Paula Scher on ageism

“What is quality work? This is the eternal debate. We know design must function properly, but design functions differently for different problems and audiences. Ray Gun works perfectly for its audience but won’t be received well by someone over forty-five who doesn’t care about rock and roll. Is it quality or garbage? Aesthetics is a tricky business.

One can admire the aesthetics of a specific school without loving it. I admire Emigre without loving it. It’s ten years old now. I admire the publication and some of the typefaces even though I’ll never use them. But the Emigre designers were innovators. I felt the same way about Herb Lubalin. In fact, I feel the same way about Paul Rand. I never loved his work as I love Cassandre’s, El Lissitzky’s, Pierre Mendell’s, and some of Fred Woodward’s Rolling Stone spreads. But I admire it. I know how important it is. One builds admiration from a distance, in retrospect. It takes time.

With ageism there is no admiration for any work produced by a younger generation. None. No shining example, no beacon among the heathens. Only designers from their own generation or the distant past merit praise. At the end, there is no debate, no enlightenment – only a divide. And we are all losers.

We are losers because the ensuing factionalism, hurt feelings, confusion, resentment, and anger are damaging to the most important goals of the community. If we fear and loathe one another, how can we persuade society of the collective value of good design? If we’re all chopped into different factions with different agendas, collectively we have no power at all. We destroy our credibility. When we are contemptuous of one another, we invite the contempt of business and society. We devalue design.”

— Paula Scher (via Make It Bigger)