January 23rd, 2017
The Awkward Borderland
Periodically I wonder if I overanalyze the cultural role of what I do, of graphic design, or branding, or whatever we’re calling it today, as it seems to me like I can see it everywhere (not merely in object but in intent), in everything, in everyone, a universal force that is somehow culturally critical, socially critical, commercially critical, and individually critical. I see it, but do not know if what I see is what exists, or if it is merely a shadow cast by the rest of my life (life-as-practice), a manifestation of self-perception, of priorities and opinions. I see it, on good days, as a conduit that connects the past (both globally and individually) with the present, with a clear eye to the future. Being uniquely an art but with the aura of objectivity (of measurability, of “success” and “failure”) it allows for a perhaps unholy union between money and image, particularly money as the validating measure of self-image, particularly money as the dowery for this, an eternal perception that can help not only formulate goals, but parse psyche, and then translate into this, the “supposedly universal language” (that of symbols), and because of this it seems as though design (graphic design) is much more a question of psychoanalysis than it is of art. Design is interpretation, design is translation, and then again, it is both of these things balanced in that awkward borderland between monetary value and self-value that makes the discipline so unique, and so human, and so ripe for either abuse or under-valuation. Once a designer leans too much into the commercial (“marketing”) or the analytical (“academic”) the goal of their discipline invariably shifts, shifts either into economy or into “criticism”, both of which have their place on a spectrum, but neither of which engage with the true potential of the practice. This is the everlasting tension.