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Archive for May 2006

politics for graphic designers

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I am an aspiring graphic designer these days (yes I have re-invented myself from a back-end programmer). You may have read my musings on my aesthetic nostalgia for Soviet culture, graphics, and Europe in general. True, but in a way this is misleading. I do not just think about the way things look. I am also a political person with strong beliefs. However, I sometimes feel like I get so caught up with aesthetics and novelty and trends that I forget how to think politically.

What exactly am I trying to say? When there there is so much innovation and so many images, books, music, toys for our kids, exotic foods and other objects of desire, all within convenient reach, it is really easy just to get caught up in a whirlwind of marketing and smartness. After a couple of hours of making your life perfectly simple and wonderful, for example uploading all of your pictures or putting all your CD’s onto your Mac and then eating pad thai followed by green tea ice cream, you can end up feeling rather empty inside.

Try doing something political when you start feeling this emptyness and you will note the difference. Do you want to be really innovative and daring? Then close your Mac and forget about your new fonts. Say something political amongst your friends and acquaintances. No, you won’t see this tip in any of the Martha Stewart publications because it’s shocking and dangerous. It’s not easy, you’re kicking against the whole of our postmodern culture which surrounds us with desirable images and squeezes out every impetus to inconvenience ourselves with political action. But it’s politics, not design, that are the true avant-garde. And after all, isn’t it vanguardism and revolutionary politics which started the whole modern era and gave rise to so much good design? YES, of course it was. It was all of those manifestos and smoky meetings of workers and intellectuals. Now, we might look at an advertisement which utilizes the graphic style of Russian propaganda and forget what it all meant in the first place. We have to look beyond the images to the true history in order to create anything new and stop simply recycling images.

If you’re worried about alienating people, get over it. Comfort is something we expect, but sometimes discomfort and confrontation is healthier. Or, you can ease yourself into acting politically. I just bought some books on amazon. Reminded of their labor policies and conservative profile, I then ordered the stuff at, but it was $20 more. In the end I bought from amazon but made a $25 contribution to the democratic party. Political action can be complicated these days and sometimes it’s not even clear that what you’re doing is right. But I guess the complications are what keep the majority from acting politically.


Written by nattie

May 19, 2006 at 7:45 pm

Posted in editorial