“LOOKSMAXX” (v.)

I used to listen to the podcast with the grammatically questionable name, Be a Design Cast. It was produced by the so-called Be a Design Group. (If anything, would one not want to “be” a designer?)

The podcast was succeeded by The Reflex Blue Show. It’s from two of the same kids, Nate Voss and Donovan Beery, under the ægis of their new nom de baladodiffusion, 36 Point. They may be OK designers, but they should stay away from the Web, since the code and appearance of their new site are terrible. (Attention to craft as shoddy as this would earn you a C in design school. Tables for layout and garish comic-book colours map quite accurately to “I couldn’t decide on a font, so I used Arial” and “This free stock photo is just what I’m looking for!”)

I listen to the Reflex Blue Show. It’s overlong. It’s not altogether interesting. These are hardly novel criticisms of podcasts. Nonetheless, it is a form of wish fulfilment – wish manifestation, even – of which I know only two precedents. Voss and Beery are junior graphic designers in Omaha, Nebraska – yet they run their own podcast on graphic design and, in many cases, interview visiting design microcelebrities. They find enough to talk about in general, and they also manage to piggyback on whatever design events are happening in that small town.

Omaha is kind of an arts capital of the Midwest, but the kids have pulled off an achievement in mythmaking on a par with the contention that Winnipeg has a huge arts and cinema “community” (it never did, and Guy Maddin couldn’t wait to move to Parkdale) or that Toronto was home to roving bands of well-hung, uncut queer punks in tight clothing (a complete fabrication). Bravo there: Keep it up and eventually you’ll have Matthew Broderick or Reese Witherspoon on your show.

But Voss and Beery are almost insufferable to listen to. They offer an American bravado that’s been sitting under a heat lamp too long. It’s the manufactured enthusiasm of a college (not university) football game, of a “tailgate party,” of football in general. There’s too much reliance on brassy, punchy, overloud, overstrong delivery of drawn-out syllables – as if they don’t quite know how they’re going to fill up their airtime, so, like radio amateurs everywhere, they drawl. Also very American. And guyish. Terribly, terribly guyish.

I continue to labour away at a psychological explanation for why the Gays dominate every field of design except the only one I’m really interested in, graphic design. (And typography, the micro to graphic design’s macro.) Designers are so straight you cannot fucking believe it. They’re so straight they run podcasts that could be about college football teams but are actually about fonts and layouts. Designers are nicely dressed and nicely turned out and are good solid Macintosh supremacists, but they have children and families and the only guys from whom they feel different are the working classes, because designers are educated.

But there may not be much of a gulf, I realize now. Graphic design is workaday, unfancy, invisible most of the time. It is less so now that the Web has made it actually possible to explore the kind of personal work that photographers have always had at their disposal, but the Beatrice Warde crystal-goblet theory remains firmly in place. Graphic designers make things that are used. We use them by reading them, but that’s something everybody does. It’s practical. This, of course, is one of the many reasons why intellectual design criticism does not work, never did work, and is doomed.

Two guys onstage, both holding their hands over their eyes and peering out at the audience As I write this I am watching a not-very-good interview (QuickTime movie) with one of those Dutchmen, complete with a Dutch name that English-speakers cannot take seriously, who runs Butt (FANTASTIC MAGAZINE FOR HOMOSEXUALS; q.v.). As the interview opened, a guy minced out and sat down with the Butt editor. The guy mumbled his name in the gayest accent I’ve heard all year… and I realized the name was that of one of the Usual Suspects of intellectual design criticism, Andrew Blauvelt. He’s design director and curator of the Walker Art Center, whose bespoke font has practical, workaday snap-on serifs.

Blauvelt giggled away and tossed off bitchy little minijokes straight out of the gay playbook. He crossed his legs like a girl. He didn’t act quite like a girl, but seemed indistinguishable from a contestant on Project Runway. He’s completely unconvincing, especially when asking deep intellectual questions (anything using the word “duality”), and he’s unconvincing because he walked right out of the gay catalogue. Meanwhile, the Dutchman is equally gay, but has an accent other than the gay one and rather different mannerisms. I know many Dutchmen, half of them type designers and all of them heterosexualists, and I do not find the accent grating; the editor’s body language seems unaffected and plausible.

Host and guest are similar enough that they were even both wearing sweaters, yet one guy came off as credible and the other did not. The effete, stereotypically gay intellectual talks a lot about design; the tall, foreign art director founded three unique magazines. Perhaps it is not actual homosexualism that is the determinant but some degree of masculinity.

Effeminacy stops you from doing things. (It may put you on Project Runway, but how much schoolyard bullying did that cost along the way?) Guy designers are, in the main, straight-guy designers because straight guys get shit done and that’s what graphic design is all about. It isn’t art or fashion in the slightest and isn’t the tiniest bit twee. Now that I think about it, certain notable homosexualist designers like Roger Black aren’t maladaptive in this way either.

My working theory, then, is that artistique gays go into fashion design and actual art. Graphic design might as well be engineering. It’s just too threateningly practical for these terribly sensitive, terribly misunderstood little dears. The proportion of homosexualist engineers seems equivalent to that of homosexualist graphic designers. If you made it into either field, does that mean you dodged the pink bullet?

Essentially, Mike Rowe (q.v.) would make an excellent graphic designer.

It’s just a theory, of course. Like my theory on why dykes would be great at Web development, it will surely be taken the wrong way. Then again, I’m tired of twisting myself out of shape for you people.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.05.04 16:34. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2008/05/04/maladaptive-designers/

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