Slanted #27

May 11, 2016


I have a new essay in Slanted #27, the Portugal issue. The essay is called “Plux Qubaa: the Era of Neoliberal Design”. The essay is an examination of global labor structures through the lens of a dinner party.

The subhead for the essay reads, “Cannibals in the cloud, or understanding design today.”

An excerpt:

This is where we are: in a new era. I am giving it a name and staking the claim that we have entered into a new era of design history: the Era of Neoliberal Design. What Keedy calls “The Global Style” is just the skin, the ‘landlord paint’ of a world unloosed from obvious structures—both visual and economic. Design, particularly graphic design, looks the way it does now because the grab-bag of history is the ’52 pickup’ of technocratic plutocracy. Understanding graphic design today through the lens of political economy gives context and semantic space for subservient theories of post-postmodernism and metamodernism. Efficiency and flexibility in the market opens up a porousness that we can use to understand our desire to oscillate between the past and the present and the future.


This is the reality we have dwelled in since the death of grunge (a.k.a. postmodernism with the intellectualism neutered). A landscape of sans serif typefaces used in a centered axis composition overprinted with tetrahedral, futuristic ornament and browser-like images with varied dimensions and aspect ratios—and why so much design looks like the Internet printed out… and why so much design looks like different eras of the internet printed out. Locale and class bely the ‘appropriate’ aesthetic.

We cannot further deny an understanding of the synthesis of these varied aesthetics and their reason for being. We live in an age where a technology corporation has more cash than the leading economy of the world. With the opening of Cuba and the continued ascendance of Apple, an important concept has come home to roost (again)—late market capitalism is the only way forward in terms of global economies, a la Francis Fukuyama’s The End of Humanity. In a world bereft of options other than the rush to the bottom of market goods and services provided, we are forced to efficiency—it makes sense that the Internet of Things and the Design of Things look so similar. This sameness—it is the function of a market economy. It is the evidence of the pervasiveness of results/evidence-based policy, practice, design, and education.

You can pick up a copy of Slanted #27 here.

VCFA at TypeCon!

April 30, 2016

VCFA at TypeCon!

VCFA will be well-represented at TypeCon, North America’s premier type design and typography conference, to be held in Seattle from August 24 to 28!

Co-chair Dave Peacock and Chair Emeritus Silas Munro will be giving a presentation and Co-Chair Ian Lynam (a.k.a. ME!)  is on the board of judges for this year’s SOTA Typography Award. VCFA friends like John Downer, Subylle Hagmann, Alice Lee, and many others will be giving amazing presentations and showing new work.

Join us in Seattle!

O, Chicago! O, Vermont! Oh, Tokyo…

April 24, 2016

Ian Lynam in Chicago

I just got back from a whirlwind 4 days in Chicago. I gave a lecture about the work of Oz Cooper called “Heft, Gravy and Swing” for the Chicago Design Museum/ÄKTA, a lecture on how the Olympics fits into the history of Japanese graphic design for Chicago’s Society of Typographic Arts, and a lecture about marrying the divide between practice and theory for the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. All were great, and I made a ton of new friends, as well as seeing some old ones.

A giant round of thanks to my dear friend and patron Paul Gehl of the Newberry Library, VCFA alums and amazing friends Bill Kaminski and Margaret Gonzalez for making it down to hang out, the one-of-a-kind Julie Sittler, my girl Heather Snyder Quinn, Ryan Hageman of Gurafiku for introducing me at the Design Museum event and for being a total mensch, Bud Rodecker, Kiyomi Negi-Tran, Heather Anderson, Karley Schimpf, Tanner Woodford, Jacob Ristau, Renate Gokl, James Goggin and so many others for making it all happen. I am honored.


Prior to my Midwest adventures, we had our Spring residency at VCFA. It was amazing, as usual. Our Guest Designer/Critic was the esteemed Kenneth FitzGerald who gave a lecture titled “Singing the Surface” and a workshop called “Music for Metaphors”. Both were amazing.

Congratulations to our latest graduating class: Dick Schellens, Addison Landers, Carl Julien, Deb Kline, Erin Beckloff, Jason Alejandro, Laura Rossi Garcia, Lisa Williams and Ru Jurow.

It was amazing to welcome our massive incoming class: Beth Adams, Mike Berrell, Corey Brabham, Danny Cardenas, Colleen Clark, Le, Suzette Cozzens, Adam DelMarcelle, Luke Dorman, Sam Flora, Jeremey Forsberg, Jason Fowler, Gareth Fry, Katie Krcmarik, Edna Pedroza, Rosemary Rae, Heather Snyder Quinn, Anna Spool and Wendy Strasolla.

As usual, residency was transformative for all—a massive thanks to the students, faculty and staff at VCFA. And speaking of transformations, I am excited to be Co-Chairing the program for the upcoming year with my dear friend and colleague David Peacock.

Lithuanian Design Awards

April 19, 2016


I just finished up judging the Lithuanian Design Awards 2016, weighing in on Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design and Fashion. So much great work!!!

Lecture for STA Chicago

April 4, 2016


I will be giving a lecture for Chicago’s Society of Typographic Arts on Tuesday April 19th at 6:30pm.

22 West Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

More information here.


March 17, 2016

PAC.MN - Share multiple URLs easily is a project we worked on a few years ago which we’re still quite happy with. It’s an easy way to share multiple URLs in a graphic and non-intrusive way.

PAC.MN - Share multiple URLs easily

You can see here.

Areas of Interest workshop

March 12, 2016


Some of my writing will be the focus of this upcoming workshop that is a part of Singapore Design Week. More:

Space Academy

March 5, 2016


We just finished up the identity for Space Academy, an event space in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Identity for W. David Marx

March 4, 2016

Identity for W. David Marx, author of Ametora

We just completed the identity for Néojaponisme co-founder and Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style author W. David Marx. Two-color letterpress on toothy white cotton board.

Curating the 27th Brno Biennial

February 25, 2016

Brno Biennial 27 Study Room curated by Ian Lynam and Kiyonori Muroga of IDEA Magazine

Big exciting news: Kiyonori Muroga and I have been chosen to co-curate the 27th Brno Biennial’s Study Room, a gallery housing a collection of readings that form the academic component of one of the world’s most celebrated and longest-running design exhibitions.

For our theme and title for the Study Room, we have chosen, “Tabula Rasa: Worlds Connecting or Design Mannerism”. The essay that follows reflects our approach to the Study Room:

Tabula Rasa: Worlds Connecting or Design Mannerism

As a result of the victory of modernization, the word “design” is prevalent across the globe. You can talk about design, but only as long as one situates the conversation within the disciplines and established rubrics of modern design. However, the fundamental meaning of the word “design” and how it is interpreted is not so obvious and common. Interpretations, mindsets, and nuances vary from culture to culture and country to country.

While graphic design history in the 20th century has become rich and meaningful, the variations in perception of what “design” actually is have not been explored deeply. During the cold war period, publications and events like Brno Biennial worked as the gateway of potential cultural exchange, such as how design might be defined between cultures.

Due to rapid globalisation since the end of 20th century, graphic design has become both deeply rigorous, but at the same time, deeply homogenous. Modern graphic design (and its discourses) seems to be more and more distilled and filter out the culture and history outside of the established boundaries of design as cultural capital, cultural production, and centralised discourse.

It is ironic that the division between ‘locality’ and ‘globality’ has been so deep while technology and economy have increased the speed and ease of global communication.

However, there have been individuals and works whom have veered away from the established norms – the established track of Western modernist ideals, norms and forms. A global inability to procure localised bodies of knowledge – be they geographic or metaphysical – is of utmost interest to us in terms of curation of the Brno Study Room 2016 – to help expose publications either on the periphery or completely outside of Western ideas of graphic design discourse, dialectics, and comprehension.

We aim for the Brno Biennial Study Room 2016 to be a place of reconnecting what we perceive as ‘worlds’ – spheres of activity that are technocratic, cultural and ‘other’ in nature – reconciling the slippage between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ in a heretofore unseen way that sidesteps Orientalization, imparts mystery, and promotes understanding. We are at a moment in time where what “design” is seems commonly accepted globally, yet in reality represents a multitude of attitudes and perspectives.

Reading room attendees are urged to think of the tabula rasa (the blank slate) in its most innate form – the wax slate which the Romans used for note-taking. Attempt to allow your mind to warm over your preconceptions of what design actually is prior to involving yourself in this exhibition. The Neoliberal era’s Big 5 (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) have shorn citizens of the world of their autonomy in decision-making and ideology-forming, shifting individuals en masse from being users to being mere participants. Our hope is that individuals who encounter the Study Room do the opposite – that the findings within instead instill a sense of agency and re-evaluation, of mystery and greater meaning.