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Re: definitions of graphic design

Not asking much, eh, Dinah?  :-)

>   I'm part of an art department at a small liberal arts college.  The studio
>   program is discussing its needs and looking at the scope of our graphic
>   design curriculum. Of course, we have our own notions and experience about
>   the range of graphic design's applications and definitions, but since many
>   of you on this list are involved professionally with graphic design, I'm
>   interested in hearing about your sense of what graphic design is,
>   particularly beyond marketing applications such as logo design, packaging
>   design, corporate image-making, etc.

Graphic design is much broader in scope than the marketing stuff you mention,
but those things are the highly visible jobs.

An important distinction between graphic art and fine art is that the former is
generally done for an ulterior purpose, usually a functional purpose of
enhancing the purchase or use of some item. Whereas fine art, particularly
after the break with the Academy in the 1860s in France, has adopted a far less
utilitarian purpose, indeed it has stridently pronounced its liberation from
bourgeoise concerns and freely appropriates or reconstituted art from the
commercial output and detritus.

>   ... Also, I'm interested in your thoughts
>   about a) the links between graphic design and other studio practice,
The history of art in the Industrial age, particularly since the mid-1800s, is
a current of mixing and cross-influences between the fine visual arts and the
arts and crafts of the masses.

The links between graphic design and other studio practices are the links
betewen one kind of music and another, or one kind of theater and another.
Toulouse-Lautrec's posters, as well as Mucha's and others--indeed, the history
of the poster--can offer very succinct capsules of the intersection of the two
areas. The sinuous lines of Art Nouveau, snaking off the page and paintings,
became cast-iron subway stations in Paris and doorway grills and handrails

Likewise, the development of photography and the uses of photography exemplify
the complex relationships between art on one hand and a technically-based craft
form, on the other.

Some connections go back to the invention of printing. Durer and others made
woodcuts for early printed books, and the fonts were designed on models of
handwriting. Others earlier, if you think of illuminated books, monumental
inscriptions, or hieroglyphic ideographs.

>From Picasso's and Braques's collages using newspapers, to Schwitters's
merzbilds and Ernst's collages of old steel engravings and Stuart Davis's
abstractions, the connections between visual art and the everyday visual stuff
of our culture has been strongly expressed in the 20C.

>   ... and b)
>   the place of history and theory in teaching graphic design.

The place for it is right up front in the front row. The historical dimension
in art (graphic or find) is the context and framer of the meanings of new
works. All art is made from existing art; so history shows how and why and why
the existing art and design came into being. Theory shows how the images or
styles *work*, that is, how perception encounters the design project or art

Caveat: Theory-driven art is almost always dead on arrival. Theory is good in
describing how cultural, psychological, perceptual, ecnonimc, linguistic,
social, religious, and other influences flow toether into a work, and how a
person's perception of a work tends to be molded by the same forces.

Michael Brady
jbrady@email.unc.edu   http://www.unc.edu/~jbrady/index.html

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