The second death of Grafik magazine has once again raised the alarm on the status of design criticism. Arguably, design is now at its most popular and understood. Just over a decade ago, when I was a freshman in college, if you told a family member that you were studying to be a designer, you’d immediately have to follow it with a description of what exactly a designer does. These days, design has become somewhat of a household term. Design has melted into popular consciousness as a viable vocation with practical applications and contributions to society. The mystique surrounding the profession has faded. So to, it seems, the market for deep intellectual exposition on the practice.
That’s at least how it appears to some. Rick Poyner has begun a lively discussion, over on Design Matters, about the state of design criticism. Citing a number of excerpts from “Critical Voices” an article from the latest issue of Grafik, Poyner raises some serious questions about the state of design criticism.
As a new publisher, it got me thinking about whether or not I’d want to publish any serious writing about design. My first thought was “For whom?”. My biggest critique of the current climate of design is how it’s become essentially a house of mirrors. So much design and design writing is for other designers. I wonder what’s the point if we’re just talking amongst ourselves. I mean, sure, there’s a need for it. As practitioners of design, we need to have continuous dialogue, in order to grow and keep ourselves honest. But, after a certain point, the conversation has to move beyond the circle. Few design writers are able to write about design in such a way that it matters to folks who aren’t designers. Furthermore, few publications exist where design can be written about in such a way. Hmm, I seem to have written myself into a corner. I guess that’s the answer then: Make it for the masses.