The designer

About control, the old design:

Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.

Massimo Vignelli
The judge, in Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Now:

We talk of 'information bombardment' and 'information avalanche', that the general public regards the vast majority of the information aimed at them as a single, monolithic mass. Even if all those messages, sent through an unceasingly extending network of media, desperately present themselves as different, they are still often perceived as part of the deafening, monotonous drone that accompanies the avalanche.

In a world so saturated with media, undifferentiated information threatens, by its overwhelming bulk, to swamp any real meaning. In such a context it becomes vital, rather than giving the individual message an arresting form, to embed the message in meaningful associations with other messages.

One important aspect of these connections is that they are unaffected by traditional borderlines between disciplines.

To be able to contribute to this, a designer must be able to call on more than aesthetic and technical knowledge - designers must realise yet again that the core of their profession is analysis: a critical eye.

Every design, in essence, is a criticism of the context for which it has been produced. A good design 'activates' those contexts by offering an understanding of, a comment on, or an alternative to them.

Max Bruinsma: An ideal design is not yet, originally published in The world must change - graphic design and idealism, 1999, republished in the catalogue for All possible futures.

There’s a really interesting essay by Richard Birkett that follows this up brilliantly in Zak Kyes working with… - about actually practicing this form of design within an institution. Sadly it’s written in the worst long-winded, inpenetrable academia speak (it took me three efforts to get through it) and I just can’t bring myself to retype any of it here. That said, totally worth persevering with if you’re into this sort of thing.