By Kristina Ketola Bore
In 2009, the first class of MA Design Writing Criticism asked: Why I Write? in the guise of an event at the Design Council. On the 4th of July, 2012, as the last graduating class of the course were nearing their final hand-in, Teal Triggs, Anna Gerber, the MADWC alumni and associated staff joined together and asked: Why We Write.
It was the launch of the book Telling Tales, a project initiated from a collaboration between the MA DWC course and BT Archives, but it was also a celebration and enquiry into the future of design writing. Four speakers took to the stage and engagingly spoke about writing as a way of combining voices, design writing as a necessity, the platforms for design writing and how publications and collaborations are often intricately connected.
Why must we write about design? “We have no excuse not to do so”, said Alice Rawsthorn of the International Herald Tribune. She spoke about how design surrounds us at any given time, about its potential to both be about pleasure, compassion, camaraderie, but also about its potential to be wasteful, frightening. She concluded, we have to understand it. And subsequently as writers that is our job, introducing design and its potentials to be what Rawsthorn in her distinguished and reflected voice called an “agent of change”.
Alumni Sarah Handelman led us through a presentation about voices. “I don’t think about the future of design, but design as a lense to see the future”. She eloquently talked about how we are constantly surrounded by voices, frequencies of influence, and how through design writing we can mash-up those influences and expand on them. “What is the point in using air time on what already happened?” Handelman had us all thinking that we need to be looking forward and listening to the influences that will take us there.
It was a sad day for design writing when Grafik magazine in December 2011 had to close. Anna Lisa Reynolds, a 2010 graduate, was working as a full time staff writer at the time. Her question this evening looked at WHERE we write about design. “There has never been quite as many possibilities for design writing”, she said. Looking at the recent publications of Strelka Press and website That New Design Smell, it was a bright note that sung through. “We are in a turning point, the teething face of digital publishing is over, and now”, she declared, “there is a freedom to deconstruct what we can do”.
“I was thinking of calling this presentation ‘Why I DON’T Write”, said Zak Kyes. However he expanded: “Writing is complicit for a graphic designer”. Kyes presented his work as a triangle. Practice, Institutions and Others… It is perhaps the ‘Others…’, which demands most space. Through his practice the coming together of writers, artists, architects and the graphic designer is instrumental. Kyes spoke of the graphic designer as someone who can move through different fields, while still retaining his own practice. “Will you ever put your critical voice into writing?”: A question from the room. “Maybe”, Kyes answered. But it seems that Kyes voice is already part of writings, even if the words aren’t his own, the idea is ringing through. It served as a useful endnote to consider how we define design writing.
Photography by Ana Escobar.