relate to what we do as visual communicators, as translators of culture, history, politics, economics, sports… Everything and anything. It would be easy to get lost in the vapid lure of Design with a capital “D” and claim that everything is Design and that we have a hand in shaping everything. We don’t. We play small but important roles and we want to explore where those manifestations lie. What we want to find in anything that we explore is how any given experience is relevant to design. Relevant to the practice of creating, of thinking, of processing loose ideas and requests, of assessing disparate materials, of endless hours and numb assess spent in front of a glowing monitor, of the art of the pitch, of the thrill of the end product, of the quest for flawless and innovative execution. Of design.

With this new outlook on Speak Up, we hope to bring you Design Relevance. We will do it with strong opinions and, when possible, with flair. We will share our views on what we find interesting, in the spirit that you will consider everything for its design values. In return, we would like you to lunge your opinion back at us. We want to hear from you. We want you to disagree, to tell us how you see things, how things can be better, how we may be missing a part of the picture. If our new Quipsologies blog has proved anything is that everyone of our readers has unique interests, specific points of view and we want to harness, again, this energy, knowledge and passion for graphic design that we all share.

In the coming weeks we will draft a new “about” page that will reflect this, and the next Stop Being Sheep will most likely reflect this change as well. I must admit that writing this and making it a public hearing is somewhat weird to me, but some of you have been with us since day one, others have joined late, others have come and gone but your contributions and returtn visits have always shaped our own relevance in the design community and I do feel that the least I could do is write this as an expression of our continued commitment to you and to keep this end of the interwebs as engaging as possible.

So that’s how I feel. How do you feel?

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Feb.13.2007 BY Armin
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

I've been thinking about the current "world of design." We're regularly disappointed with design coverage in popular media not aligning with our day-to-day experience. I feel compelled to meet "the public" where they are and not worry about the "big D" the "little D" or "that D is everything." If everyone thought the latter, I think I'd be damn bored. Don't get my wrong, I truly believe in the design-as-a-lens approach, but I need the resistance. I need non-believers to motivate me!

Despite the fact that I feel most design professionals scoff at the trajectory of an organization like AIGA, their perspective
about design as a global industry with an interest in emerging economies is probably the most realistic from a business point of view.

Now where does that leave design in the eyes of the public and where does it leave my place within it?

I wonder if I can find, for myself, not so much about how design fits into life but how life fits into design. There's something more to the experience of designing and "receiving" design. I'm not sure what it is, but agreed Armin, I'm not going to find it by asking the same old questions.

On Feb.13.2007 at 10:22 AM
Christina W’s comment is:

Speak Up is dead... Long live Speak Up!

On Feb.13.2007 at 10:43 AM
pnk’s comment is:

Bravo! As someone whose been here to see most of the evolution you described so well, I applaud your commitment to staying constantly engaged in this thing, whatever it is. Questioning and crticizing others is the easy part of iconoclasm: your willingness to turn the lens on yourself (and the willingness of the majority of the authors and contributors to this site to do the same) is why I keep coming back.

On Feb.13.2007 at 12:01 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:


On Feb.13.2007 at 12:31 PM
Greg Scraper’s comment is:

I remember fully the conviction that this site stirred in me towards the design profession, sometimes to negative ends, but all the time causing me to question, think and respond with a passion that I had never thought possible in a field I felt was governed mainly by what's popular at the moment. So, with that in mind I say thank you for the last few years and to the next few I say... bring it on!

On Feb.13.2007 at 12:39 PM
Ben Hagon’s comment is:

Armin, we wait with baited breath for the latest iteration of Speak Up.

And congratulations, by the way, for keeping it going this long.

On Feb.13.2007 at 12:46 PM
Tan’s comment is:

As a past author, it feels like the end of summer camp. As camp counselors, we laughed, we told stories, we bonded. But in the end, each of our lives changed. The world changed.

Now where do we go next? I have no idea. Well, I have some ideas -- but I'm curious to hear how others feel.

I've also noticed that as my career has progressed, my perspective and understanding of it has also changed. My professional interests have changed, along with my waistline, my income, my taste in music, etc.

But just last week, I participated in a local AIGA student event as a panelist. It had been years since I'd previously done it. But lo and behold, the students all asked the exact same questions that they asked years ago. Almost verbatim. Their interest and fascination were exactly the same.

To them, these old questions were completely brand new.

So yes, we do repeat a few ongoing topics over and over again on SU. But if it's a new crowd of listeners each time, is that really so bad? I dunno.

Maybe the truth is that SU found its sweetspot, and stayed there as long as it could until its authors and founders inevitably couldn't any more.

But that doesn't mean the sweetspot has changed.

On Feb.13.2007 at 01:04 PM
pi_skyy’s comment is:

Bah. Let's get back to throwing beer bottles.

On Feb.13.2007 at 01:21 PM
David Flaherty’s comment is:

Robert zimmerman created Drawger.com which allows a selected group of illustrators to have mini-blogs in one home. They each provide content, be it banal, work related or industry related news. Content comes flying in because it's self generated. What if this became a local for 100 designers to add items of their own choosing? Just a thought.
I'd be a lot easier on your end. Also it's more visual which is good.

On Feb.13.2007 at 01:22 PM
Khoi Vinh’s comment is:

From the tone and the reception here, it sounds like an exciting change... but I'm sorry, I don't think I really understand what was announced here. Is it just that Speak Up is going to be different? Anyway, I hope it's a smashing success.

On Feb.13.2007 at 02:23 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Khoi. You are absolutely right. There is no change (the change already took place) and there is no real "announcement". It was a purging of sorts. It is mostly about establishing expectations. A lot of people still expect us to just keep asking questions and talk about just-design stuff, but we can't keep doing that. Even if, as Tan says, that is still the sweet spot.

So, things are going to stay basically the same. No name change, no design change, (maybe some functionality tweaks), no authors change. But, at least now we are all clear on what to expect and what we need to deliver on.

That's all. I just had to get the good ol' chip off the shoulder.

On Feb.13.2007 at 02:48 PM
Khoi Vinh’s comment is:

Okay, fair enough, thanks for clarifying that. I thought I was missing something!

On Feb.13.2007 at 02:54 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and keep sailing Armin, Bryony and all you design writers....

Whatever comes next, if it stays honest to itself, it doesn't matter if the shiny newness has worn off...

Tipping my hat to ya'll...

On Feb.13.2007 at 03:17 PM
Dave C.’s comment is:

This all makes perfect sense. Back in school, my first design teacher explained his process for brainstorming ideas: write everything down that comes to mind no matter how outside of the subject. Then pick apart those items and write everything down you can think of. After about 15 minutes, you're out of ideas and you're brain really has to start working. The stuff that comes next are the jewels, the most well thought of, out of the box ideas that you'll come up with. They may not always work, but they aren't run of the mill.

On Feb.13.2007 at 03:55 PM
mike o's’s comment is:

So is the focus going in the same direction as say ...Design Observer?

On Feb.13.2007 at 04:16 PM
Josh’s comment is:

Armin - I have loved nearly everything Speak Up has ever let rip or ripped on. Yes, it has gotten a bit stale, but not so much repetitive. I'm excited to see that a genuine self analysis is afoot and new goals being set.

Though in our new reality we have lots of writers and bloggers that spawn controversy(see prince/super bowl), give us inside speculation(see Apple) and deliver us the golden nuggets of knowledge, my questions is should we be creating more than we should be commenting?

I know that may not be the primary purpose nor at all, but I know I’m already interested in reading about design, keeping up on brand changes and finding information about design, all of which Speak Up does very well. If you are turning over a new leaf, it seems Speak Up would have the resources of its devoted audience to help build new ideas and create solutions, rather than merely break them down.

Running off of Randy’s slightly scornful comment of our professional organization for design, Speak Up started as a grass roots voice and I would love if it went in the direction of a grass roots organization that began to welcome people to our design community and create, rather than mire ourselves in sedentary and the tired old ideas of our big brother.

Anyone feeling this?

On Feb.13.2007 at 05:06 PM
stacia’s comment is:

i've been a designer for many years now and in the past year or so i've become increasingly sick of the designer "fuck you". don't get my wrong, i love a debate. what i don't love is, "because i'm the designer, that's why!" the foot stomping of designers is as tiresome as the foot stomping of a nap deprived three year old.

i wonder daily why i do what i do and then i realize that i can do many things but i will do design no matter what i do. it's me. if i want to be relevant then i guess i better work damn hard to ensure that my work is relevant.

thanks for the...paradigm shift (too 90's), conversation starter (too hillary), kick in the ass (perfect). thanks for keeping me thinking. the only designers i want to know are the thinking ones.

On Feb.13.2007 at 08:07 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

It is what it is.

Embrace it. "It" may be gone tomorrow.


On Feb.13.2007 at 09:06 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

Achieving relevance is hard: it's much easier to throw rhetorical bombs, but not as worthwhile. Armin, I applaud your effort to keep Speak Up fresh and, yes, relevant, even if it means fewer 100+ comment posts.

That said, it was a comment here in Speak Up, several years ago, that prompted me to step up my involvement in the AIGA. Again, it was the issue of relevance: how can an organization that only speaks to its own members affect the standing of the profession in the community at large? That question rang to me as a challenge to connect to an audience outside of the "choir." We aren't there yet, but the tentative steps we have taken in that direction have been very interesting. If Speak Up had not thrown its rocks at the AIGA Goliath, I doubt that we would have even tried.

On Feb.13.2007 at 10:17 PM
DadoQueiroz’s comment is:

First of all, Armin and everyone involved: congratulations. I can only wonder the ammount of hard work and commitment it takes to keep something ever evolving. You're keeping it real, and that's a great thing, regardless of how many comments a given post gets. I don't even think that's a way to measure the post quality at all but, rather, its polemic potential. As people get older, maturity usually brings them serenity and a better sense of diplomacy, keeping them more and more far away from sparked debates. Wich doesn't mean far away from deep ones. If you think of it, not much can be learned in a shouting argument, no matter how cool it can be to watch it and eventually throw in a beer bottle or two (sometimes even a chair). Maybe SpeakUp has matured, and that's it. Since I suppose you don't make huge ammounts of money out of this, probably the number of comments don't matter all that much, right?
I've been around. I've been absent. I even wrote a post (and there you were, thinking Armin knew what he was doing!). It's always great to come back. However, I don't comment much. Because usually that means I have to read through 20-30 comments written before mine, otherwise I might sound repetitive or just plain stupid. And I know it's a horrible thing to confess, but I'm way too lazy for this. It's one thing to read the post, but another thing altogheter to read the comments. Since I sense I went off topic I'll just stop. Don't want to discourage the next comment writer by making this text body too big...

On Feb.13.2007 at 11:13 PM
Ghazaleh’s comment is:

Speak Up's great. It's a great way to share the thinking of designers who choose to read and blog.

I have some suggestions:

1. Announce more positive work that designers are doing. Sort of like WorldChanging.com
I want to hear what's going on and how design is changing lives...today, now! NEWS!

2. Let's not focus so much on criticism and negative remarks and stop defining ourselves so much. Let's talk about the bigger and broader scope of things rather than just what we see in the media or at conferences.

3. Blog culture was new 2 years ago and is old now. Just because of the fact that it's a free for all and lots of people "speak up". It's really something innovational but inorder to prolong it's life I think it needs to introduce new faces, new ideas, reach international audiences more and have more topics to really connect design to humanity and change.

These were all just on the top of my head, with no edits. I'm glad I am actually given the opportunity to give suggestions.
I do feel like I want more. It's been great so far and can only get better.



On Feb.14.2007 at 12:40 AM
N Silas Munro’s comment is:


So this is how I feel:

I was going to send this in a private email, but in the name of the "old" Speak Up—which I liked rather much—I'll do some rabble rousing and self-less self-promotion by posting this publicly.

As someone who's done writing for, commented, did contests, word its, and read Speak Up copiously (that won't change) I wanted to take a moment to pontificate about "Design Resonance."

Here is a very new blog that our Historical Survey of Graphic Design History Class at CalArts (the blog was formed by Louise Sandhaus who is filling in for Loraine Wild) . The site is no utopia, but I think we are already finding some "Design Relevance." Sometimes it's not always the next new think that is going to give it to you. We should also looking back and other directions too , but not with our typical style minning view. Ho hum. How boring.

I have to say that you are starting to sound like the not-so-late, but super-great Rudy VanderLans—oh about circa Emigre 39: "Graphic Design and the Next Big Thing." And then again, and then again, and then in Emigre 69. Also an amazing issue. I'm sure you're all aware of this. But take a note from Rudy and don't loose your sense of FU. It's more fun than DO. Though I love DO for it's really scholarly bent. Can't SU change, but stay the same?

It also makes me think of the epitaph...er....epilogue of the monograph of your co-worker Paula Scher:

"A designer I respeced warned me that the danger of doing a book on my own work, beyond the obvious egotism invovled, is that after its publication I'd be 'over' I've been 'over' at least three times, rather prominently. Being over is a little embarrassing the first time, but if one considers tha the average period of being "not-over" is perhaps five years, possible now shortening to three, being over is inevitable and something a designer should plan for. the great thing about being over—after one finishes the self-flagellation part—is that one can start right up again. This book is over."

Also just a thought, just because you've "arrived' doesn't mean you can't still make waves. I hope everyone can appreciate the irony, and fun. It's so very now.

On Feb.14.2007 at 03:03 AM
Nick’s comment is:

i've been reading speakup for a couple years, and my biggest criticism is that this site feels too american. how many of the authors live in the us? or is this something that we can count on not changing?

On Feb.14.2007 at 08:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and keep sailing Armin

Pesky, I much prefer your barnacle analogy than my bed bug one.

> So is the focus going in the same direction as say ...Design Observer?

Mike, yes, but no. Yes, in the sense that I would like to take one step away from graphic design so that we can look at it a little bit broader rather than focus on just the center dot of the target. And no in the sense that they are them and we are we. If that makes sense.

Silas and Ghazaleh, thanks for the thoughtful comment, they are equally thoughtfully taken under, um, consideration.

On Feb.14.2007 at 08:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Nick, a valid point. And, yes, all of the authors, except Marian (who is in Vancouver) are all in the U.S. This is something that we can work towards to. I actually have an interview in the works with the Art Director of a Spanish newspaper and just started another one with a Mexican poster designer. We can look outside of the U.S., but the perspective, as long as we are writing it, will be undeniably and unavoidably American.

On Feb.14.2007 at 08:38 AM
Lorenzo’s comment is:

>>Pesky, I much prefer your barnacle analogy than my bed bug one.

Armin, I much prefer your bed bug analogy!

On that note, start jumping on that fresh and clean SU bed and mess it up!

On Feb.14.2007 at 12:42 PM
Some Miscellaneous Design Guy’s comment is:

Do you think it would be bad if Speak Up had registering and profile pages of who's posting? Or is the ability to go anonymous whats great about it? I'm always wondering who the hell you people are, and I'm too lazy to email or look at your web links to find out. I'm not talking about full resumes or portfolios. Maybe a photo and a brief description of location/occupation/education..etc. Just a thought, I'm not looking for another Myspace page, but at least SU's would look nice.

On Feb.14.2007 at 01:28 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"It is mostly about establishing expectations."

I expect to see stuff posted semi-often. What it specifically is about isn't that important. As long as I have something to read during my mental breaks from work I'm happy. ;o)

On Feb.14.2007 at 02:40 PM
Thomas Jockin’s comment is:


Like everyone has said before, you've earned my respect for your honest post about where Speak Up has been, where SU is now, and where you want SU to go— this may be a blog, but its' the authors that are the ones shaping the voice and direction, not the audience.

But you have to admit Armin, Design Relevance is a lofty and loaded term. While this sounds very nice ( in-fact essential in a time where the legacy of Corporate International Style has crashed hard. very very hard (can we say at&t? UPS? Logoworks?)) but what exactly do you mean?

Are you going to call out the great subjectiveness in design practice and that business nowadays don't need us (assuming graphic design is indeed a enterprise in the service of markets and business). And then from there suggest ways to integrate new measures (that business will respond to) to our methodology, in order to keep us relevant? Or something else?

Beside this, to be honest, I found Stop Being Sheep a far more valuable thing, than the blog itself— to edit out all the fluff, and has a more reflective, thoughtful nature is a very nice thing in my opinion. I look forward to the next issue of Stop Being Sheep when it comes out (hopefully soon!)

On Feb.14.2007 at 04:23 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

I look forward to the next issue of Stop Being Sheep when it comes out (hopefully soon!)

very...very...very soon.


In a way we have reached a new age, like a kid who hits puberty or the guy eying the porsche, we find ourselves searching for more. What that more is elusive and at times holistic, tangible and intangible at the same time. We are looking back into our history, the things we have done through Speak Up both online and offline, assessing the hits and the misses and realizing that some things need to change. Above are a series of great ideas, comments and suggestions that we will surely be taking to the corner coffee shop very soon as we take the next steps – what the outcome will be, I don’t know. One thing is for sure, the passion and energy that you instill on the site will continue to push us towards more.

...this site feels too american. how many of the authors live in the us? or is this something that we can count on not changing?
Armin responded to this in detail, and I just wanted to add that this ratio has not been sought, but has happened. In the past other countries have been represented via our authors, but as of today we are American centric. I guess we focus more on the people for who they are and what they bring to the site, than where they pay the bills...

On Feb.14.2007 at 05:45 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

SMDG writes: Or is the ability to go anonymous whats great about it? I'm always wondering who the hell you people are, and I'm too lazy to email or look at your web links to find out.

Like a whore on her day off, I'm not here to advertise the goods, so to speak. If you can't find the design bordello, you just ain't trying, sailor.

I'm here to unwind or just to comment. I don't know why, when I started reading this stuff, that I never used my name - Illustrators are nobody's stepchild - other than that, not wanting FEMA to read my comments about how they @#$%&* Louisiana. Evacuees don't need extra attention.

On Feb.14.2007 at 07:24 PM
Dave Werner’s comment is:

Sounds like a worthwhile direction to me.

And, might I add, I would love to see a Speak Up video series someday. Designer interviews, studio tours, panel discussions, Armin singing the theme song...quality entertainment.

On Feb.14.2007 at 11:48 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:

Armin. Thanks for clearing the air about what's going on here. I gotta admit its felt a little uninspiring and my involvement has waned. Thought that may have as much to do with my career careeing into busy as F**k territory.

Pontificating about the Design's Relevance is all fine and good but also heavily treaded and a little stale in its own right. It also suffers from a whole lot of subjectivity and amibiguity. Which is both good and bad.

My one piece of advice moving forward. Keep it visual!

Be wary of too many words. I want to see more work. I love the previous commenters suggestion of building a network of the people who post here. I would love to know more about em. I would love to see more of their work. Right now most of the design publications aren't showing very much contemporary work. The kind of stuff on the front lines that is proving the value of design to our clients everyday. They are leaving that to the annuals and competitions and as we all know, the competition system is broken and just shows the same work over and over and over.

Do I need to see another Anni Kuan catalog? No.

But I'd love to know what some non celebrity designers are doing in their day to day. In the work of the people who are most passionate about design with a capital D. That is where your going to find designs true relevance.

On Feb.15.2007 at 09:38 AM
Even more Miscellaneous then before’s comment is:

Pesky-I'm not asking you to advertise, or even show your work. Maybe just a profile pic next to posts... you can keep any pseudonym you'd like.. even draw your profile pic. I just think it might add a little life to the posts...

I like pictures.

On Feb.15.2007 at 09:55 AM
DadoQueiroz’s comment is:

As for SpeakUp beeing too american... well, not beeing one myself nor living there, I have to agree. But more international focused venues are out there for those who seek them. So, unless you plan to visit only one website for the rest of your life, you can find plenty of different approaches on many different topics, beeing the only thing that they're not all at the same page.
However, Bryony's take on this subject didn't make much sense for me. You can focus on the people for what they are rather than where they live, but if the topics are always about stuff that someone outside the US won't quite understand, like aiga aiga aiga, it really won't make much of a difference.
Not that I care all that much about it. As I pointed above, I can find international focused stuff elsewhere. So, when I visit SpeakUp, I pretty much know what to expect (great things, btw).
Not to mention that most pieces that went on line here regarding design outside the US, often categorized under "international", never seemed to draw much people's attention. I wrote one myself so I can say from experience.
Coming along with the comments that suggest a SU more visually focused, I believe this would actually make it not only better, but more international too. Not very sure why, so I won't elaborate on that.

On Feb.15.2007 at 11:21 AM
Andrew J Klein’s comment is:

You hit the nail on the head Armin.

SpeakUp is the collective manifestation of the hopes and desires, fears and failures of an entire industry. It seems so intimate, but huge at the same time, I don't know of any other industry that has something this (to use the word of the day) relevant.

On Feb.15.2007 at 11:36 AM
Andrew J Klein’s comment is:

You hit the nail on the head Armin.

SpeakUp is the collective manifestation of the hopes and desires, fears and failures of an entire industry. It seems so intimate, but huge at the same time, I don't know of any other industry that has something this (to use the word of the day) relevant.

On Feb.15.2007 at 11:36 AM
ps’s comment is:

to me, speakUp turned from a place where there were stimulating discussions that almost developed out of nowhere and then were fueled by participating posters into a different animal. i think it started to take itself too serious. instead of seeing it as open dialogue, i started to look at it like some authors were talking down to participants, in a teacher/student type way that i feel has its place in school (sometimes), but not in this forum. that, combined with workload and other "stuff" made me step back, visit less, participate less and less. while i might still visit most days, i turned from an active participant into a lurker. i asked myself the question if speakUp is dead. that of course is not the case, but to me it has lost "something."
it's not the place that just runs by itself anymore.
let's see what happens.

On Feb.15.2007 at 12:21 PM
ps’s comment is:

to me, speakUp turned from a place where there were stimulating discussions that almost developed out of nowhere and then were fueled by participating posters into a different animal. i think it started to take itself too serious. instead of seeing it as open dialogue, i started to look at it like some authors were talking down to participants, in a teacher/student type way that i feel has its place in school (sometimes), but not in this forum. that, combined with workload and other "stuff" made me step back, visit less, participate less and less. while i might still visit most days, i turned from an active participant into a lurker. i asked myself the question if speakUp is dead. that of course is not the case, but to me it has lost "something."
it's not the place that just runs by itself anymore.
let's see what happens.

On Feb.15.2007 at 12:22 PM
jeff’s comment is:

I feel..

like jumping



\\\ ///

Here i can find deep thoughts about design

On Feb.15.2007 at 03:34 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Dear Mister Miscellaneous, Let's get all serious shall we?

On Feb.15.2007 at 04:58 PM
Doug B’s comment is:

Perhaps the new and improved site could feature a 30-second or 1-minute delay on the same user posting twice, so duplicate posts would be avoided.

(I considered posting this message twice for effect...)

my .02

On Feb.15.2007 at 07:47 PM
Nathan Derksen’s comment is:

Howdy, this seems to be a good time as any to come out of the woodwork. I've followed this site for a long time, and enjoy many of the discussions and articles, even though I can probably count the number of my posts on one hand. I can't say I call myself a designer, my degree is in science and my work is in the Web field. My interest in design comes from more from personal interest, as well as a desire to create user interfaces for the Web that are (hopefully) aesthetically pleasing and usable. My attempts at visual design would no doubt generate guffaws from folks here (although I think my wedding invites turned out not too badly :-) ). That said, I have a little bit to add to the discussion.

First, I am a visually oriented person, as are others here (duh), so I'm with agreyspace: keep it visual! Over the last year, it seems that posts have taken on a predominantly textual form. While there are many great things to discuss in there, when going to a site that discusses design, I like to actually see examples! The rebranding critiques and design critiques, seeing examples of people's work, the nitty gritty of typography, and seeing the process behind the design are all things that tweak my interest, but don't seem to be featured much of late.

I'm hardly asking for you to cater to my tastes, as I know I'm not particularly the target audience for this site, I just wanted to let you know that this site does have a broader following beyond hard-core professional designers.

And to help with the effort of adding something visual to this site (even if not visual design):

On Feb.16.2007 at 01:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Do you think it would be bad if Speak Up had registering and profile pages of who's posting? Or is the ability to go anonymous whats great about it?

Miscellaneous... Most people do post under their real names, with a link to their site or their e-mail, so this is not really a big problem. Also, it's a functionality MovableType doesn't have and every now and then I don't mind being limited by the constraints of technology. But thanks for the opinion.

> But you have to admit Armin, Design Relevance is a lofty and loaded term [...] but what exactly do you mean?

Indeed it's a lofty term and I actually meant it in a much more lowbrow way. I am in way looking for some sort of design rapture that will unravel the mysteries of things like how the "To" kerning pair can increase sales in Asia. "Design Relevance" is simply about looking at things as a graphic designer: what does a thing say and how does it say it? how does it make me feel when I see it? Is it saying what I think it's saying? It is saying it in an innovative way? Is it, for lack of a better way of describing it, cool and interesting? I think it's getting lofty again... But the basic theme is: Is this of any interest to designers? Sometimes the answer will be yes, sometimes no.

> And, might I add, I would love to see a Speak Up video series someday

Dave, we have toyed with that idea a lot. It, unfortunately, comes down to time. Of which there isn’t as much as we would like.

> My one piece of advice moving forward. Keep it visual!

Agrayspace... Agreed.

> Perhaps the new and improved site could feature a 30-second or 1-minute delay on the same user posting twice, so duplicate posts would be avoided.

Doug... See my comment above from the limitations of technology. Our CGI comment script works extra hard.

And Nathan, thanks for your comments. Very helpful.

On Feb.16.2007 at 07:30 PM
fatknuckle’s comment is:

Is that Alphaville I hear?

On Feb.16.2007 at 11:02 PM
Kim’s comment is:

Maybe its just that after professionally designing for over 11 years, I just want to have a life in which design is what I do, not who I am. I'm sick of all the talk talk talk about nothing nothing nothing, all with the attitude that we're doing brain surgery or something. But do I agree with the fact that passionate young students/designers have a lot of questions, and these are the same questions that come around in fairly regular cycles. I'm just over it, myself. I visit about once a month if that. I don't know, I'm just bored, in general...

On Feb.17.2007 at 12:12 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Kim, why be so close minded? Maybe a better question for you would be when did you decide to shut off the inquiry switch in your design brain? I've met many designers thinking on the same level as you, most of whom have left design for another career. Do you feel the passion's not there anymore or do you honestly believe that everything that's being said about design has already been said?

On Feb.17.2007 at 09:47 AM
Pesky’s comment is:

Kim, what does it take to address your boredom? Maybe a lack of seriousness can be boring if not downright aggravating. (If so, I am terribly guilty of that. It's my idiosyncratic nature.) If you are looking for something NEW in design dialogue I'm not sure there's anything new but insights by an evolving collection of individuals who post now and then. Would it be terrible if there was no NEXT BIG THING?

I think boredom is symptomatic of something else. One of 3 things, really. First, for every thinking designer, there's a period of stepping back and recharging one's creative batteries with alternate content every once in a while. Try reading history or motorcycle maintenance, for instance. It's typical. Nobody can be turned on creatively 25 hours a day.

Secondly, it could also be contempt for other designers. Oh, not directly as hostile as flipping a middle finger, but certainly, as Jason said, flipping the inquiry switch. Talk and images are all we have.Word It is part of that direction, I would think. Ideas without clients.

But, thirdly, there is also another alternative - expectations not met: and that is designers willing to risk breaking the "cool" barrier and conversing about aspects of design that are less discussed. Such as money, ad messages, rejection, cultural contradictions and newly observed trends.

When we discussed Natalia Illyna's book "Chasing the Perfect" there wasn't agreement here. And that was stimulating. Nobody is expecting homogenized superficiality. Relevance is what you make of it because boredom is stagnation.

The short of it is, I hope you recover the spark.

On Feb.17.2007 at 01:01 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

So sorry, I meant Natalia Ilyin.

On Feb.17.2007 at 01:08 PM
scott’s comment is:

long time watching, first post.

relevance...to what? to paper? to ink? to corporate fingers turning a page?

pertinent to what? a career? or a way of life?

what of ethics?

here's thomas paine: "When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime."

he said that over 200 years ago.

to paraphrase ray carver, "what do we talk about when we talk about ethics?"

On Feb.17.2007 at 11:07 PM
ed’s comment is:

whats all this design with a capital D shit?

On Feb.18.2007 at 03:06 PM
Scott’s comment is:

is that all you have to Say?

On Feb.18.2007 at 03:41 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Scott, it looks like that is all to be said... unfortunately too; I've been back here for days waiting for more to develop---and nothing has. ed, will you please step up to the plate already?!

On Feb.19.2007 at 08:15 PM
Scott’s comment is:

ok, so let’s ask what is relevant about design, but first let’s ask, relevant to whom? if we mean relevant to us—to designers—it’s like asking what’s relevant about vaseline to those who use it for lubrication—it’s making our own selves feel good.

is that what we’re doing here? defining how things are relevant to us as they pertain to us? not as far as I can tell. so, if not relevant to us, then to whom? to claim that the ACT of design is relevant is like claiming the act of house painting is relevant. it is not the act of painting that matters as much as the house that is being painted—its occupants, their intentions, the house’s standing in the neighborhood, etc.

relevance implies meaning beyond the subjective. So, if we are searching for relevance, we have to start there—what our work means to those who experience and exploit it (no absolute value placed on the word exploit). we can’t define meaning unless we define motivation and effect (intentional or otherwise). so, let’s not talk about us, or even about what we do, but about the effects of what we do on others. when we discuss the motivation and effect of things, we must consider…ethics.

yes, we as a community have discussed ethics in the past (a blah, blah here, a blah, blah there, here a blah, there a blah, everywhere a blah, blah). but this topic should not suffer the fate of any trend that we designers encourage—here today, gone tomorrow. it is part and parcel of our daily performance, whether we want to admit it or not. so, if we want to talk about relevance, we must talk about ethics.

talk of ethics in design is shallow. it frames ethics--ETHICS!--by what is presently ‘acceptable’ in the business sector, without any acknowledgement of the deeper philosophical considerations that should inform any such dialog. too often designers re-define the word ‘ethics’ to fit their own needs. we should either use a different word for what we talk about when we talk about ‘ethics,’ or take the matter seriously enough to engage in a more rigorous examination of our actions. that goes for d and D.

On Feb.19.2007 at 10:07 PM
Callie’s comment is:

Well, I'm probably going to piss some people off when I say this, but...oh, well.

In my opinion, graphic design is the "little d" in terms of making significant contributions toward solving the world's most pressing problems, now or in the future. Architecture, industrial design, and film (not really a design discipline, but it is visual communication and there are a lot of process parallels) are the disciplines in which there is more room for making lasting change; the "big Ds", so to speak. Via Cradle-to-Cradle philosophies, urban planning and design, and sustainable building guidelines. And nothing gets a message across like a well-made film; the most powerful form of visual communication there is.

So anyway, maybe all this pontification about ethics in graphic design gets old so fast these days because, while graphic design is an important and powerful discipline in terms of communication, it doesn't inherently embody the catalyst for change that other design disciplines do. And, in the grand scheme of things, it's really not as important as we'd like to believe it is. Hence the same discussions – over and over – of designers trying to convince themselves that their work really is that meaningful.

Not that we shouldn't strive to be ethical, of course. But perhaps we can share our design knowledge in other ways, like this. For regardless of the design discipline you're involved in, design thinking is something that's common among them all. And it's a very powerful thing.

On Feb.20.2007 at 12:04 AM
Scott’s comment is:

great. all well taken. still…

any one designer who thinks the he/she is important because of what he/she does is full of themselves, so in that regard i’d agree with you 100%. what we do on an individual basis is not necessarily important—it doesn’t make us important as individuals.

but to minimize the cultural effects that the onslaught of surface design has on us is disregarding an important facet of human nature—we are more often influenced by a concisely framed visual than a thoughtfully written treatise; a book’s cover before that book’s content. and we often judge the content based upon how we feel about the cover, just because it’s easier to be told something than to discern something on our own (i’m using the book here to refer to any situation where a person has a choice to be influenced by a longer text, or react to a visual framing of the argument within that text). not because the cover is more meaningful (not because a designer is creating more meaningful meaning), but because most people are too lazy/busy/prejudiced to take the time to actually READ a well articulated argument. we want to be told in simple terms what an issue is about.

The fact that we are visual creatures to a large degree means that the visual world has a major influence on our opinion-making processes. THAT makes the world of graphic design—the world of designed surfaces—important, and nothing else.

Case in point—think about those big D items you describe—architecture, industrial design, film. yes, they can have tremendous impact, but only WHEN THEY ARE DONE. But how do they GET done? how do they reach a point where they actually get built? it involves a long and complicated process of CONVINCING others; clients, city officials, citizens, consumers—individuals at all levels of society (some more than others, unfortunately). how are these people convinced? many ways, of course, but one important way is by the legitimizing effect that design can have on an idea. not just ONE design (let’s say a snappy proposal with beautiful visuals and a ‘contemporary’ edge), but the designed world that defines to our culture what is ‘right’ and what should be ignored, denounced, etc. why does someone go to a film? sure, people read reviews and sure a buzz can be created from person to person, but many others see a trailer or a poster, or are convinced through some other form of visual marketing to step into the theater to begin with.

the sustainable sites you link us to are wonderful. but let’s face it, if we went to those links to find outdated, poorly designed websites, we would be more inclined to dismiss those ideas before committing to read them (not completely dismissive, just more inclined to disregard). please know that when I say ‘we’ I don’t mean everybody, but I do mean a majority. it is usually the majority that is unclear about new ideas—they are the ones that need to be urged to even CONSIDER an idea to begin with. how do ideas (good and bad) get on the radar of people who are busy, busy, busy in their day? often by way of presentation—rhetoric, whether verbal or visual. graphic designers engage in visual rhetoric. that’s simply what we do. shouldn’t it, then, be done with some attentiveness to what causes (societal forces) it supports or suppresses? shouldn’t that be an important part of our foundational dialog?

On Feb.20.2007 at 09:22 AM
Tom B’s comment is:

Good on you Armin. This is just the sort of direction I'd like to see Speak Up taking.

I haven't been here for a while. One of the reasons I stopped reading was the fact that the conversations I used to enjoy had started to become endless debates about whether the subject matter under consideration should be discussed at all.

This usually goes as follows.

Person A: 'I saw something really interesting the other day...'
Person B: 'I don't see what that has to do with graphic design, you shouldn't be discussing it'
Person C: 'I think we should discuss a wide range of topics here, not just type and logos'
Person B: 'but this is a Graphic Design forum - we should be discussing Graphic Design'
Person C: 'Yes, but there's more to Graphic Design than just type and logos'
Person B: 'Yes, but the thing Person A said has nothing to do with Graphic Design'
Person C: 'Yes it does'
Person B: 'No it doesn't'
Person A: 'I'm bored with this'

So let's make it clear - it's okay to discuss anything. So long as designers are doing the discussing, the discussions will be relevant. I'm so glad this has been said.

On Feb.20.2007 at 07:58 PM
Callie’s comment is:

Scott, I see what you're saying about graphic design being the mode of travel for the ideas of other design disciplines before they're physically realized. But then it becomes a chicken and egg argument: which comes first, the communication design or the relevant content? For we all know that without content, there's nothing to communicate, yes?

To that end, I would say that as a subgroup, typography is probably the most important element of graphic design. Your assertion that "we are more often influenced by a concisely framed visual than a thoughtfully written treatise" may be true for a lot of people, but it's not true for me. I read a lot, getting most of my information via dense publications (i.e., books, the New Yorker, the Economist), where photos and illustrations are minimal. But the type is set well and serves an elegant, ergonomic function for the reader in making the content easily accessible. But again, where does the content come from? Graphic design is important, but it's more of a service to other, more thought-provoking, solution-providing disciplines, imo.

And while beautiful typography set to intelligent grid systems can greatly improve the way we access information, many people get by just fine with mediocre if not non-existent renderings of the same (look at Google, for example. It's ugly, but it still works). It's not a life or death matter, as many design critics would have us believe. Graphic design does matter, but not as much as other things.

As a student at my local university, I remember being in grad school, isolated in the design department, brainwashed into believing a poorly kerned line of type or an uneven rag might, in fact, signal the end of the world (gasp!). Listening to all the buzz and hulabaloo about the undergrads' new design of our collegiate license plate. Watching them spend HOURS critiquing and endlessly refining the layout and type while listening to the head of the design department bemoan how much he hated our school's sports logo (in his opinion, it sucked compared to the old one).

A few months later, I'm out of school and see these redesigned license plates featured on the front page of the university's website, right next to some article about groundbreaking medical research that could save the lives of millions. Seen in this context, my only reaction to the graphic design example in this case was, "Who the fuck cares??!!!"

Granted, not all graphic design is irrelevant. But on a scale of importance, as a discipline, it will only ever rank so high. Essentially, a lot of graphic design comes down to what amounts to copius amounts of unnecessary hand-wringing and mental masturbation.

On Feb.21.2007 at 12:13 AM
Tom B’s comment is:

All that really matters is that what we're discussing is interesting. As long as we keep discussing things, what's important will shine through.

There's a nice quote I've heard - it's talking about science, but the sentiment applies equally to design. A former editor of New Scientist magazine was asked, “what is your philosophy at New Scientist?” and he said, “science is interesting, if you don’t agree you can f**k off”

Well I think design is interesting.

On Feb.21.2007 at 06:02 AM
Scott’s comment is:

Callie, I would go so far as to say that it’s not as mysterious as Chicken V. Egg. I agree with you: we have the answer as to how things BEGIN: design is merely dressing for content. but the term MERELY is the problem—it is greatly misleading. if I cut my hair short and wear an Izod shirt, people will think different of me than if I wear a goatee, an earring and a dirty black t-shirt. I AM THE SAME—the content is the same—but people IMMEDIATELY make judgments about the content based upon the vessel in which it is carried. i used the metaphor of house painting in an earlier post—all we do as graphic designers is paint the houses that others build. but people make decisions about houses depending on how they’re painted. YOU may not make those kinds of decisions (instead, as you mention, you engage directly with the content), but I would suggest that you are not the norm. i’m not being cynical; in every culture prejudice is alive and well. making judgments based upon appearance is a common behavior. (there’s a 72 pt period there).

so, while we can agree that the internal (the content) SHOULD matter most, we are at the point now where the feedback loops are so intricate, we can’t accurately separate them, and designed surfaces (from Brick V. Titatium on a building, to Red V. Pink on a car, to Izod V. Black t-shirt, to Manson V. Zapfino, to Matte V. High Gloss) drive the zeitgeist as much as other factors do. and, let’s say, for sake of argument, that if we COULD place an exact percentage on the effect that the designed surfaces of the world have on populations, even if it were ‘only’ 20%, well that’s a hell of a lot, AND it is deserving of serious consideration and serious dialog.

so, the argument as to whether or not the visual realm has an influence on a culture is maybe not the best one. if we can always remember that anything we DO say regarding this kind of relevance for design is said with the understanding that there are many other factors involved (and we are only talking about ‘20%’ of the bigger issue of social destinies), we should be able talk about how we CHOOSE to use that influence. hell, even 10% of anything has a power worth discussing. so, how do we choose to use it?

the most important thing is that we don’t ever get reductionist. we don’t speak in absolutes. that might make for great reality tv, but how real is reality tv? all world philosophies can agree on the idea of a ‘golden mean’—the idea that embracing extremes throws things out of balance, and consensus is the only hope for peaceful human coexistence. of course, someone else said (aristotle, I think), that those who search for the middle can be wrong in TWO ways whereas someone preaching on the extreme is only wrong in one way. and, I would say that searching for the middle is NOT acquiescence. the middle sometimes has to be fought for with blood and guts (WARNING: political content directly ahead). I would suggest that the fight for anything resembling a fair middle must be waged in this country right now—when the pendulum swings too far one way (and in my opinion, boy, has it), the effort to bring it back into balance is equal to any struggle to push for an extreme. (design, by the way CAN partake in such a struggle!)

funny anecdote about License Plate V. Medical Breakthrough (no, by the way, I am absolutely NOT a lawyer), but maybe this sheds light on this issue better than you know—what does it say about a culture when a fucking license plate demands more headlines than a medical break through? So, you say the priorities were screwed in that example, and I couldn’t agree more, yet THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED! Yikes, right? Does that in any way make sense—hell no, it doesn’t. yet, dems da facts. sad but true—and my point exactly.

Tom B, I happen to agree with you that design is interesting (yes, it is!), and I think that the most intriguing part of it is how ‘regular’ people relate to it—that’s where it opens up, literally.

On Feb.21.2007 at 09:05 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


You aptly forgot to mention the Nine (9) Jobs TAN has had in the Last Five (5) years. (LOL)

His Senior Management Position at Landor continue to give me Nightmares and Talking in my Sleep according to My Wife and Kids.

That was the Highlight of my Life and continue to make me Envy.

Speak Up has Grown Up. That's not entirely a Bad thing.
We've all Experienced Growing Pains.

While I was never a BIG FAN of holding the Establishment's Feet to the Fire or Holding them by their Ankles over the Balcony. We did get their Attention and Rightly So.

The Days of the 150 Commenters Post maybe long gone.

On Any Given Sunday, any Major Identity Redesign or Revitalization of an Identity Design GOD's work will get Speak Up or Brand New 200 Post.

Throughout the years many have Come and Gone, to include, Speak Up Authors, and Patrons.

Patrons that stayed had something invaluable to offer in reference to imparting knowledge, wisdom and life experience.

I hardly recognize many of the names within the forum anymore. Except a Few Die Hard Patrons that Keep the Flame Lit and the Spark Ignited, you know who you are.

I never Logged On to Speak Up for anything other than imparting knowledge and life experience in Identity Practice.

Along the way, I've garnered many friends, consistently received email from all over the world asking for my guidance and assistance or why I'm not more Famous or working at a First Tier Identity Consultancy. None of which I want.

Others moved on to work on projects with Noted Designers, acquired jobs with First Tier Consultancies, Recognition in Featured Interviews with Publications etc.

Via Speak Up, I've received my Share of Notoriety and Fame.

My Moniker and knowledge of Identity Practice is known and Respected Worldwide.

If I had a BEEF with Speak Up, it would be, I much preferred Speak Up when nobody knew we EXIST. There were only a handful of regular contributors talking everyday sharing information.

Speak Up Morphed to Quickly into this Monolithic Design Blog that Challenged the Establishment and Publicly Critiqued The Work of World's Greatest Identity Consultancies and Designers.

Without Question, Identity Critiques Put US on the MAP and everbodies RADAR.

Others took Notice and Copied our Format and Style. Not necessarily noting our Brother and Sister Design Blogs. More or less Referencing Design Publications, Business and News Magazines.

Most important, like SAUL BASS and PAUL RAND I've never been BORED with their work.

I can Honestly say, I've never been BORED with Speak Up in my Five (5) years of being a Contributor.

That in and of itself Speak Volumes of the Monumental Effect Speak Up has had on my Life.

Last year and months ago when I took my Sabbatical I needed Speak Up everyday. I had to wean myself off Speak Up to Accomplish Set Goals.

Although, I only need Speak Up in Small Doses today.

My Life wouldn't be the Same with Speak Up. I couldn't Live without it.

To Golden Arm, Bryony and Speak Up Authors.

Thank you for giving me a Soap Box. My Life has never been the Same as a Designer since I found you in 2002 and dared to post my first comment in 2003 within What Makes Rand So Great.

Inasmuch as I've given. I've gotten back three (3) Fold.

Speak Up has Grown Up and Broaden its Horizon and View of Design. Allow me to leave you with parting Words of Wisdom.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

A Foolish Consistencies is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds.


The Hostile Takeover of Corporate Identity.

On Feb.21.2007 at 12:43 PM
Shahla’s comment is:

Armin, I stopped halfway through the survey because there was no option for a solo designer working part-time. Your survey could be more inclusive.

On Feb.21.2007 at 07:26 PM
Callie’s comment is:

Hi, again.

I wanted to post one last thought to this thread. I would've done it sooner, but I've been busy designing interfaces for private jet remote control panels. Talk about design saving the world! Riiiight....

Anyway, here's the thing. I don't think graphic design is *merely* anything. I think, under a lot of circumstances, that it is a worthwhile, important endeavor. But, after my own period of mental masturbation over the past couple of days, I've gained more clarity regarding my opinions on the matter.

In terms of importance and making our lives nicer, creating the "right" impressions via aesthetic treatments, imagery influencing culture, etc., graphic design is much more relevant for those of us who've reached the higher echelons of Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. Graphic design is a luxury that we in the first world can afford to indulge in only because our basic needs (e.g., physiological and safety, according to Maslow) have already been met. But for a large part of the rest of world, lest we forget in the comfort and luxury of our mostly white, literate American homes, these basic needs found at the bottom of Maslow's pyramid, are barely attainable. So, to that end, designers in fields such as architecture (designing shelters) and industrial design (designing medical instruments or water filters) have a greater potential to make a difference in much more fundamental ways.

Graphic design becomes more relevant as a person becomes more self-actualized. But until a certain level of basic human needs are met, it's optional in the grand scheme of things. And even afterward, it's much more of a luxury than a necessity.

So, in terms of choosing how to use it, well, sure, that's all well and good. We should definitely be conscious of these things. However, if your goal in life is to really be of service to humanity, the environment, etc., there are other disciplines that achieve this goal much more effectively than graphic design does.

On Feb.24.2007 at 12:26 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> I stopped halfway through the survey because there was no option for a solo designer working part-time. Your survey could be more inclusive.

Shahla, that's why we provide an "other" field. The rest of the questions are somewhat independent of that one question.

On Feb.24.2007 at 10:21 AM
CactusJones’s comment is:

Callie, you've stated an absolute truth that most graphic designers will deny to their last delusional breath.

On Feb.24.2007 at 10:39 AM
ps’s comment is:

if you look at graphic design as merely unnecessary aesthetic, then, maybe callie would have a point. fortunately that is not the case.

On Feb.24.2007 at 11:38 AM
Callie’s comment is:

Well, I think it does start to matter more starting with Maslow's third hierarchy level. Love, acceptance, etc. Appearances certainly do have an affect on how others of our species accept us. Image is a big part of acceptability, for sure. Anyway....

Man, if I were back in grad school, this whole design + Maslow perspective would be my new thesis topic!

On Feb.24.2007 at 07:16 PM
Scott’s comment is:

This is fun…a good game for two, but maybe a better one for many…(?)

You say that there are other disciplines that serve humanity “much more effectively than graphic design does.” Yes! But let’s begin AFTER that is agreed upon. And let’s assume that no one will ever disagree with that point ever or anywhere. Anyone intent on saving the world should look somewhere else, end of (that) conversation.

Here’s a picture from India taken this past January by Petr, a new friend from the Czech Republic (we met in India during a conference on sustainability). The waterway below the billboard was once a river. It’s now an open sewer. If you spun the camera around, you would see large families living on every sidewalk under the billboard, under the bridges, and anywhere else they might fit. You would find a level of poverty that cannot even be comprehended by the majority of Americans. This billboard—this designed lifestyle of opulence and beauty—looms over their heads every single day. And there are many more like it.

Maslow says that before a person’s sense of ‘morality’ or ability to ‘problem solve’ can materialize (two categories within his highest level of self-actualization), an individual must successfully pass through the ‘esteem’ level, which includes things such as ‘confidence’ and ‘achievement.’ Both confidence and achievement are relative terms. You could accomplish many things yet still feel a lack of confidence.

No doubt, there is a segment of that population in India that looks at those billboards as the silliest thing they have ever laid eyes upon. But there are others who cannot resist the human urge to compare their lives with the lives that are so far above them (in so many ways). You say that “graphic design becomes more relevant as a person becomes more self-actualized,’ but I would suggest that in some cases design may actually cause certain people to STUMBLE on their path to self-actualization! We can talk about how westerners are compelled to over-consume by advertising’s penchant for driving demand (‘if I got the latest gadget, I must be cool’ fits into Maslow’s definition of confidence, which is at the second highest level)—which would bring us to the conclusion that our system is actually undermining moral thought! (that’s based on HIS hierarchy, not mine). But before we go down that road (I can hear it now), back to India: How can someone making $60 a year ever build confidence and feel as if they have achieved anything worthwhile when they are surrounded by images of $60 manicures?

On Feb.24.2007 at 10:56 PM
Callie’s comment is:

Good points you bring up here. At certain levels, graphic design can serve as a catalyst to meeting further needs.

I was thinking yesterday about the importance of typography and how fundamentally intertwined it is with literacy. How intertwined literacy is with knowledge. How intertwined knowledge is with ascending Maslow's hierarchy. So, again, there are definitely certain aspects of graphic design that are very important to humanity. It just seems that on a lot of levels, it's frivolous and benefits those at the top of the world's socio-economic levels the most.

On Feb.25.2007 at 10:17 PM
Scott’s comment is:

Callie: "It just seems that on a lot of levels, it's frivolous and benefits those at the top of the world's socio-economic levels the most."

So, design relevance can be realized in the efforts that defy those conventions.

On Feb.26.2007 at 09:44 PM