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Against Overdesign/Layering of Meaning from the Experts

March 8, 2010

In Visual Explanations, Tufte brings up the issue of overdesign/layering of meaning, which are currently my serious design traumas. He quotes Joseph Giovanni: (“A Zero Degree of Graphics,” Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History) “The effect of graphic design in many publications, then–even when it is handsome design–is the fragmentation or subordination of the text. The result affects no less than how we think: the broken page delivers impressions and even sensations, but it does not lead a reader into the depth that carefully elaborated ideas, crafted writing, and layered passage can create in quiet sequence… The capitulation of text to layout can also be seen in books about the visual arts, in which texts are often treated as visual locks that are subservient to pictures. In the most graphically ‘painted’ books each page is a design that may or may not have words, and texts are relegated to introductions that play a minor supporting role. Books about graphic design itself are notorious for having little or not text–they are simply compendia of full-page designs.”

What can I say? I agree with this; this is a far more articulated version of what I think I’ve hinted at in past posts.

And the sad thing is that I am good at the design that kills the text.

Which is why there is a huge crisis in the back of my brain that I keep trying to ignore; what I am good at as a designer, I hate as a consumer.

So, you know, I keep trying to work to resolve that somehow and hopefully I can find a way, otherwise I will probably have to be honest to myself and run away and teach arts and crafts or something. Because though obviously there is good, clear design, it’s maybe what I am less interested in.

This crisis is sort what I’m obsessed with Experimental Jetset right now, though. I think they sort of walk that line: of doing great, conceptual, graphic design, while not obliterating the content. I feel like they’ve worked it out somehow and hopefully so can I.

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