I am one of the 200 “voix pour le design graphique” included in the 200th issue of the French design magazine étapes. The special issue presents the comments of designers, collectors, curators, festival organizers, teachers, and critics on aspects of the state of contemporary graphic design. I was asked to respond to a brief questionnaire on critical writing. If, like me, you’ve forgotten most of your high school French, here’s the text in English:
Q. Is there a renewal of interest in graphic art criticism? In your country or worldwide speaking?
A. Discussion of graphic design criticism has arguably increased but I can’t discern an increased interest for an actual criticism. There has been a spike in calls for additional celebratory journalism from the profession that is termed (but isn’t) “graphic design criticism.”
Q. How has this developed?
A. The graphic design field has little institutional memory since reading of criticism or graphic design history that’s not an examination of storied practitioners isn’t encouraged academically or professionally.
Q. How can stepping back and taking stock of graphic design help its practice evolve? Does it bring about a creative revival?
A. I don’t see practical evolution as the purpose of graphic design criticism. If engaged, criticism might bring about a deeper cultural and social awareness amongst practitioners by expanding graphic design beyond a “profession” and into a “discipline.”
Q. Are there opponents or obstacles to the existence of critical thinking?
A. The graphic design profession. Professions do not value or support critical literature, disciplines do.
Q. Should criticism be part of a graphic designer’s training?
A. For vocational training in graphic design, probably not. If meant as a component of an art and/or liberal arts education, yes.