Spring 2021 ︎ SUNY Purchase (DES3240) ︎ Design Issues
BackgroundWarren mentioned that he talked about this specific case in Design Issues class past and it honestly had not occured to me to talk about. I remember learning about this in undergrad and thinking it was super funny. I feel the term “trolling” is a little bit strong (the written article that I linked) compared to what constitutes “trolling” in the contemporary sense.
The other hopefully implicit idea is the actual power of graphic design. I don’t think that U2 would have sued Negativland if graphic design didn’t have an inherent power.
The main thing that I’ve been burying the lead on is the ethical question of what Negativland did. And how it has changed over time and plays out in other contexts. For example, fair use on YouTube, issues of sampling and songs that are extremely similar to other songs and lawsuits around those issues.
I’m also including something not related to this narrative from the perspective of the designer. As we make more robust tools like typefaces we have the ability to set the terms for how those tools are used.
That time Negativland Trolled U2 Into Suing Them by Eddie Brawley (Vulture Article)︎
- Negativland: Fair Use; The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2︎
Some Type Foundries Want to Restrict Usage of Their Fonts on Ethical Grounds. Will It Work? (from AIGA Eye on Design)︎
Suggested contextualizing readings/viewings
- Not making this required because it is a little bit of a dryer lecture but here is Mark Hosler of Negativland talking about the project.
- A similar examination of fine art in the twentieth and twenty first century like Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, etc.
- Plagriarism by Steven Heller︎
- Infringement, Influence, and Plagriarism by Tad Crawford and Steven Heller︎
- Copyright and Licensing by Tad Crawford︎
- Zara Accused Of Stealing Designs From Independent Artists, And Here’s The Evidence from Bored Panda︎
Questions to think about while reading/viewing
Is graphic design powerful? Could something like this happen today and have the same level of gravity?
How are issues of originality and sampling different in different contexts (music, photography, etc.)?
Does this question (copyrighting, originality, etc.) feel relevant to you today or seem moot, in a world where Rihanna is sampling the Numa Numa song?
- When the power dynamic is reversed (Zara and Tuesday Bassen) is that “more” wrong? Why or why not?
- Would you want a typeface you design used for hate speech? By a multimillion dollar corporation? A polemical YouTuber? Why or why not? How are those different examples different.
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