This article is in response to “Criticizing Criticism: Too Little and Too Much,” by Steven Heller, which originally ran in AIGA’s The Journal in 1993 (vol. 11, no. 4). It’s part of a series in which we invite a new generation of design critics to page through our archives and respond to an unresolved design issue.
I still remember my first encounter. Eye magazine, issue 62, 2006: Rick Poynor first takes Vogue’s advertisements to task for fusing high fashion and brutish behavior. Pages later, Steven Heller demonstrates how the Nazi party exerted its cultural dominance through calligraphy, letter, and type.
As a then journalism student who dabbled with Photoshop and InDesign in my spare time, I was sold. Instead of switching careers to become a graphic designer, I could write about it instead. No one told me what Poynor and Heller did were examples of design criticism, but how they dug into what looked cool to reveal connections to history, society, and culture, opened my eyes. The only problem? I was in Singapore, where there was no specialized graphic design magazine. But through a stroke of luck, I met a group of local graphic designers eager to create one. The bi-annual journal never made me much money, but it kept my interest in writing about graphic design afloat.
Fast forward eight years, and I’m about to graduate from the School of Visual Arts’ Design Criticism program co-founded by Heller and Alice Twemlow. I even had a workshop with Poynor last year. I should be ready to produce graphic design criticism—but what does that really mean today?