Posts Tagged ‘Design History’

Intraview 4: Sam Byford, Oliver Richenstein

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SB: In our increasingly digital world, how do you see the disciplines of graphic design and product / industrial design merging?

SB: The quick wins have more or less come together now. Interfaces communicate better thanks to the knowledge transfer from graphic design – typography, the grid etc. But I still think there is much further to go before the broader theoretical progress made throughout graphic design’s history really comes to meet digital product design in a meaningful way.

Graphic design made enormous leaps in our understanding of visual communication and perception, style, utility, political and social impacts etc. Many of these ideas are extremely relevant to digital product design but to really parse them out and apply them to see what that relevance is, is a slow undertaking that few are well placed to do. For instance, how might we see the ideas embedded in the printed designs of the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century applied to today’s production cycle? Beyond the aesthetics of this period which is easily applied to a digital surface to ‘theme’ an object, can the central thesis (of a return to hand production, and the inherent human value in the pleasure and beauty of workmanship) be applied to today’s context? Surely there is scope for exploration of this in the world of the Operating System.

Graphic design was uniquely advantaged to make these ideological statements and shifts as it was possible and in many cases necessary to understand the end-to-end process and see the aesthetic connectivity between phases of production. Today’s trend is towards specialised individuals, owning a single part of the design and development process, making these analogies hard to apply and new discoveries hard to explore. Who can approach today’s design process from a critical perspective?

The lifecycle of discovery is shortening, the movement has become the trend, leaving deep ideas unexplored and minimal gains made with each iteration of design’s best practice. The fields will merge, if they haven’t already, but I think we could be missing out on many of the best ideas in the process.

Question co-opted from Sam Byford interview with Oliver Reichenstein on The Verge 2012.


Reading, Writing… Repeating Ourselves.

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I have been returning to the discussion on Elliot Jay Stocks’ recent post, an interview with the eminent “Typographic Designer” Erik Spiekermann. I would recommend watching the interview and reading through some of the responses despite the chest beating of a few dudes.

Working these days primarily on the design of websites, I have been thinking about the new medium and the echoes of the past that are sounding from it’s progression. As Spiekermann points out, the interactive screen is just a new medium which graphic designers must now work with.

For websites, pixels are the raw material and HTML is our toolkit, through which an endless number of technologies exist. The design act is still very much a task of the composition of sensory material to accurately communicate a message. Our closest collaborator is still the writer and we are still simply a bridge to publication and communication.

We can see as digital design evolves many of the same controversies that faced designers working with the development of printing & typography, industrial design, architecture, advertising and so on. Themes have resurfaced such as artistic expression and ornamentation vs. utility and minimalism, as well as questions of the roles of business, fine art, technology and other philosophical, social and political influences. We can see the attempts to imitate styles from the past with more advanced technologies that have their own visual predispositions (Apple’s fondness for skeuomorphism). The same thing happened with printing and typography in the transition from calligraphy to movable type in the 15th C. and again in the mid 19th C. and was the source of heated debate which involved people from inside and outside of the design world.

Designers have long experimented and argued extensively around these themes, but how much can we say we have learnt from this?

Do we need to take the long way round all over again to become masters of the new medium?

Would it be possible to skip a few steps and make a few educated guesses? Or do we need to go through the motions once more in order to come to a collective understanding about what the web actually IS.