“Why Graphic Culture Matters”: A series of essays that will make you question everything
“Why Graphic Culture Matters”. Have you ever wondered why it does? For us creatives, designers, researchers and educators in the field of design, questions like these are always in the back of our heads. We always think about the value, meaning and impact of design, visual language and communication.
Design critic Rick Poynor has been delving on that question for decades now. In his new book “Why Graphic Culture Matters: Essays, polemics and proposals about art, design and visual communication”, he collected 45 essays that try to answer the question and pose new ones that will make us think differently about creative design.
The book is structured in three fundamental pillars: Definitions, Tools and Futures. Starting with Definitions, you will find yourself emerging in a series of texts about all the non-design factors and realities that shape and limit design, meaning business, money, consumerism, branding, digitization and so many more. Poynor touches on a lot of sensitive and provocative topics, like ethics, objectivity vs subjectivity in design, the ‘bullshit’ of ‘storytelling’ but also presents interesting, fruitful concepts like Critical Regionalism.
Then, we move to Tools, where he presents alternative ways of approaching and thinking about graphic design, as a tool of communication and an expression of contemporary culture. Through these essays one can wonder how graphic trends are formed, what shaped design history, how designers make choices, what they are delving upon and why or how canons, rules and design celebrities are born. The design critic also talks and criticizes design criticism in an effort to highlight that good and meaningful criticism is still needed in the era of digital information abundance.
Lastly, Futures is the part of the book that Poynor focuses on the future of graphic design and design criticism, presenting alternative approaches, multidisciplinary projects, fresh and innovative ideas and trends. He pays attention especially to the relationship between graphic design and art, wondering what indeed qualifies as art and who is responsible for this decision? A question that frankly has no simple or solid answer. Also, he writes about some impressive, weird and unique trends like decorative design, heavy metal fonts, the “new ugly” and “throwaway aesthetics”, in his quest to locate where new design is heading towards.
“Why Graphic Culture Matters” is a dense and intense read. Rick Poynor does not shy away from topics, questions and realities that might be uncomfortable for others to admit or talk about. This book is a series of essays that will offer anyone with an overview of the design world through so many different points of view - from creativity, inspiration, culture and aesthetics to economy, business, polemics and privileges. It is for sure a must-have for anyone that wants to think on the value of graphic design as more than just the mere act of creating visual forms but as a charged action with societal impact, financial gain and cultural blueprint.
Find more about the book and more from Occasional Papers, here.