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Spring 2023 ︎︎︎Purchase College, SUNY ︎︎︎ (DES2460) DMD 2

Reading #1:
Style is not a four letter word

The Reading

“Style is Not a Four Letter Word” by Mr. Keedy
from Looking Closer 5: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. Edited by  Michael Beirut, William Drenttel, Steven Heller
(book pages 94–103, .PDF pages 107–116)

This whole book is readily available on the internet. I provide this to you because of that fact, however, if you find the material interesting, edifying, enjoyable, or some melange thereof, consider purchasing the actual book 


Here’s our first reading. This book is part of a series (hence the number 5), and this particular book is from 2006. That is to say, it is a particular picture, of a particular time, from the not-too-distant past of Graphic Design discourse. I mention this to say that it is not meant to deliver the status quo of Graphic Design thinking, simply to give you a picture into a particular time that is a springboard for discussion.

Jeff Keedy is the author of this essay. He currently teaches at Cal Arts. You may have seen Keedy Sans from Emigre on Adobe Fonts. Some of his work is below: 

Other Folks Mentioned

Paul Rand

Rick Poynor

Other Writing Mentioned

Questions to Think About

    • What did you think about the text? Fun? Interesting? Boring? Difficult? Assess your experience of reading it and why that was.
    • The essay discusses a separation between style and function. What do you think about this dichotomy and where the essay ultimately lands on the issue? Do you agree/disagree? Why or why not?
    • When reading the essay and then looking at the work of any of the designers referenced or talked about in the essay, what do you feel? Why? Is the work interesting? Does, for example, Jeff Keedy’s work make sense for what it appears he is advocating for? Paul Rand?  

What is “reading”?

If I’m asking you to read a text, I am asking you to absorb the contents, comprehend it, and be ready to discuss and interrogate your comprehension. This is not to say that the discussions will be a “quiz” but that you should give yourself the time to appropriately understand the text. This means you may need to read it multiple times, and/or give yourself time to look up references. I have attempted to provide links to some of them but have not provided links to everything with the assumption (and now instruction) that you must engage with the text actively.

What is “note taking”?

You must have taken notes and uploaded them before class. You can do this via textEdit, Google Doc, Microsoft Word or scan/photograph your notes. If you do the lattermost option, please consider the legibility of your writing. If you are not sure how legible your handwriting is, simply ask me. I’d encourage printing rather than script. I have listed some questions above, please do not simply answer them. Write down things you are confused about, words that are unfamiliar, things you couldn’t find online, etc. Write in full complete sentences. You might also provide direct quotes and expand upon your thoughts with them. Take this as practice for the writing you’ll be doing for your peers. As such attempt to write in full sentences, and when you state an idea think  of “why?” being asked subsequent to that and assess if you have answered that question.

Read, take notes, and be prepared to discuss this by next week 02/09/2023

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