Critique & Context

A new 4-part series of writing in Idea.

Critique in Context 批評とコンテクスト is a four-part series of bilingual English/Japanese illustrated essays currently being published in Idea throughout 2022 in issues no. 397 through no. 400 about critique.

Critique is one of the most widespread tools of design education historically, yet has remained wildly under-investigated as a phenomenon and practice. Through the Critique & Context series of essays, I will be examining the notion, practice, and importance of critique in educational design settings.

It is my belief that this research will be helpful for design educators and design students, but just as much for practicing designers, many of whom may feel a bit mystified as to their experiences with critique. My hope is that a greater understanding of critique might help designers put into practice more critical modes and methods when assessing design in the workplace. Within this greater body of writing, I look at the modes, methods, methodologies, and aspects of culture surrounding critique, including both formal and conceptual attributes. Additionally, these essays include ideas about history, criticism, theory, and practical application.

I published a zine/booklet about critique in 2020 called Critique: The War of Design which has rapidly been adopted as a guide to critique at many North American graphic design schools. This series has its base in that booklet, but is a more expanded version of those ideas.

This series is comprised of four installments:

1. Defining critique, an introduction to the idea of critique.

2. The Context of Critique, an overview of why critique can be useful.

3. What do we assess in critique?, a look at what we examine in critique.

4. Semiotics & Context, an examination of the value of semiotics in critique.

A note: Much of the ideas that I am writing about in this series may feel a bit alien to Japanese readers, as some of these notions of criticism, critique, and semiotics seem to be absent from contemporary Japanese graphic design and graphic design education. Within this series, I am proposing different perspectives of analyzing and assessing graphic design. I hope that readers find these ideas helpful.

Critique and Context is translated by Manami Yamamoto.