‘Design – not biology – is destiny.’

Veronique Vienne

What is graphic design? The adjective ‘graphic’ can either mean 'related to drawing or printing’ or simply 'very clear and powerful’. The noun ‘design’ is ‘the art of making plans or drawing something’. Therefore, graphic design is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content in a very clear and powerful manner. Its aim is to get the desirable public reaction by visualizing information effectively.

What really intrigues me is how the borders between design and art have become increasingly blurred. Where does design end and art begin? Charles Eames said that ‘design is an expression of purpose. It may (if it is good enough) later be judged as art.’ (Scielo, 1972) 

I would like to discuss the work of 2 graphic designers in connection with 2 of my favorite fine artists. 

 Barbara Kruger 'Untitled' (1987)

Barbara Kruger 'Untitled' (1987)

 Tracey Emin 'I've got it all' (2000)

Tracey Emin 'I've got it all' (2000)

Design is opinion, standing for what you believe in, taking the position and speaking in a loud voice. In her most famous piece, Barbara Kruger does exactly that. The slogan ‘I shop therefore I am’ is printed on a red calling card in bold white Futura Bold Oblique typeface that is placed on a black-and-white picture of a hand. It appears as if the hand is actually holding the card. The elegant gesture of a hand intensifies the sheer visual power of the words. The hostile tone of Kruger’s visual language demands attention and forces us to rethink the otherwise cliché catchphrase by creating a moment 'of internal identity confusion in which we don't know if we are acting as a victim, an oppressor, or a witness. Usually, we are all of the above.’ (Interview Magazine, 2013)

Value, materialism, and consumerism are at the very core of Kruger’s work. She makes us question our very own consumerist impulses and essentially - desire itself. The success of her work comes down to distinctive, unapologetic, single-minded visual language directed straight at you, demanding your full attention. 

Tracey Emin’s work 'I've got it all', in which she sits with her legs open, clutching notes and coins, is as visually powerful and insistent. She also forces us to question our values and ultimately our own authenticity in the face of self-indulgent materialism. Are we simply posing as ourselves?

 Lorraine Wilde 'Buddha Mind' (2004)  

Lorraine Wilde 'Buddha Mind' (2004)  

 Thomas Struth 'Paradise 1' (1988)

Thomas Struth 'Paradise 1' (1988)

Design is aesthetics that enhance the message and highlight the content rather than pulling your attention away from it. By approaching design internally rather than externally Lorraine Wild comes up with subtle, effortless and lucid design solutions. ‘She demonstrates the power of understatement as an artful means of binding form and content.’ (AIGA, 2006) Content is emphasized by unflattering the form. Wilde's design has little to do with visibility and seeking attention. Instead of looking at, it is inviting us to look in. And so do Thomas Struth’s photographs. He is fascinated by the depth of vision, the seeing itself. Struth's work is as rhetoric and calm as Wild’s. You are invited to experience yourself in the process.

 

Graphic design is a part of everything, it is all-present. By connecting us to our material existence it informs us about our environment. It 'is the most universal of all the arts. It is all around us, explaining, decorating, identifying; imposing meaning on the world.’ (Quentin Newark, 2002, p14) It is ‘affecting not only our visual and physical environment but a sense of ourselves as well.’ (Sheila Levant De Bretteville, 2012, p247) Graphic Design is essentially art with a purpose. Its purpose is 'not to make the world more technological, but to make the world more humane' (John Maeda, TEDGlobal, 2012), to instill cultural awareness and social responsibility by bringing order and clarity to information.

‘I began to think about the computer as more of a spiritual space of thinking,’ said John Maeda at TEDGlobal in 2012 and so have I. There's a spiritual solution to each and every problem.