Mary Lim

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

va: reading response (Graphic Authorship & Designer as Producer)

Graphic Authorship by Michael Rock  – Response
Generally, Rock talks about the problematic aspects of authorship and graphic design. He first goes into defining what an author is, and the history of its definition. I thought it was interesting how patriarchal the terms became: "father of all life, a director, commander or ruler." Side note: wouldn't origin be mostly related to women, where life begins? Earlier on in history, author-less texts were a sign of legitimacy (scripture). This shifted, however, when society's priorities shifted. Barthes began the discussion of the emphasis of the reader. He suggested that "authored" designs were simply "scattered fragments of quotations." Later on, designers began to speak up and offer their own insight on the author. Brockmann thought that the designer "submits to the will of the system, forgoes personality, and withholds interpretation." The reason why many called for a clear definition of the author, Rock states, is the institutional features of design. A "decentered" message would not fit well with the purpose of a designer, who attempts to satisfy the client. During the 60s, a time of social upheaval and social revolution, many viewed the author as a mode of control; a feature of high art, a feeding of the ego. Rock then talked about the "auteur." According to film theory, the director was the author of the film. Similarly, the designer, too, works at a distance (like a film director) and works collaboratively with other people. Rock uses this definition of the author as a defining feature of the graphic artist. He then supposes that "perhaps the graphic author is actually one who writes and publishes material about design." By the end of the reading, Rock never comes down to a conclusion, and only states: designer=designer.

The designer being the author brings up interesting implications. First, that if the designer is an author, then it would elevate designers, and legitimizes their design. However, the reader is also limited in this sense. With the dominating figure of the author, the reader is not emphasized, because the author injects their own interpretation. Still, in the end, what matters is not the author, but the product. In a way, the designer becoming producers of self-authored goods is unethical and unsustainable, because the main core of design is communication. Some people argue that design should feel so intuitive, so immersive, that one shouldn't notice the designer behind the design. The question is then raised: Are we then servants to society? I feel conflicted about this because to some extent I believe that the blurred line between design and fine art is not clear.

Designer as Producer by Victor Margolin – Response
In this article, Margolin basically states that the current designer today has the opportunity to "produce and distribute new things. whether type fonts, software or material goods of all kinds, to worldwide markets at low costs." He argues that the designer will be able to change the market, and open up new product sectors for larger manufacturers. Margolin seems hopeful for the future of design, commenting on the advancement of technology and the ability of the designer to "subvert the near monopolies of large companies..."

This article posed many interesting points, but Margolin seems too idealistic. Here, I ask what then defines a designer? If Margolin's premonition comes true, then the definition of a designer would become too generalized. Still, technology right now seems to be going in the direction Margolin has suggested. 

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