Will-Harris House

Design
Fascism

A recent issue of that great publication U&lc had a feature about the Andy Warhol Museum and its Corporate Identity.

  It wasn't enough that there wasn't a shred of humor or creativity in the museum's graphic identity, but the lead designer was quoted as having had to "take the random 'creativity' from the museum's printed efforts..." when someone working in the museum had the gall to show some initiative and insight by creating a piece of printed matter based on the design of one of Warhol's early publications.

Now, as I designer I understand the importance of a corporate ID for a business--but I also understand that in graphic design there are no rights or wrongs, just appropriate and inappropriate, so to me, this case smacked so of design fascism (and a designer's way of inflating their bottomline), that I was furious. It's the old designer's trick of making everything seem so magic and mysterious that someone without years of training couldn't possibly have a good idea. The old "we-know-it-all-and-have-nothing-to-learn-from-you" design-fascism.

Inspire, not stifle

I'm a strong believer in corporate ID-but I also believe that one of the jobs of a designer is to inspire viewers to find their own creativity--not to stifle it--to help them work within design parameters instead of within a straight-jacket. Not only is totally constricted design boring (while Warhol said he liked "boring," but he said a lot of things that were totally at odds with his own work), but it's dead--and unprepared for anything that the original designer might not have envisioned.

What I read between the lines was a designer on a mission--not of design--but billable hours. I have no proof of this, of course, and it may not even be the case--the lead designer might just be a stickler for dead detail. But lately I've seen a virtual epidemic to redesign--not for design's sake--but for the sake of the designer's wallet. We all hopefully have personal visions and styles that make us unique--but we shouldn't inflict them on other designers' work just because it isn't what "we'd do" or because we see income potential. There's more than enough work that needs to be done so that we don't need to stifle creativity or trash the work of others.

The same designer said "While designed to playfully borrow the style of Warhol's original Interview Magazine format" it was "too visually arcane to reach the market for which it was intended." Why was it so all-fired important that everyone completely understand the background of this design--that certainly wasn't the case with Warhol's own work. If designers are the only ones who can understand their finished work then they've done something terribly wrong (or designed to win awards from other designers--another dangerous trend).

Even in corporations with the most restrictive corporate ID systems, individuals must be allowed the creativity to express themselves. Maybe not on documents which absolutely must tow the company line, but certainly on informal documents. If not, then why not just lobotomize them all-wouldn't that be more efficient? Then the designers could really tell them what to do without any of that annoying human feedback.

I feel better getting that off my chest. I'm having a T-shirt made for the Warhol "Designer" that reads "STAMP OUT RANDOM CREATIVITY" set in Akzidenz Grotesk (the Warhol corporate font, sure to avoid any hint of playfulness) with just enough wrong with it that she can bill me to redesign it back to dead perfection. ~~DWH


Headline typefaces: Zurich Light Extra Condensed from Bitstream and "Why Not" from FontHaus"


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