• 12.19.11

An Exhibition of Graphic Design’s Cutting Edge

A massive graphic design exhibition emphasizes new production methods, with everything from Google Doodles to experimental typography.

Who needs clients? A new exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, entitled “Graphic Design: Now in Production” has collected more than 500 items organized around the growing trend of graphic designers going straight to market with an assortment of clothing, posters, objects, software, and various other entrepreneurial activities. It hits all three of the categories that have more or less erupted in the last decade: designer-produced goods like Peter Buchanan-Smith’s line of axes, the renaissance in digital typefaces from people like “web standards evangelist” Christopher Clark, who designs experimental typography written in pure Javascript, and the type of data visualization and infographic design that’s featured on this site every day.


Andrew Blauvelt, curator of architecture and design at the Walker, says the show hints back at the profession’s history as a vocational blue-collar endeavor in the early 20th century before becoming more specialized. But the desktop revolution in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s enabled designers to rejoin the production process to design. “This was also at the same time that designers were beginning to rethink their options beyond the kind of roles that emerged in a nascent service economy,” Blauvelt tells Co.Design. “Problems to solve weren’t just limited to clients but they could be found in the culture and society at large and also within the designer’s experience.”

Blauvelt distinguishes the “designer as author”–which is primarily contained in the magazines and books initiated by designers like Pin-Up and The Gentlewoman–from “designer as entrepreneur,” which is primarily the products, contained in a part of the show called “Storefront.” And then there’s the work of Daniel Eatock, who designed Indexhibit, the portfolio software popular among designers. For the show, though, he created a felt-tip painting installation, which arranges a set of markers upright that are then pressed against a sheet of paper. After the marker colors bleed through the paper, the sheet is hung on the wall and replaced, and the process starts all over again. And while it’s certainly not graphic design in any traditional sense, work like this illustrates the fact that while the computer allowed literally anyone to be a designer, it also freed designers to expand the discipline’s boundaries.

More information on the exhibition here.