A Critical Guide to Design History

From the opening of Johanna Drucker & Emily McVarish’s Graphic Design History, A Critical Guide:

No graphic object is discrete or isolated. All cultural expressions participate in systems of production. How was it made? When? Where? Read the traces of production to recover the object as an expression of social relations.

All designed communications serve vested interests. In most cases, these interests are concealed by the apparent message of the work. Who paid for it? What do they hope to gain? Follow the money.

Ease of consumption is expensive to produce. An inverse relation exists between production values and effortlessness of consumption, such that many social, environmental, or human costs are hidden in the seamless look of a final product.

The more “natural” something appears, the more culturally indicative it is. Images do not show us the “way things are”-they construct a world-as-image and then pass it off as “natural.”

Anything that claims to be universal is highly suspicious. Every object expresses a point of view with particular cultural biases. Why is this bias being imposed? Who benefits? Whose values are excluded?

Every graphic artifact constitutes an exchange among individuals, groups, or entities. Graphic objects are part of a network of communication.

Meaning is made not transmitted. Every act of reading and viewing is a creative act of interpretation.

Communication is a dynamic system. A work creates a viewer as much as a viewer creates a work.

Technology is not determinant. Cultural receptivity shapes the use of any new medium or invention. Something will not catch on without a collective desire for its development.

Style is an agent of culture. Graphic forms are instrumental in transforming meanings, values, and beliefs.