Process Music: songs, stories, and studies of graphic culture

Process Music: songs, stories, and studies of graphic culture is the second book collection of my writings. To be published by Onomatopee Projects, the new book will gather over 40 pieces primarily from the past decade, with reprinted works first appearing in forums like Emigre, Eye, Print, Idea, Modes of Criticism, Design Observer, Speak Up, and Voice: AIGA Journal of Graphic Design. Others are texts of lectures and presentations, have appeared on his blog or elsewhere online, or are original to this collection. Many are unavailable or hard (and expensive) to find. The book will also feature a prelude composed by AIGA Design Medalist and Design Matters host Debbie Millman.

Process Music refers to print media and the intentions behind design activity. It is interested in visual culture, providing deeper readings and close viewings of graphic design artifacts and activity, frequently examined through the lens of music. Employing a range of narrative voices, the works combine academic rigor with the accessibility of popular forms like music journalism. FitzGerald regards himself as a critical enthusiast: knowledgeable, appreciative and irreverent.

The book is organized in four sections and a coda: “Blues in CMYK” contains short essays that focus on concepts and topics in graphic design, such as the practice, limits, and potential of design criticism; different aspects of design education; the importance of metaphor and cross-disciplinary inspiration; inclusivity and responsibility in design; the proper context of digital technology; authenticity; the influence of religious faith on design activity, and more.

“Interlude with Designers” presents appreciations of famed and upstart individuals in the discipline, including Barney Bubbles, Paul Rand, William Addison Dwiggins, Jacqueline Casey, Paula Scher, Vaughan Oliver, Martin Venezky, illustrator Mark Andresen, and design activist Andrew Breitenberg.

“Omnigraphy” has expanded reviews and studies on graphic design and music works, performers and practitioners. Figures covered include Josef-Müller Brockmann, Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko/Emigre, Elliott Earls, Stefan Sagmeister, Hipgnosis, Fuel, and the musicians Van Dyke Parks, and British band Cornershop. Artifacts examined include books, interactive projects, typefaces, independent and mass market magazines, posters, and record albums.

“My Back Pages” offers short memoirs and stories that take a personal perspective on creativity, visual culture and communication. Lastly, “(extended play)” offers a short fiction.

DesignHer: Works by Contemporary Women Graphic Designers

I am co-curator with Melissa Warp of the exhibition DesignHer: Works by Contemporary Women Graphic Designers at The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum September 30 – December 12, 2021 at Hollins University in Roanoke Virginia. DesignHer is an exhibition of contemporary graphic design focusing on 19 women practitioners. If spoken, the H in the show’s title’s is silent, representative of how the story of design and the story of women in design are the same. It also symbolizes that for much of design’s history, the contributions of women have been largely unheard. A primary theme within the show is how women have been at the forefront of defining and challenging the conceptions of design; also, how design exists, often simultaneously, as culture’s most public and private expression. Participants range from younger artists building a reputation through internationally-renowned leaders in the discipline. From individually crafted objects to mass media campaigns,  speaks about design writ large through the voices of women speaking design to our culture. (In photo: installed posters by Paula Scher)

On Brand Bible Blogumentary

rockpaperink logo

My visit last February to the Master of Professional Studies in Branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York was documented at the RockPaperInk website in the “Brand Bible Blogumentary” post “Advice from Kenneth FitzGerald.” Thanks to program chair Debbie Millman for the invitation and post, and to her welcoming and inspiring students!

The Chronographic Survey #1: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Allworth Press, 2007
How acquired: Purchased at Debbie Millman lecture

This collection of interviews presents 20 noted graphic design-related figures ruminating about their activity. In her introduction, Debbie Millman disclaims the book’s title but it’s fairly descriptive, being instructive by example rather than recipe. Since the book makes no pretension of compiling a definitive list of contemporary design “greats,” I won’t fuss overlong (for me) over the arbitrariness of the designation.

What does constitute graphic design greatness? All of the interviewees are practically accomplished graphic designers (save John Maeda, who has renown but simply isn’t a graphic designer by the field’s common standards). However, the jury’s out on the long-term significance of most of these practitioners. That many other designers could claim equal—or greater—stature compared to those selected doesn’t spoil the book. Still, it would have helped for Millman to, at least briefly, outline her criteria. Continue reading “The Chronographic Survey #1: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer”