The Critical "Languages" Of Graphic Design

by mo on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Graphesis is "the idea that knowledge can be represented in visual form as a distinct mode of symbolic communication with its own rules and systems" (Drucker 2002, p. 169)

Drucker points out that "theory-speak" belongs to a critical elite with its alienating nature, it has no place in public discourse. In terms of visual communications itself, she draws attention to David Carson's graphic designs, which she marks as belonging to an "aesthetic of illegibility":

"...the famously unreadable work of designers like David Carson in the late 1980s and early 1990s – seems an utterly consistent expression of a moment in which the authority of language is undermined through theoretical attacks on logocentrism that coincide with the exuberant exploitation of the hybrid capabilities of digital media." (2002, p.175)

In exhibiting a "clear desire to “diss” the established tenets of graphic design," (2002, p. 175) Carson's designs, though visually engaging, failed to provide a solution (cleary, we can't have thousands of publications around the world made up of illegible almost nonsensical type) to the problem he though was there, and was in the end, inaccessible to the genera public, which I think defeats the purpose of design as a social tool.

Drucker, J. 2002, ‘The Critical “Languages” Of Graphic Design’, in Bierut, M., Drenttel, W. & Heller, S. 2002, Looking closer, Allworth Press, New York.


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