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Saw the Yale show, part 2

May 18, 2011

Right, so I saw the Yale show. Jealousy-making of course: three large rules, a super cohesive event, one giant catalogue book they had made for all of them; large posters; and all their catalogue raisonnes were all beautiful.

And of course, every one writes personal thank you notes to Daniel van der Velden and Irma Boom and Linda van Deursen and I really am dying of jealousy.

But a profound sense of depression… both the show and the Catalogue book and their individual books — a profound fuck you to the audience. There were only two or three that it was easy for me to follow along with.

It hurts me because I love high design. I get the aesthetic. I don’t think it’s ugly and I’m not going to pick at their type. But still. The books show such a disdain for anyone outside looking in — I find it hard to cope with.

It’s not just them — they’re just young, talented, swaggery overconfident kids like me. But I’m sure it was all encouraged by the whole faculty, many of which have been my personal heros. It’s too bitter for me to think that this is the state of high design now: smartness must always be accompanied by a middle finger to anyone who doesn’t want “to spend time with” something. Spending time I am ready to do. But sometimes I need a helping hand to follow the path.


I made another pilgrimage the other day where I got Dutch Resource, this collection of interviews done with famous Dutch designers (many of them the very teachers thanked by the Yale kids, many of them the ones I drool at working with). It’s done by Wekplaats Typographie, another school I drool at being at (though one I did not get rejected from, but just did not know about when I applied.)

Interviews, many of them interesting, many of them not. But it struck me — they are all burying the lede. What is so important with designers is maybe not what they think — but how what they think is being forced onto the world. That is to say, every time someone makes text illegible and overprints: they are saying something quite concrete about the text. And every time someone sets a block of text in all caps — well there is really no reading it — it is again, a profound statement on their relationship to the text and the reader.

The important thing with designers is not what they think but in how they act — the sort of things they are saying by making any number of small design decisions.


I’m just finding this all really depressing. I guess it’s just vanity, but I do see myself in the high design tradition. And yet I see no room for giving a shit about non-designers in it and feel like I’m being forced out….

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