The next Steven Heller: A concept as risible as the next David Spade? Well, that’s what the School of Visual Arts is trying to deliver. And of course “the design press” is busily engaged in midwifery. The design press is, of course, the problem, so this is the very definition of self-serving. Also self-parody.

Anyway, Dan Rubinstein kills some trees in Surface (do you read Surface? had you ever heard of it?) to extol the SVA D-Crit program. Rubinstein wouldn’t make much of a poker player, by the looks of it – the title of the piece, “The Arbiters,” is a bit too much of a tell.

MoMA’s Senior Curator of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli…, commented on the dire need for writers who are not only able to write about design itself but act as interpreters so the public can appreciate its wide-ranging implications.

In other words, we need sahibs to tell the Indians about themselves. Design isn’t art; it’s practical. Your designed object, including layouts and Web sites, either works or it doesn’t. One way to gauge whether or not it works is through sales. If the public needs reëducation on your design object, it never “worked” in the first place.

Mass appeal?

“We need to raise the quality of writing in design magazines, but also in the mass media,” [the inevitable Alice] Twemlow says, “for it to be talked about in an intelligent way.”

Yes, let’s talk intelligently to the masses. Because obviously they wouldn’t be masses if they weren’t already intelligent. (If they’re that smart, can’t they talk among themselves? Do they need a lecture? Aren’t they all grabbing at Malibu Stacey dolls down at the Tarzhay?)

Design rags are vertical-market magazines. Here, “vertical market” equates to “niche” and “elitist.” This isn’t like the Walkman, which we didn’t know we needed till it was invented; elitist design intellectuals like Twemlow and Antonelli are not going to create a mass demand for design criticism just by flooding the market with it.

(Antonelli: “It’s outrageous that nearly all major U.S. publications have a critic for just about everything – art, theater, television – except design! The world doesn’t understand design because,” unbeknownst to Antonelli, design isn’t something to be understood, it’s something to be used.)

None of this is going to happen anyway, of course. Take it from a guy who wrote a design column for a daily newspaper. Antonelli can’t even manage that with the Times, where she holds more sway than any elitist design intellectual in the world.

Twemlow: “[W]e’re just arming them with a set of tools and a platinum Rolodex.” That’ll surely come in handy as a tool to bludgeon the masses.

Design blogs?

They’re a blessing and a curse, we’re told. Each and every twee elitist intellectual D-Crit graduate will start their own, write for all the other blogs that pass for big names in the field, and, ultimately, earn not a red cent in the process. How’s that student loan looking now, kids? (Better flush left in Helvetica on a Swiss grid? Quick, use this as a teachable moment – tell the masses what they’d always needed to know about Müller-Brockmann!)

Kwick kwestion for the Krit Kidz: Do you think you’ll eke out a living writing for the design rags? (Like Surface?) They’re owned by an oligopoly, they pay peanuts, and they extort your copyright. Anyway, go ask one of your contemporaries – the lovely and talented (but lousy-at-HTML) Michael Surtees – just how much moral authority design magazines still have.

Krit Kidz, let me be the first to tell you that you and your program are unneeded and unwanted. One more snob is one too many more.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.02.21 15:41. 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:

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