Designers Who Read

An Anatomy of Uncriticism by Alexandra Lange

1657 words
8 mins
Originally published 5/1/2012

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INTRO— Welcome to the first official post on!

As we launch today, I was going to suggest a retrospective read of Massimo Vignelli's 'Call For Criticism' (1983) as a reminder as to why we, and you, might be here. Instead, I chose a short essay that takes a look back at Vignelli's groundswell essay and wonders why, in 1980 and since, designers have been so hesitant to engage in the critique of their work.

Lange's piece is a bit peevish — this could be because pieces of criticism written to defend criticism from criticism might begin to sound like complaining. And written over two years ago, Apple (at that time) could do no wrong — since then, there have been a few, globally-condemned mistakes. But her point remains relevant — are we betraying the creative community by criticising work? 

Her example of critiquing Gary Hustwit’s documentary 'Urbanized' and recieving a tweet defending the film's intention is a familliar reaction — that to offer criticism means to 'hate' and reject the idea. I don't beileve this to be so, but how can criticism be framed so it is celebrated as constructive?

The internet can sometimes do a good job of this, organically — recognition of quality is often self-regulating and lameness is the enemy, but for the form of professionalisation Vignelli called for, 30 years ago, we might need more transperant skin when offering criticism, thicker skin when recieving, and the will for brave betterment.

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Reader discussion

Oct. 27, 2014, 12:28 a.m.— Rachel A.

I heard someone say designers are bad at hearing criticism from other designers because we hear it in our jobs all the time. That we look to our fellows for more support / affirmation. But I don't really get that. I think other designers should be much harder to please than our clients. Otherwise it is the clients regulating the quality in the industry, and not the designers themselves.

Oct. 26, 2014, 11:28 p.m.— Entuolo

Should designers regulate their own industry, though?

It's an occupation that is born from 'commercial art', it was always driven by commercial parameters. Does it even have a meaning, when graphic design isn't for a client anymore? Can it even be called graphic design, or is it then 'graphic art'?

Oct. 26, 2014, 10:28 p.m.— Tom

Whether graphic design or graphic art, if it has a purpose and is in the public domain I think anyone can and should ask "Does it work? How well?"

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