Graphic design has traditionally been dismissed as “surface”, a subject more concerned with aesthetics more than anything else. Thus, a part of contemporary design education is often devoted to studying the profession’s history and theories to prove its deep connections with the world we live in. “A *New* Program for Graphic Design” by designer David Reinfurt (2019) is a “textbook” that sets out to do just that. Based on a series of three courses originally developed to teach graphic design to liberal arts students at Princeton University, Reinfurt takes us on an alternative path from graphic design as a commercial art to view it as an “interface” where various disciplines meet. He holds up the likes of printer-publisher Benjamin Franklin and designers Bruno Munari, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Muriel Cooper, to show how graphic design has also historically been produced at where it meets with printing, photography, art, mathematics, computing and engineering. Abandoning the authoritative air of traditional texts for education, Reinfurt invites students to explore the network of rabbit holes he has personally dug— and to arrive at their own conclusions on what graphic design has become.
#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome enquiries and physical loans.
As more data centres are built to power the city-state’s digital transformation, the design of these high-tech boxes become ever more important.
What do “The Internet” and “The Cloud” look like to you? Even a Google search turns up nothing more than diagrams of seemingly invisible networks that connect the world’s computers, phones and devices. Well, stop looking up and start looking around, because the world wide web exists in plain sight across Singapore. Inside buildings known as “data centres” are the racks of computers that form part of the network which we increasingly depend on in our everyday lives.
They are alongside motorists as they travel down the Ayer-Rajah Expressway—between the flyovers at Buona Vista and Portsdown. One is a neighbour to residents living in the public housing blocks along Serangoon North Avenue 5. Another greets students across the road from Corporation Primary School. These data centres are where information is collected, stored, processed, distributed and accessed, and they are all part of a web of similar facilities connected around the world via fibre cable and satellite.
What do we need to carry out work today? A table, a chair, and for many of us, some kind of electronic device. Whether it is preparing documents, organising schedules or even meeting colleagues, ‘work’ is mostly done through interactions with machines – ranging from the photocopier to the computer to the smartphone.
Yet, conversations revolving around the design of work environments are largely stuck on the physical work space. Even as designers update office furniture and rearrange layouts toward new definitions of ‘ergonomic’ and ‘productivity’, the virtual office where workers spend their time tapping, clicking and typing away – often in silent frustration – is regarded as the domain of the IT department.