Dan Nadel | Essays

This is Not My Design Life Now

Mat Brinkman, Melt Banana and Lightning Bolt at Ft. Thunder, 1998

In another life, I was a regular contributor to design magazines. But I grew less interested in that and more in simply writing and making books. So, interested in getting caught up with a field I once watched closely, I went to see Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006 at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. In his review here last month, Thomas de Monchaux focused on the fashion, architecture and industrial design on view, so I won't comment on those parts of the exhibition. But I do want to address the graphic design I saw.

Imagine my surprise to find that 2006 looks a lot like 2000!

I'll say it straight out: Design Life Now's selections in graphics and pop culture are conservative and long out-of-date. Now, with any survey show like this, one can argue about who should and should not be included ad nauseam. This is a different issue — it's an overriding question of taste. Granted, taste, too, is a very particular thing. But here's the problem: the curators demonstrate absolutely no awareness of current trends in graphic visual culture.

For example, Chip Kidd is selected for his book covers. Now, I, like many others, love Chip's work, but as I'm sure he would agree, he should have been chosen in 2000 or long before, not now. COMA is, again, an excellent design company. But why now, why them? There's no particular explanation. Either way, I'm not sure either of the two represents Design Life Now. Where's Omnivore or Dexter Sinister? Both companies are doing exciting and successful new work. They should be in a show about design today.

Perhaps the most egregious breach was the inclusion of Kidrobot. It's a fine store, but for me it comes up short by even the most basic design criteria. The dunny, their blank bunny character, is a graffiti tag gone wrong: uninteresting in form, scale, and execution. It is as generic as "street art" based work comes. Kidrobot, as evidenced by its recent book, represents the worst of the "designer toy" explosion and, through its aggressive flooding of the field, will most likely be partly responsible for the market's imminent implosion. Their book lacks critical or historical context, and provides little more than toy pornography for collectors. There are numerous toy designers, such as Friends With You, that are vastly more interesting, and more difficult. Perhaps they're not easy, local, or generic enough.

And then there was Planet Propaganda, expert purveyors of design kitsch. They displayed a couple of blatant Chris Ware rip-offs and posters devoid of thought or graphic flair. One wonders how a curator can get away with hanging generic posters, in the era of the Providence, Rhode Island, poster boom that has given us seminal designers like Mat Brinkman. This movement has been completely undocumented in the design press, despite it being the most important development in American poster design since the late 1960s. Why? Again, perhaps it's too difficult and unruly.

The less said about Joshua Davis's fake Matthew Ritchie computer-generated drawings the better, and Rick Valicenti, like many designers before him, has fallen into the trap of making utterly bland "art" rather than interesting design. Nicholas Blechman, who I've written about in the past and admire tremendously, is, like Chip Kidd, acknowledged years too late for Nozone, which was last published in 2005 and was at its most frequent many years before that. Why not Kramers Ergot, a paradigm-shifting publication that represents what is happening in the now of 2006? Speak Up, a cute but mostly silly design forum is also in there, but given the mediocre and confusing nature of the site design itself, it's hard to understand why. This choice, like those of Valicenti, Davis, Kidd, Blechman and COMA speak to the insularity of the graphic design world. There is, in magazines, conferences, blogs, an a unwillingness to look beyond the NYC-approved choices (well, these venues will look beyond to "vernacular" design, but only in programmatic, dull ways), and by NYC-approved I mean the world of the design conference circuit, the AIGA, Print Magazine, and other old-guard bastions of graphic conservatism. This is a kind of provincialism of taste that not only impedes the present but, to my mind, continues to restrict our vision of the past. When are we going to look beyond the normative historical narrative? Where is Charles White III in the narrative, or Martin Sharp? 2000 A.D., or Semina? Where is Eye Yamatsuka or Keiichi Tanaami? The job of these exhibitions should be to advance our notion of design, not restrict.

I wish the curators had stretched out, looked beyond their horizons and embraced other points of view, other publications, anything, really, but the safe choices they settled on. Where are the designers who offer alternatives to normative impulses? Where are the questioning, searching image makers? Is this really Design Life Now? It's not my design life.

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Graphic Design

Comments [50]

The definition of "Now" is subjective, and to some, interchangeable with "Establishment."
Just guessing that the aformentioned included-designers were chosen in part because their work
is not insular, compared to the Providence "poster-explosion" scene.

The fact that RISD is only now acknowledging the existence of the Providence scene is surprising
(and depressing) mostly because the scene was uprooted when Fort Thunder was torn down.
This occured (mostly) without intervention from the surrounding educational institutions.

Wundergound, Providence, 1995 to the Present at the RISD Museum just ended, but here is the slide show.
Joe Marianek

I agree with most of your crit, but you have to keep some perspective; graphic design criticism & writing remains an elusive obscurity (in media & NY art circles), especially when critics such as you feel oblidged to rely on more obscure subjects.

Speak Up may seem "cute", "silly" and "mediocre", but had it not been for them you certainly wouldn't be reading anything here.
That bit of criticism is simply untrue.

Sir, If I may be so bold as to give you a crit (I have crittered for Communication Arts) but since Peter Buchanan Smith has left the building your endeavors (Gansfeld comes to mind) have lost most of their shimmer.
felix sockwell

The RISD Museum is now acknowledging the prolific existence of the Providence "poster-explosion" scene which was undone when Fort Thunder was torn down.

The exhibition Wundergound, Providence, 1995 to the Present just ended. Here is the slide show.
Joe M

[I have a longer question to this I may or may not post, depending on where things go, but:]

Semina and the Oz magazines scans linked seem to date a few decades outside the range being looked at in this exhibition. Am I missing something, or is Felix just right about the obscurantism?

1. A good alternate title for this article would be 'I prefer looking at drawings'.

2. I seen next to nothing that is in Design Life Now so I may be missing the boat entirely, but the title seems to me to refer to something more mainstream than what Dan would like it to be. Isn't design life right now mostly about business? And isn't business mostly very conservative?
Jeff Gill

Isn't design life right now mostly about business? And isn't business mostly very conservative?

Which is why a show whose curatorial purpose is to showcase the most zeitgeist-astic designs comes off as completely soul crushing? (A consensus reached by EVERY designer I've spoken to that bothered to make the trip). I was literally embarrassed to be a designer when I saw the show.

especially when critics such as you feel oblidged to rely on more obscure subjects.

It's very hard not to appear elitist when the scope of most design writers' references seems to extend only to a list of 30 or so names. Is design writing's purpose to gain acceptance and recognition of design from the mainstream media? Really? I want deep and lateral thinking from my design criticism. If design writers want more respect, it would probably be a good idea to try to earn it from designers.

Sadly, I don't have any better idea of you what the ideal contemporary design (Design Now!) show would have been. The Providence thing was fabulous but is history now. Oz and Semina, as was noted above, both happened decades ago. Truly contemporary design is so so difficult to find it makes one sick of looking.
Ahrum Hong

I always hope to find something in an exhibition that I have not seen before or in some way excites me. I felt flat after seeing the National Design Triennial 2006. If I hadn't already seen or heard about the piece on display, I was aware of something similar (mostly from cable TV). The one thing I got excited about from the show, which I plan to copy in my apt, was the adhesive vinyl wallpaper...though worth including in the Triennial? I would hope there were better options.

Hey Dan,

That's tough criticism! I wasn't aware of your past life as a contributor to design magazines. I only know you as a superb publisher of avant-garde books.

I should have spoken to you before planning the current issue of Artkrush, which focuses on the Design Triennial. While we write about several of the people that you find old hat, I agree that the curator's should have delved deeper.

All best,

Paul Laster

I left the triennial feeling similarly. It was a bit trite. I was shocked by the relative absence of digital when traditional forms had been covered ad nauseum in prior shows. I mean, book jacket design? Chip Kidd is amazing but how about Yugo Nakamura, the makers of Samorost and wefeelfine?

The state of design right now should reflect the large-scale shift toward emerging media.

Michael Lebowitz

As one of the four curators of Design Life Now: National Design Triennial, and the one most responsible for the graphic design work on view, I am moved to respond. In any survey show of this kind, people will inevitably complain about what's missing. People who visit surveys especially want to see more work that represents their own interests and passions. In the age of MyPhotos, MyDocuments, and MySpace, there are certainly ways to create "MyTriennial" as well.

I appreciate Dan's many suggestions for designers we should be looking at. I saddens me, however, when design criticism is equated with casually dismissing other people's creative output. The work of Josh Davis, Rick Valicenti, Planet Propaganda, Kid Robot, and SpeakUp doesn't deserve such offhand slights. Instead, it deserves to be on view at the National Design Triennial.
Ellen Lupton

I have a hard time taking this kind of subjective truth seriously. Some of the examples you gave of what "should" be included really reeked of being either your network/peers or personal taste. Obviously taste is a large part of critique and that's fine, but the certainty with which you are laying claim to graphic design's canon seems a little strong considering the premise that the discipline is in flux. Everyone wants what they think is good design to be included in something like the Triennial. Not that I don't agree the choices seem on the old side, I just don't agree that the examples you gave as alternatives are necessarily what I might consider bleeding edge or "now". I also agree with the above poster; I'd have to say that some of the people you've chosen to carelessly label as hacks are a just a lot more talented than you've had the time to explore.
Mike Richter

[Well that seems as good a spot as any. The rest:]
At the risk of sounding like I'm tired of seeing this near-identical crit come up every time an [exhibition/review/conference] happens(though I kind of am): Is there actually an acceptable response here? What is it you want? It's clearly not just a matter of including your choices. That'll only get someone else's knickers in a twist, as already evidenced by the comments. It's not just you that's disappointed, but I'm not seeing much agreement on the sources.

For reasons I've never entirely understood or probably agree with, it's not appropriate to ask, "Well, where's your [exhibition/review/conference]?" And you open by stating that you've effectively withdrawn from contributing to the "circuit" you then damn for not recognizing or catering to your particular likes. That smells like a trap to me.

The most galling thing is that you—"you" being the meta-author of this meta-crit at any given time—usually then proceed to rattle off a list of people/studios/work that should have been represented, more often than not with little to no justification, as if engaged in a game of taste one-upsmanship, despite quite likely not being privy to the decision parameters, process, or initial list of work considered. (And Ellen, since you're "here:" Is such a list published anywhere? I seriously doubt it, but it'd be interesting.)

It's not that I object to the criticism. I haven't been to the show, and I'm sure it's likely valid in some spot(s). But this rant almost always seems to have an underlying, "It's obvious my suggestions are much better and if you don't know why, I'm not going to tell you," while simultaneously making offhand dismissal of the choices that were made.

[Disclosure: I built the Speak Up comment thingy. I received no compensation, though there is a plain text credit at bottom. Because Armin's a cheapskate.]

your art out of time book sounds fantastic!

I'm 24, I completely understand where Dan is coming from. Maybe my age has something to do with it, maybe it doesn't. I especially don't want to step on anyone's toes...but at my age (interning, first jobs) I have seen so many bosses and, well, people "older than me", afraid of having lost touch of whats hip and what the "kids are into now."
I haven't seen the design now show, but every time I see KidRobot, Joshua Davis, etc., in another magazine or show, it only serves as a reminder to me that I need to look somewhere else than said magazines and shows. It's just boring and has very little intellectual payoff. I like Rick Valicenti, though.

The combination of the 9 year old poster and the final line "Imagine my surprise to find that 2006 looks a lot like 2000!" at first made me think that the Design Life Now exhibit was full of Providence-style silkscreened posters from the end of the millennium, and Dan Nadel was criticizing the mainstream design community for taking so long to recognize and embrace the Ft. Thunder scene. I obviously haven't seen the exhibit in question, and was surprised to read after the drop that Dan is arguing the exhibit should have included more of the Providence style. I am definitely tired of seeing the same well-known New York designers and corporate design work in the spotlight time and time again, but is the best alternative featuring work from a very well publicized group of artists who were already hugely influential almost a decade ago? Don't get me wrong, I love those posters, and was blown away by them and the warehouse scene when I first encountered them as a freshman at risd in 1998* (here I'm obviously engaging in a ridiculous game of one-up-manship; "I was there!" "I saw that show!"). But I think it's difficult to argue that this work is really "now." It may be newer than what was featured in the show, and is obviously now reaching a much wider audience than it has in the past. This poses an interesting question about what constitutes zeitgeisty design. Is something most "now" when it is most influential, even if it is old work? Brand new underground work can by its nature not be widely influental, or it wouldn't be underground. I certainly don't know what's cutting edge now. But as a graphic designer (not an artist or underground poster maker) my role is less clear; should I translate the avant guard of yesterday for the mainstream of today?
Isaac Tobin

The question of audience has not really come up here. Who is the audience for Design Life Now? The jaded cogniscenti who are bored with the likes of Chip Kidd and Kidrobot, or members of the general public who may be surprised to learn that things like toys and book covers are actually designed by anyone at all?

Anyone trying to explain the importance of design to the general public — and this is true for journalists as well as curators — inevitably reaches for familiar examples that are progressive enough to be interesting, but not so progressive as to seem esoteric. In short, being "difficult," which is what Dan is asking for, defeats the purpose.

Given its mission and broad audience, I'm not sure it's Cooper-Hewitt's role to blaze new trails, so I disagree with Dan there. However, he's right about one thing: we need more venues where truly progressive (or "difficult") design work can reach more people, even within the professional design community.
Michael Bierut

Right on Dan,

and let's not even get started on illustration or Gary Baseman!

John M

Would we have known that these works would be "blazing new trails" 6 years ago? It's always going to be too late by the time a major museum recognizes it as exhibit worthy.

Innovation begets influence. The butterfly effect, etc. These aesthetic movements (Fort Thunder) and structural breakthroughs (Dexter) now in their earlier stages will inevitably inspire more mainstream outlets (at most universal a pop culture example—think what the Williamsburg scene has done for Kelly Clarkson). I'd argue Fort Thunder already has begun to do so. With time, perhaps the curators will then be obliged to show the general public how these movements and small design circles relate to their everyday familiarities.
Lindsay Ballant

once again, as I just previously commented, I am glad I stumbled upon your site
fascinating read after interesting read!

why is this crap getting published here? pointless, short sighted diatribes should be reserved for the comments. i realize i get to read this for free, but i'd rather have read nothing today than this childish rant. i expect i higher level of thought and better judgement from this publication.
design is not art

At Print, there's room for the esoteric along with work from more familiar corners of design. We want to provide our readers with a context and a window to visual culture as well as as we can in our six issues a year. Speaking for myself, I think if one is attempting to add something valuable to the design discourse—whether by curating a triennial, editing a magazine, or composing a blog post—it's crucial to apply a certain amount of thoughtfulness, consideration, and perspective to the process rather than acting on impulse. To me, attempting to provide a deeper understanding of work rather than rushing something into press (or on a wall or on a blog) just to prove that one's first to the party can undermine one's credibility and seriousness of purpose, and surely that does very little for design or for the public.
Joyce Rutter Kaye

I, like many others, dislike this post but wish it had been published six or seven years ago so I could have disliked it then and not now. We could argue ad nauseam about why it shouldn't have been posted here. But my comment isn't about that. It's about simply asserting that I dislike it and then listing some things that I happen to like. Like this.

Aside from some of the problems that have been mentioned so far that I agree with — "why are your choices implicitly better?" and "how did this extremely subjective piece made it on a usually thoughtful blog?" — I find the disdain for the "popular" (KidRobot, Joshua Davis, Chip Kidd), that we have seen in the magazines, in the blogs and in other exhbitions to be a tired and biased argument. The triennial is about exhibiting the most influential people/projects in design for the last three years. This, by default, means that those included must have made a public, visible difference. Whether that was blown out of proportion by the design media should not diminish its importance. Focusing on lesser known subjects that have made a difference for 75%, 50%, 25% less people is not what the show is about. But, apparently, the ability to be known and considered by design media is considered a sin.
Armin Vit

I see and appreciate Dan's frustrations here, but as others have said it's worth considering the audience. Also, more perspective is in order. Cooper Hewitt is not built to applaud the truly difficult or challenging, the obstuse or the actual cutting edge. Dan believes strongly in his scene of artists (as he should) but he is, in my eyes, an advocate for avant garde illustration and comic art. He might argue that his books genre-transcend more broadly than that.. but the dent in larger design world? Eye Yamatsuka is a representative of individual brilliance, not of 'current trends'. Design (like all artistic pursuits) is not by in large run on visionaries and anarchic genius. It's business.

I guess it's realy all a matter of where you position yourself on the 'what's important' ladder. Not to totally break it down, but I've heard designers/artists in New York complain that Dan's guilty of some of the criticisms he's leveling here at the triennial. Just on a different scale. Like how he's publishing already established and kid-tested underground talent and NOT pursuing newer people or presenting a real unique vision.

Perspective. Just sayin'.
Peter J

I will admit, after having attended all three of the Triennials, I walked away this time not having been floored, shocked, or overly inspired. But I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Visiting the Cooper-Hewitt, I felt a sense of pride--proud that work of this quality, scale, and lifespan* made it out into the world and now has an exhibit that honors their existence and effort behind them for several months in a National institution. (*Note that most inclusions are not nearly as "ephemeral" as an antiquated critic would make out design to be.)

This lack of surprise is due to the fact that 1) we talk about what will be there in great length before the show opens, 2) most inclusions are well-tread in the "insular" part of our dialogue, 3) this work spans 3 years.

I'm surprised that last point hasn't been reiterated time and again in this thread. I agree, Kid Robot and (gasp) Speak Up may not have redefined 2006, but in the preceding 36 months these and many other inclusions made an entry into the design world or crossed the line into popular culture. I can only imagine that the curatorial dilemma of what to select, cut, and include becomes increasingly challeging as the larger context for the exhibition changes over the course of 3 years. No one could predice that Kid Robot would dull-ify its retail stores and saturate most design press a few short months before the Triennial. That needn't negate that part the store and business has played in several slices of the design world.
Randy J. Hunt

Thanks Randy for pointing out the span of the exhibition: should have been an obvious point, but it was clearly missed in Dan's myopic argument. (It was amusing to read his complaint about Blechman's Empire being published in 2005 -- well within the scope of the exhibition).

As it's clear in the wide-ranging responses to this post, we are dealing with constrasting understandings of the nature and purpose of design. The curators of the Design Triennial seem to have focused on the field's societal impact; they are pursuing the intersection between the general culture and the practice of design. The work that Dan lauds is very insular: it's impact restricted to small subcultures, uber-hipsters, and design-cognocenti. Arguably, it helps propel the field forward by expanding the limits of acceptable practice. My guess is that there's room for both curatorial approaches; I would argue that the first one is more appropriate for a national design museum.

I think it makes sense for graphic designers to feel underwhelmed by the curator's choices in our own speciality. We live with it every day, read all the magazines articles, monographs, etc. We know this stuff. Looking at the catalogue (haven't had a chance to check out the actual show) what I'm most drawn to is the work outside of graphic design -- there are wonderful examples of landscape architecure, industrial design, fashion, hair dressing. Perhaps the practioners in those respective fields find the work shown old hat, but for me it feels fresh, exciting, and, ultimately, inspirational.
Jose Nieto

Funny how we tend to eat our own. Dan's criticisms have some merit, but as noted already, substituting one name for another is not really criticism, its alternative curation. And by implication it is a negation of good work because it is a year or two old.

Although I have problems with the installation of this and most composite surveys, which do not have a cohesive body of work (the Whitney's is a case in point), I am grateful that we have the Cooper Hewitt as a showcase for design. Whatever its failings, the show introduces a wide variety of design endeavor - including graphics, toys, prescription drug packaging, etc. - to a broad public.

I've been to various emerging art shows, and there are times I don't quite get the rationales behind included works. While I don't disagree with Dan's picks for what's exciting today, I'd also like to see that work develop legs so that they will be viewed has being more than one-offs, and thus selected for the next Cooper Hewitt show. For now, frankly, I'm happy to pick through the various zines, magazines and books (some published by Dan) in which they appear, there's plenty of time for them to be encased in amber later.
steve heller

Ok, one thing at a time:

1) First of all, wouldn't it be nice if a major museum devoted to design attempted to go beyond the popular and the tried-and-true? My argument wasn't that "this stuff is popular so it's not worthy." My argument was that it was popular and worthy like six years ago (and not just in the "design world") and should've been honored then. And more to the point, why is a Design Museum not part of the design world? It's odd to me that people keep writing about the museum as though it's some "other" thing. Nearly every other biennial or triennial in other fields is not about "setting things in amber" but rather showing the way forward. What this exhibition does is more or less show the graphic design trends of 2000-2001, with little beyond that. I find it odd to advocate a museum showing work that is "mainstream"--it reeks of lowest common denominator thinking. Since when are contemporary design surveys meant to be about popularity? What happened to showing work that pushes forward as well? Where is the way ahead? Obviously these shows shouldn't be just one thing or the other. My point is that it would be nice if they just looked a little beyond the horizon. Even musty ol' MoMA takes steps out and so does the Whitney. It's nice to push things forward. Maybe even educational? Who knows?

2) When commentators keep pointing out that design is a business, so what'd I expect, I get depressed. Design is a business, art is a business, film is a business, but so what? The Container Corporation was a cardboard box manufacturer. Somehow they managed to support some of the great design of the 20th century.

3) I would argue that artists like EYE and Brinkman have had a tremendous effect on our contemporary visual culture of the last few years and are, in fact, very well established. Just look at music videos, fashion, graphics for Nike and Converse, among others, and a host of other work. Arguments based on their "obscurity" (odd to me, since both arguably have audiences in the many tens of thousands through videos, record covers, t-shirts, etc.) sort of prove my point about those pesky horizons.

4) I think off-hand, impolite, post-first think later, dismissive writing has a place in criticism and is not used enough. Lester Bangs, Dave Hickey and others were and are masters of it. I'm not pretending to that throne, just saying the well-trod genre is quite useful. Most of the above doesn't really need further explanation.

5) As for the historical stuff in the latter part of my piece, I meant those as examples of the history left behind by a narrow vision of the present. And, as earlier in the piece, these are examples, not suggestions for substitutions. I'm not proxy-curating, but rather suggesting that there's a whole world left aside when we restrict ourselves to such a narrow set of works and ideas. The point is, if these shows and their magazine and institutional equivalents always aim low/middle, we not only lose out on a better present, but better, more expansive notions of history as well.

6) I'll take a pass on responding to the personal stuff, since it's all utterly inane and ill-informed (except the praise--har har).

Dan Nadel

we're all late-comers to the present-time.
ed mckim

If you aren't pretending to the throne of Bangs/Hickey (which I'm glad you are not) then maybe just don't mention them. This isn't really the same type of writing or depth of subject matter as far as I see it. I guess I appreciate the optimism you seem to possess in terms of "breaking barriers" but I also think I agree with the poster above who would ask you to elaborate more democratically on why your alternatives are more influential voices of Design; in a way that helps someone outside your circle understand your point of view.
Mike Richter

i agree that the graphics portion of the show left much to be desired, especially when compared to the other works on view, and seemed poorly curated. however, i have to say that i think COMA was a good choice. frame is a great design magazine and very current. i also liked COMA's identity for the exhibition.

Is what is being debated here, beyond notions of scenes, movements, and styles, essentially the level of discrimination at which we believe design should be presented in a critical perspective to the general public?

It seems the two poles are (as with other disciplines) accessibility versus discrimination, either presenting popular successes, which stand to communicate the importance of the artform to the greatest number of people, or presenting critical successes, which trade off popular appeal for a more accurate portrait of the cutting edge.

It seems to me, at least, that this should not be a binary choice. Can't the accessible introduce audiences to the edgy?

"In the age of MyPhotos, MyDocuments, and MySpace, there are certainly ways to create "MyTriennial" as well." Ellen Lupton

Dan, Thanks to Armin Vit and Su just put up your cutting edge graphic design posters on the Speak Up, design forum live feed and create your own "MyTriennial" at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.
Carl W. Smith

Felix Stockwell,

SpeakUp was not the first blog on the internet.

The people who call themselves 'authors' at SpeakUp are not the first to critique design.

I think it's insulting to try and peg the four WRITERS who started Design Observer too simple to begin their own blog, and I think they would have started their own blog regardless of SpeakUp. Again, very silly.

Good Luck with that.

Good luck with what?

Armin deserves (and recieves) props for being the first to critique design online. Try to focus your attention on some of the more interesting points here on DO, rather than beating your chest to no purpose. Peace.
felix sockwell

Let comment #37 state the fact that after reading the post and all previous comments, I find it difficult to come to a conclusion which I feel strongly enough to defend.

"Armin deserves (and recieves) props for being the first to critique design online."

Steve Witt was actually the first. But since he died — way too young — in November of 2000 he doesn't get the credit he deserves. No disrespect for Armin intended. He's the same intelligent and passionate kind of guy that Steve was. And for awhile there, before the New York years, SpeakUp was jazzed up and hot with the same kind of dish that Steve used to serve.
Bluest Guy

No chest beating, no furrowed bullshit; a difference of opinion and fact.

As far as my purpose...

I happen to agree with some of what Dan says, and I think your comment "...it not been for them(SpeakUP) you certainly wouldn't be reading anything here (Design Observer). " is something that I disagree with. I also disagree with your evoking "not all that" attack on Dan. You're cutoff.

You probably have no clue how Communication Arts is run. And to be honest, however you feel about Communication Arts, after seeing Dan's posts I would have walked out more inspired if he had been involved.

i love when shit gets all crazy in blog land.
i never post and only read

It seems the two poles are (as with other disciplines) accessibility versus discrimination, either presenting popular successes, which stand to communicate the importance of the artform to the greatest number of people, or presenting critical successes, which trade off popular appeal for a more accurate portrait of the cutting edge.

A museum of any sort should be creating new, mutable definitions of success with every exhibition.
Ahrum Hong

Once again, it's not about popularity: I like much of the work I discussed, and I have zero problem with popularity. It's about the structure of the show, and what feels like a narrow vision of design. And what most people take to be name dropping is simply, as suggested in the original piece, a way to show that there's a whole world of work missing. It's not about "scenes" it's just a way to say, "there's tons of work that goes unrecognized, and here are some examples."

To me, these sort of "well he's a hipster" reactions are kinda paranoid and not terribly relevant--they say more about the poster's own insecurities than about the actual subject at hand.

Dan Nadel

Nadel's post feels a little like the guy at the local record store that would roll his eyes at you when you walked up with your utterly too popular record in hand. Then the name dropping begins to show off some sort of design street cred.

I think the critique of the purpose and posssibility of the event is actually quite intersting and worth discussing. But to dismiss off-handedly Mr. Valicenti's work, the gang at Speakup, and others with that slacker hipster tone is short-sighted and leaves him reeking of the kid who wanted to be a rockstar, but now works in that local record store. Which is unfortunate because from what little I know, that is not what Mr. Nadel is.
Jason L.

Once again, the post wasn't about name dropping, popularity, scenes or any of that. It's about an exhibition that could've done with some more imagination and a broader, more inclusive vision. My examples were meant to merely hint at a larger world of design being ignored, not only those people, but tons others I don't even know about, I'd imagine.

The various complaints about "hipsters" and the like strike me as paranoid, and say far more about the posters own insecurities than the subject at hand. Just thought I'd actually try again.
Dan Nadel

I agree, that's not what the post was about. I just think the somewhat off-handed tone muddied the waters a bit. And personally gives me flashbacks to art school and the poor "art school diseased" souls who knew every name and dismembered every Barbie doll for the sake of art.

I hope somehow we can discuss the substance of the post, and that perhaps Ellen Lupton and others involved in organizing the show can shed a little light on what they feel is its purpose and how they go about surveying the field.

And now, time for me to drop a name. check out Mr. Jeral Tidwell a Louisiana native, but now call our little burg of Louisville, Kentucky home (www.humantree.com). Mr. Nadel, I think you will enjoy. Much Love.
Jason L.

mr. heller: do you mean to suggest that criticism and curation are separate processes? curation is criticism, I would say. it may be amateurish to write something like "oh they should have shown X rather than Y", but the act of curating any show, and particularly one like this, requires a necessarily critical viewport on its subject matter.

what is left out is as important as what is chosen, n'est ce pas? with a mandate as broad as "DESIGN LIFE NOW", the critical considerations of other designers are probably worth listening to, regardless of the nuances of their delivery.

it's a trivial matter fish, but curate isn't a verb.

At least in the eyes of Merriam-Webster's, "curate" is a perfectly acceptable verb.

The M-W dictionary's policy is that if something is done wrong for long enough, then it must be right. However I think nearly all of the other dictionary boards reject "curate" as a verb. I wonder what the curaters think.

I consider myself corrected Michael.

I'm sure that the curators think well of it. What noun wouldn't want to be verbed up a little?

Dan Nadel Dan Nadel is the director of PictureBox Inc., a Grammy-Award winning visual culture studio and publishing house. He is the author of Art Out of Time: Unknown Visionary Cartoonists 1900-1969 (Abrams) and an assistant professor of illustration at Parsons the New School for Design.

Jobs | July 21