The Art Of Whining: Top Designers Visualize Their Biggest Complaints

In a new poster exhibition curated by Steven Heller, top artists and designers from Milton Glaser to Lawrence Weiner unleash their inner haters, celebrating how complaining leads to innovation.

Next time someone tells you to “quit your whining,” point them to the Wolfsonian Museum’s upcoming three-day conference this March, The Power of Design 2014: Complaints. Studded with star writers and artists like Kurt Andersen, Michael Chabon, and Andy Borowitz, the conference celebrates the art of bitching and moaning, which is certainly annoying in large doses but is also often the root of innovation and progress.


“Complaints can get us from here to there, dissatisfaction to action, action to innovation,” the Wolfsonian writes in its curatorial statement. “Would we have the Arts and Crafts movement without dissatisfaction with industrialization? Political reform without protest? Advances in transportation, urban planning, architecture without discontent? Furniture design, industrial design–any design–without discomfort, whether physical, functional, or aesthetic?”

Along with events like the Complaints Choir and the Complaints Film Festival, the Wolfsonian will feature Complaints! An Inalienable Right, an exhibition of posters curated by Steven Heller. In these posters, star designers like Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, and Lawrence Weiner unleash their inner haters, visualizing their biggest whines. They take on people who are militants about being politically correct to those who shave nude at the gym.

The most bitchin’ poster of all might be designer Sean Adams’ cheerily pink “What I Hate” (subtitle: “Have You Ever Wanted To Kill Someone Annoying Slowly With a Butter Knife?”). Here, Adams calls out table hogs, hipsters, matching outfits, overzealous salespeople, and design gifts. “I am slowly turning into the cranky old guy on the porch who yells at people walking by,” Adams told The Wolfsonian.

But it’s not just about bitching. “Power of Design is definitely not a gripe-fest–instead, it’s a solutions think tank,” Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff explained in a statement. “We chose a broad theme related to our collection–complaints and how they are expressed or solved–and we are linking it to contemporary issues, ideas, and culture.

So, go ahead and whine about it: are you sleep-deprived? Freaked out by the spying NSA? Sick of your roommate playing Ke$ha on loop? You can submit ideas for things you think need fixing and thoughts on solutions to the Wolfsonian’s virtual complaints box.


For more posters, check out the Wolfsonian’s Complaints Blog. For more on the Power of Design 2014: Complaints, which runs from March 20 to 23 at the Wolfsonian Museum, go here.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.