Thom Bennett - Website and graphic design


Website & graphic design
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Design and Mainstream Culture

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Original Source: Design is kinky

Nice article below…

Ultimately, who cares? Avid appreciation brings up images of hordes of teenagers hanging out in the mere hope that they’ll see you, let alone get your autograph, picture, or some other thrilling memento to remind them of their brush with fame. I’m not so sure that avid appreciation is something worthwhile to aim for…I’m much more keener on the idea that people who build the web will be able to make a living building sites where cash isn’t the only driving force behind its existence.

The niche community that designers have will expand to incorporate mainstream culture – we’re already seeing this happen in the form of design portals. There’s a huge community out there, and at a guess there’s a large quantity of people who are simply into design and not working as or aiming to work as a commercial artist.

We can very safely leave my mother out of the equation when it comes to knowing about webdesigners. The olds rarely have access to the web and daily papers, which are the main sources of general interest stories about designers which are aimed at a more mainstream market. Two thirds of the worlds population will die not having touched a computer. Count yourself lucky.

Younger people tend to be more likely to know their stuff when it comes to the web and designers. 15 year olds email Scott ( wanting to know how to become a famous designer just like him now that he’s scored a Macromedia site of the day. Frances Cobain told her mom that she was keen on being a webdesigner. Kids are going to have a greater knowledge about the web and web design in general, because they grew up with it, and it’s a part of their life.

I don’t think that we’re going to see designers being targeted to the mainstream in the same way that Britney is – thank goodness. However, might someone in the design world do a deal with Apple to produce ads about themselves aimed at designers which become popular, and are then delivered to a more mainstream market? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the future with media making becoming more accessible to designers.

What is happening, and what I hope to see more of is one niche being picked up by another. Going to my flatmates end of architecture course showing, the amount of final works that looked like printouts of Mike Young’s stuff was insane. Did they know about him? If the web and what designers are doing was part of the curriculum, architectural students might have further developed and extended their work, and had a greater understanding and appreciation of designers. It’s great to see sites like archinect ( crossing boundaries of disiplines such as web design and architecture.

Traditional artists would probably get a kick out of seeing what James Patterson, Vicki Wong and Lee Meisenheimer have done with drawing online, and stretching the methods and mediums of how their own work is created and displayed. It’s often frustrating trying to find new content to post at artkrush – galleries and artists have yet to see the benefits of coming online, so that awesome local show that you wanted to write about? No go. I’d love to see more collaborations and traditional based art brought online, and what happens when new/old media artists work together.

So, that avid mainstream appreciation? It ain’t gonna happen for people whose main work is web based, because the web is still very much a niche, albeit a rapidly expanding one. Hopefully sooner than later, it will be possible for people involved with the web to create a living by having greater recognition of the independent work that they do. At least, here’s hoping, because it would sure beat the hell out of looking, acting, and sounding like plastic for the enjoyment of the masses.


No, my mom will never know what James Patterson or Jemma Gura look like in the same way that she knows what Britney Spears or Kurt Cobain look like, unless either of them sell a million records or secure a lucrative Pepsi endorsement. Though this really is just a question of degrees: *avid* appreciation of graphic designers has always been and I suspect will continue to be limited to a relatively niche audience. That being said, there does seem to be an increased consumer appreciation for that which is designed and, as a result, increased media attention on designers. The may issue of Paper Magazine, for example, features a discussion on the design principles of Target (“Yay, Tar-Jay!”) and an interview with Apple design guru, Jonathan Ive, both articles loosely themed around the topic “ordinary design and corporate branding through aesthetics.”

In the introduction to the section “Extra Ordinary Design,” editor Kim Hastreiter, appropriately invoking the memory of Andy Warhol, touches on two topics relevant to this discussion: our aesthetic zeitgeist and the Designer-Rockstar:

“I think he [Andy Warhol] really would have appreciated this whole “Target moment” we are experiencing. His heart would be racing as fast as mine does as I mentally prepare for the day this June when I’ll get to purchase my Stephen Sprouse designed boogie board, skateboard, flip-flops and beach towel…I can’t wait to see what Target has done not only with Stephen Sprouse, but also with designers Todd Oldham, Marc Ecko and Philippe Starck.”

Hastreiter, goes on to explain that Target “shrouds the creative folks of their corporate culture in mystery, preferring to keep the world’s eye on the merchandise, not the hype or the names.” This suggests, that while the author, a self-described design freak, wants to know who designs the packaging and products, the general public need not be concerned. This is a successful strategy for Target and suggests an interesting trend: as design proliferates, which it will continue to do in this age of hyper-information, it becomes increasingly integrated into our lives to a point where good design is implicitly appreciated, but perhaps not explicitly celebrated.

Mainstream fame in aesthetic disciplines has been reserved, for the most part, for artists, architects, fashion designers, filmmakers. While this is another discussion entirely, it does beg the question: what is the difference between art and design, between graphic design and fashion design or architecture? I think it is a question of intention or motivation. As Jonathan Ive puts it “Design is less about expression than fine art, though I think you trade in a language that is similar, in some sense, and you trade in the emotive…I think the core motivations are different.” While I agree with this statement, I wonder how long this distinction will be made…

As commerce becomes a pervasive and inextricable part of our lives, the lines between art and design have started to blur, creating a new type of artist-designer who works in many disciplines with varying motivations. It is both common and acceptable for artists to be engaged in or associated with commercial ventures. Witness Actor/artist Dennis Hopper, former counter-culture bohemian: even in the consumer-driven 80s, he had to go to Japan (where the proverbial lines were blurred long ago) to do commercials for bath bubbles. Now he’s on the small screen in the most recent installment of celebrity Gap commercials; William Burroughs does Nike Ads, Picasso sells computers. In recent years, the Guggenheim has featured exhibits on the art of the motorcycle and a fashion retrospective. Mike Mills, whose career and work I greatly admire, is an example of someone who comfortably exists within the two worlds of art and commerce; he designs album covers, shows his work in galleries, and directs commercials along with music videos, independent shorts and feature-length films and is able to garner accolades in both commercial and artistic ventures, furthering awareness and appreciation of the commercial arts.

Simply put: it does seem that as the world becomes more commercial, commercial artists will be more celebrated. Will the web enhance this? Right now, web spaces authored by “The Design Community” are chock-full with portfolio sites and client work, which I suspect limits their audience. As commercial and fine arts continue to merge and mingle I imagine “Designer” web spaces will reflect this change. And as this happens, I do hope that the web (in whatever form it will manifest) will continue to proliferate as a space for artistic expression and the creators of these spaces will be celebrated. But Britney Spears? Well kids, get out of your Aeron, expose that midriff, and get to work.


Personally, I don’t think graphic designers will ever be household names like Britney or Kurt Cobain. I think design drives a lot of the pop culture but doubt whether the designers behind the work will ever get as much recognition as the artist(s) they are designing the CD, website or video for. Yes people into music videos will know who directed the latest Madonna video but will my mom? I don’t think so. It‚s not something that she cares about or is interested in. she may not even know who is actually singing the song she’s humming in the kitchen. She just likes the tune and that’s all that matters to her. In the same way, I think design is digested but not taken much notice of by the general public. Take apple’s new iPod or the iMac. Every Mac faithful knows who Jonathan Ives is and that he is the force behind Apple‚s product design team but to the rest of the world the iPod is just a very cool MP3 Player. The latest Levis ad campaign or new insurance building that’s being built in the middle of town, we don‚t necessarily care who designed or came up with the ideas but it affects us in some way. We either think the ad campaign is brilliant, funny or stupid. The same with the building, it either looks nice and is going to get more people employed or we see it as capitalism taking over the world. I personally would be interested to know who designed the new building or produced the Levis campaign but again would my mom?

Not many people understand why designers are so passionate about what they do. We‚ll work all-night and still smile on the way to work the next day. Are we all mad? Hell no! We just love what we do. One of the things we have seen with BD4D is that designers love getting together to show off their work and be amongst people who think the way they do. I think this is because not many people really appreciate what we do I know most of my non-design friends don’t understand why I work ’til stupid hours of the morning. Getting together with like-minded people is a way for us to get that recognition we don’t get from the rest of the world. At the same time, within our little design world we have the same kind of opinions we all have when it comes to music. For example I might like one band and dislike another just like I might love one piece of design and dislike another. You may disagree and hate the piece that I love? Design is art and is therefore very subjective. Wanna fight?

The other side of the coin is. Who would have thought that a geek software programmer would become the richest man in the world. I‚m sure all of our mom’s have heard of Bill Gates – spit, spit! How many other programmers can we name? Who was/were the programmers behind PhotoShop or the web browser. I know Jim Clark started up Netscape but my mom doesn’t. Shigeru Miyamoto is a living legend, having created Donkey Kong and Super Mario he is the Spielberg of computer games. He is treated like a rock star at gaming conventions. It‚s the same with the design community, we have our own Œrock stars‚ but they are only rock stars to other designers who appreciate what they have achieved. Whether the rest of the world will ever fully embrace design and elevate a designer onto a ‘household-name pedestal’ is not for me to say but I doubt it will happen.

I see appreciation of graphic designers coming mainly from with in the design community for a while yet. From people who understand the blood, sweat and tears you have put into your works of beauty. I could be completely wrong but lets face it. I could be completely wrong but lets face it – Britney is fit, and she’s more marketable than your average graphic designer is.

Now, where has my Mos Def CD gone…

Original Source: Design is kinky Nice article below… KYLIE GUSSET Ultimately, who cares? Avid appreciation brings up images of hordes of teenagers hanging out in the mere hope that they’ll see you, let alone get your autograph, picture, or some other thrilling memento to remind them of their brush with fame. I’m not so […]