Nicholson Baker is one of my favourite writers, in part, because of the way he sees intricacies in the mundane that are so easily glossed over. This speech about what it means to write about product design is pretty fun. I think.
This transcript of a radio piece provides a nice little snapshot of the inner workings of a graphic designer’s mind, when it comes to how they think about their own profession.
“Graphic design has been likened to a wine glass. When we drink wine we barely notice the glass it’s served in. It wouldn’t be true to say that we don’t care what glass we drink out of — we wouldn’t choose to drink a rare vintage out of a Tupperware mug, for example — but it’s the wine that matters, not the vessel it comes in.”
“For many observers and commentators, graphic design’s embeddedness in commercial culture makes it into one of the specious modern black arts, like spin, hype and branding. And it’s undoubtedly true that most graphic design is about selling things in a consumer society.”
“Most recognise the fundamental difference between artists and designers: artists create work that comes from an inner impulse. Or to put it another way, they write their own briefs. Graphic designers, on the other hand, respond to briefs supplied by others — they are reactive. To go back to our glass of wine — artists supply the wine, graphic designers supply the glass.”
I, for one, appreciate the work of graphic designers. They make it possible to judge an object by its appearance because their work ties an object to a particular culture. And I like that.
No it’s not. It’s a cheese knife and cutting board set. Shame it’s not actually for sale. I’d totally buy one. They’re available here. I’d love to buy one. And then my wife would totally make me give it to someone as a present.
The guy behind the product design has some other cool ideas.
Update – it turns out a lot of the really cool ideas I’ve linked to before were designed by this guy and the company he works for – worldwidefred.com – you can buy their stuff from Amazon and a host of other novelty kitchen suppliers. Like here.