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Spring 2021 ︎ SUNY Purchase ︎ (DES3240) Design Issues

Topic: IS (Graphic) Design OP?


So this topic is, like many others not entirely in a vacuum. It relates to other things we’ve talked about before and into some other perennial debates. 

I think the lamest of these debates is “Is Design Art?” because one side will often make reductive points about the other and more often than not the very questions assumes the idea that either can not be both; in a rich/paradoxical way and not one that is simply trying to short circuit the debate to end it. That being said we can touch on this and this idea as a springboard to talk about other disciplines and their relationship to design.

You’re probably aware but OP is from the discource of gaming and means “overpowered.” I chose this term because of the strong emotional reactions to things like an excellent play in EVO and the discourse around, say character balance in a fighting game.

In this context I want to talk about power in two ways.
    • One being, efficacy; does design do the things it sets out to do? Does it do too much? Is the cliche conception of Modernism we’ve talked about been conflated with simple utilitarianism or is this an excuse for a lack  “art”? This is tied more closely to craft or in a general sense utility. 
    • The other being the ability to elicit emotions. Have you ever cried from a poster? If a Jenny Holzer piece moved you how much of that was related to the type? Has the impact of something ever been ruined by bad typography or design?

The complicating factor in this is that form and content are linked. Unlike something like sound design or a musical score of a movie we can’t simply extract the title of a movie from a poster and understand what it is totally about.

Required Readings

The CIA Has Always Understood the Power of Graphic Design︎ This was linked in the last article we read as the impetus for Grilli Type to reconsider the EULA’s of their typefaces.

Neville Brody on Navigating Graphic Design’s Shifting Identity︎ This is perhaps a bit more about design education but talks about some interesting stuff related to the “end” of disciplines.

Michael Beirut talking about the painter Ed Ruscha’s painting “OOF.” I’ve heard many designers talk about Ed Ruscha as someone that made them realize their interest was actually in design. I think it is also interesting to hear the way that Beirut talks about this piece in relation to how an art critic might talk about it.

Contextualizing Readings/Viewings

Questions & Ideas to Consider While Reading

    • Is Design Art?
    • When you hear the above question what happens internally for you? What (physical) reaction do you have? Why? 
    • Does it actually matter if (graphic) design is art?
    • Is art without function?
    • Have you actually cried at a poster? At a piece of text?
    • Do other fields actually “care” about design? 
    • Is the “discourse” around design being borrowed from other disciplines (see Designer as [X] or Semiotics) designers trying to gain cultural “clout”? On the other hand

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