"Months of work are boiled down to a business card, a tag, an exit sign," Michael Rock writes about the particular "confinement of graphic design to the often thin final results" in the introduction to his new monograph, Multiple Signatures. "Because the results of graphic design can be decidedly quotidian, even unheroic, we must find gratification in the thinking and the making."
Rock buoyantly practices what he preaches in the thinking and the making of this book. Multiple Signatures contains multitudes; this is no straightforward text that’s nicely laid out in precise alignment. Instead, the principal of global design consultancy 2x4 offers plenty of food for thought in four stylized sections and couples provocative ideas—those of multiple contributors as much as his own, that’s the idea—with intriguing eye candy.
He titled the book to invite friends in, including Rem Koolhaas and Iwan Baan. "The signature is, of course, a graphic designer’s double entendre. It’s both an autograph and a physical component of a book," says Rock. "Each article herewith is signed—by me, by someone else, or some combination thereof."
With this book, Rock explores the act of collaboration and its role in authorship, projects, criticism, and readership—"clumps" that Rock feels are some of the foremost challenges facing those working in graphic design today. Questions are asked, and answers are given in the form of essays, dialogues, collages, glitch art, case studies, cliches, sketches and, of course, more questions. From cover to cover, it’s a heady read that offers guidance and insights as much as good-old entertainment of a kind not usually found in industry titles.
Rock speaks to his readers as peers. In the afterword, he addresses the reality of being a creative professional:
To stay interested in this job you have to take an interest in how that game is played, and what you take away from it, personally. There are projects and there are clients and money and there are big issues to solve and there are big issues we make for ourselves, but are these motivational? I am not sure any of those things are our prime motivation (much as we love to think of ourselves as problem-solvers). At the end of the day we are driven by beauty, that old-fashioned concept we never discuss in public. We like to make things. Beautiful things, ugly things that make you question what is beautiful, secret things that only we think are beautiful, cheap things that when handled correctly become beautiful, luxurious things that try too hard to be beautiful…
There is a motivating joy in making something distinct, in being there at the inception. If beauty is a combination of things arranged in ways that please the senses, we take an expansive notion of senses. We want to touch every nerve. I guess, in the end, we want to be good lovers, in the baroque sense of course, pop, playful, funny, experimental, conscious, deliberate, amoral, anonymous …