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May. 20th, 2005 | 04:15 pm
music: The Waifs - Up All Night - 2 - Nothing New

In Acceptance of my "Fine Arts Achievement" Award, I Present This Excerpt

from the novel The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd, courtesy of W. Sorbeck.

"The Cookie Cutters can't think about any­thing beyond selling cookies, so they would have you believe this class is the Introduction to Com­mercial Art. It is not. Should that give you cause to leave this room, do so now—without the threat of being scorned, or having to think."

Nobody did. Leave, I mean.

"But I've been put in charge of the store here, and I say it's Introduction to Graphic Design. The difference is as crucial as it is enormous-as important as the difference between pre- and postwar America. Uncle Sam … is Commercial Art. The American Flag is Graphic Design. Com­mercial Art tries to make you buy things. Graphic Design gives you ideas. One natters on and on, the other actually has something to say. They use the same tools—words, pictures, colors. The dif­ference, as you'll be seeing, and as you'll be showing me, is how." He bowed his head and paused, as if to take on a new load of thoughts. Then he paced, slowly, up and down the right side of the room.

"You're lucky. I envy you—this is an interest­ing time for Graphic Design. Even though it's existed since the dawn of man, it's also in its infancy—not even a name for it until 1928, when a book designer named William Addison Dwig­gins got sick of the term 'Graphic Arts' and changed it—in print, naturally. And he was right. It's not Art. And Art is not Design, though it used to be." He stopped, relit his pipe. Drew it in.

"Design is, literally, purposeful planning. Graphic Design, then, is the form those plans will take."

More thoughts.

"A bazillion years ago, some poor son of a bitch Cro-Magnon scratched a drawing of a buf­falo onto the wall of his cave. He didn't do it because his muse had called to him, or to explore the texture of bauxite, or to start the neoprimi­tive-expressionist movement. He did it because he killed a goddamn buffalo and he wanted someone else to know about it, after he was gone. He had a specific, definable purpose for making a piece of visual information. The first one." He `puffed. "Whether it's been up or downhill from there is a matter of debate for another time, but the truth is Art and Design only finally parted ways in the nineteenth century, with the intro­duction of photography. Now— Ssmile!— Zogg can take a picture of his Buffalo and save all those tedious drafting skills for … well, something else."

Sorbeck pulled a chair up to the front, sat, and propped his legs up on a desk, leaning back, hands behind his head.

"Which is no small matter. You see, photogra­phy opened up quite a little Pandora's box, kid­dies. Do you have any idea?" A quick scan of the room made it clear we didn't. "Once we no longer had to depend on drawing and painting to record our existence—once they became an option—they mutated … into a form of expres­sion. And Art for its own sake, God help us, was born.

"But Graphic Design for its own sake will never happen, because the concept cancels itself out—a poster about nothing other than itself is not Graphic Design, it's … " He pumped his fist rapidly up and down over his lap and started breathing in spasms. " … makin' ART."

My goodness.

"Not that Design can't have … a look, a style— in fact it has to, even if the style is 'no style'—but by definition, Design must always be in service to solving a problem, or it's not Design. I will not, so help me, ever attempt to define what Art is. But I know what it no longer is, and that's Graphic Design.

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Comments {2}


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from: cows_that_type
date: May. 21st, 2005 12:05 am (UTC)

weren't you reading that book the last time you were in windsor?
i think you were.

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jimmy triumphant

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from: jimmyjack
date: May. 21st, 2005 01:27 am (UTC)


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