Slanted #19

I contributed a 14-page standalone section to the latest issue of Germany’s Slanted magazine called Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production. This feature stands as a critical response the current graphic design retrospective of the past ten years Graphic Design: Now In Production, Zombie Modernism 2.0 and my desire for ambiguity and contradiction in graphic design, not simplistic formula-based design.

Included is the title essay reflecting on the myopic focus of GD:NIP, a smaller essay called “With A Spatula In Her Hand” which appeared in a very small-run Spanish publication about the work of Experimental Jetset and a large survey of contemporary Japanese graphic design, including a wide array of imagery highlighting some of the most exciting and critical practices in Japan at present.

An excerpt:

“Methodologically, putting together a paragraph about assorted practices, projects, methodologies and visual trends is a fairly easy task. As a practicing graphic designer, I was aware of an easy ninety percent of the projects covered within the book. Sure, it takes time to write 500 short paragraphs about 500 subjects, but all within are easy targets. What is truly lacking in the book and exhibition is a sense of scope: Graphic Design: Now in Production represents a North American/Western European worldview toward graphic design that eschews the labors of much of the world. Notably absent is much mention of recent graphic design activity in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. With short-format writing the dominant trend at the present moment, solid strategic thinking should be present in initiatives to represent any holistic approach to an area of cultural production. Sure, the writing can be short and pithy, but it should be far-reaching in the material covered.”

“If observed on a macro-level certain countries get the short end of the stick. Korea – for one – is wholly unrepresented in the catalog. Ahn Sang-Soo, the most influential graphic designer in that country whose work has revolutionized and energized graphic design as an area of intensified interest, receives no mention. Younger, well-known Korean graphic designers whom have studied abroad such as Sulki and Min Choi also receive no mention, despite helping to define a very defined and widely-published aesthetic and methodological approach. Less well-know, but equally influential and highly participatory projects such as Ondol/A Few Warm Stones are also ignored. In essence, the message being sent is, ‘Thanks, Korea. We’ll gladly take your study abroad students, but we’ll be damned if we’ll acknowledge any contributions from your country’”.

“Also lacking are contributions from so many other countries – the effect of easily available software and computing on Ethiopian and Eritrean music packaging, the Thai signage landscape, branding in Singapore and innumerable others. New Zealand gets a random single hit through the work of David Bennewith’s monograph on Joseph Churchward, but nowhere is Kris Sowersby, New Zealand’s leading type designer mentioned. Japan, the country in which I reside, gets a mention in the catalog, though one that is fleeting and not wholly correct…”