Blogs The Gradient Vadim Gershman

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 6): Canniffe, Bierut, Smith, Rezac, Baker

This is part 6 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me […]

This is part 6 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

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Bernard Canniffe

Vadim,

Education, in many schools, is failing its students. We need to prepare students to always seek truth, and engage in a world that is more interconnected than at any point in its history and paradoxically more fragile, dangerous and disconnected.

Institutions need to stop continually raising student tuition without changing what is taught and the way that information is delivered. One could argue that if we teach the way we were taught then we are failing our students.

The stakes are too high for all of us. We have to look at the bigger picture. We have to embrace at the micro and macro levels. Having students write a statement, a manifesto, become an “ism” is a waste of time.

The design statement should be placed in the pantheon of silly design ideas along with design thinking, the all-class critique and the name social design.

The real questions are why does writing a design statement make a design student a better maker? How does writing a design statement better prepare students to become global thinkers and leaders?

Academies are at their best when there is discourse. Institutions should be places where students can question everything. All students should be able to support the making through analysis and discourse, and I gain comfort from this graduate student who dared to ask.

Bern
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Michael Bierut

Dear Vadim,

Your question is sort of confusing to me, as perhaps it was to you. To answer it directly, I would say that I’m sure there is such a thing as a “designer statement” but that I generally manage to avoid composing one for fear it would limit the range of my activities.

Let me know if you think this makes sense. I don’t want to seem unresponsive.

Best regards,
Michael
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Justin M Smith

Hi Vadim

As it is most likely very apparent in my delayed response and procrastination of answering this question, I have an extreme indifference towards describing myself or my work. I believe these statements are often misleading and therefore unnecessary to make public in nature. Rather than speaking about my own practise I think it’s better to investigate the reasoning behind the “designer/artist statement”.

I believe there are two groups of designers/artists. Those who feel the need to inject/project their own thoughts and emotions into/onto the viewer directly and those who would like their art to be interpreted solely by the viewer themselves. Considering myself a member of the latter group, I believe the thoughts and intentions that surround work(s) should be somewhat intuitive based on their environment, date of creation and subject matter. A good example would be when the Washington D.C. based band Fugazi played the Alternatives Festival in 1989. Ian MacKaye was asked why he played music and all he could respond with was “It’s what I do.” It isn’t about the methodology and meaning that the band associates with their music, it’s about the listener’s thoughts, emotions, and interpretations of their music that count.

To me, many “designer/artist statements” are a poor excuse to explain art/design to the public who will in the end have their own opinions on the origin, methods and overall worth of the final product. Although it is indeed true, we all have purpose and methods that we know are not inherent in the final product, let’s leave some of the magic and mystery for our viewers to enjoy. I say out with “designer/artist statements”, let’s give our audiences the opportunity and pleasure of thinking for themselves and developing their own thoughts around the work! Who’s with me?!

Cheers, Justin.
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Matthew Rezac

Vadim,

Here’s my statement about statements:

- -

For me this becomes a simple issue of semantics. An MFA candidate is asked to craft an “artist statement” not a “sculptor,” “painter,” or “photographer statement.” By singling out a “designer statement” as somehow different they are admitting it is a false-equivalency.

The “artist statement” is useful in the context of grant-writing and curatorial concerns. Here an artist needs to articulate their vision to a specific audience: a jury, a curator, etc., etc.

Designers, in the traditional client-designer sense, have no need for this type of document. The game changes project-to-project and client-to-client … so, any statement drafted would be continually contradicted. Although, it is useful for designers or studios to have broad “mission” or “manifesto” — or whatever you want to call it — to guide and shape their decisions (aesthetic, business, or otherwise). However, I don’t see this type of statement as synonymous with an “artist statement.”

As the Graphic Design exhibition clearly shows, designers do operate as “artists” more and more — by producing self-initiated, clientless projects. In this instance the designer is essentially an artist using design as a tool, methodology, medium, or whatever.

This is all to say: if you are working in the “traditional” designer-client scenario a “designer statement” as equivalent to an “artist statement” is impossible. On the other hand, if you are a designer operating as an “artist” (clientless at long last!) then why not simply write an “artist statement?”

- -

Best,
Matthew
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Christopher Baker

Hey Vadim,

Sorry this took so long — unfortunately, I don’t have a hugely profound answer … but anyway…

Whether it is called an artist statement, a research statement, a statement of interest or a designer statement, I think the ultimate goal is the same; to help others understand what motivates you whether it be inspiration, core values, your persistent question or personal history. I believe that what differs is primarily the way people might read it. Even after Barthes killed off the author, most audiences still naturally look to the artist to confirm an artwork’s meaning. This is particularly true for artworks that are heavily abstracted. The artist statement becomes an important “key” for some that helps generate meaning. Further, it stands to establish an artist’s authenticity as an authoritative and thoughtful practitioner.

In the design world, outcomes are usually evaluated differently. The audience or client may not look to the designer to elucidate a design’s meaning, because other concerns — such as a design’s ability to meet various design goals — dominate. Like an artist statement, it should establish a designer’s authority, voice and core values, but it should also go one step further and address the designer’s ability to reflect those core values creatively within a space defined by design constraints. I must also acknowledge that as a communicative tool, these statements should reflect the author’s personal practice and be addressed to the appropriate audience. I have yet to meet any “pure” artists or designers.

Christopher Baker
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Look for the concluding part 7 soon!

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 5): Lehni, Geisler, Killian, Cezzar, Malinoski

This is part 5 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in […]

This is part 5 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Jürg Lehni

Hello Vadim,

Thank you for getting in touch.

I personally always resented the notion of wrapping up my practice in one short statement. Artist statements tend to be too self centered and explanatory, offering a key to the reading of the works to be observed. Due to my constantly shifting interests between art, design and technology, I am rarely sure of the name of the hat I am currently wearing. After years of trying to find one short sentence that wraps it all up I realized that the name of the hat does not matter; rather than speaking of my interests and the involved disciplines, if anything the statement should talk of the work itself:

“Works collaboratively across disciplines, dealing with the nuances between technology, tools and the human condition.”

– (The last sentence being my current ultra-condensed ‘statement’ ) Is this of use?

Jürg

——-

Harald Geisler

Dear Vadim Gershman,

Thank your for contacting me.

To answer your Question:
“Typography is an art not in spite of its serving a pur- pose but for that very reason. The designer’s freedom lies not at the margin of a task but at its very centre. Only then is the typographer free to perform as an artist when he understands and ponders his task in all its parts. And every solution he finds on this basis will be an integral one, will achieve a unity between lan- guage and type, between content and form.

Integral means: shaped into a whole. There the Aristo- telian dictum that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is assumed. And this vitally concerns typo- graphy. Typography is the art of making a whole out of predetermined parts. The typographer “sets”. He sets individual letters into words, words into sen- tences. ”

-From Designing Programmes, Karl Gerstner 1962, republished 2007 Switzerland (see attached PDF for context)

Also look at “A panel on architecture” Charlie Rose meets Peter Eisenman at minute 12

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/5865

“This is what I’m about…” It is not Eismann talking but Jay Chatterjee (Dean of the University of Cincinnati) talking about Peters statement and how it defers from competing architects.

— So into the unknown blue:
I don’t believe that design or art or typography needs a statement. Because a statement is a written document, but design, art or typography does not perform in the realm of writing. So the statement is about something else, it is external to what it states about. (Compare: Martin Heidegger, What is called thinking Lesson 2 – “We shall never learn what is called swimming, for example, “…” by reading a treatise on swimming. Only the leap into the river tells us what is called swimming.”) So when formulating a statement one has to be careful, the statement does not inherit the subject, it does not become the subject – but it points to the subject.

What can an artist statement be good for? An artist statement is good for others. If a statement is a pointer, others can follow into the direction of the work by following the pointer. Since a statement exists in the realm of the written others can write about it and even talk about it – others can relate to the statement. Most people who are extern to your work are nor artist, designer or typographer – they are unable to relate to the subject within the realm of the subject. Although an expert i.e. a designer can react direct to anothers designers design by designing (theoretical interaction within the realms of design).

What can the artist statement be to the artist? I believe research is overrated. So a statement shouldn’t be mainly about what happened in the past nor be comparative. A statement could be a pointer to the artist, to point(direct) him towards his art – as the artist is not the art him/her self).

The statements I gave upfront were very important to me (in the past and still today) to orient myself. To orient oneself can mean to relate ones position in distance to other positions. (So maybe artist positions would be more “relational” than artist statements.)

— Yours Sincerely,
Harald Geisler

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Nicole Killian

Vadim

Considering the conversation of “art vs design” an old conversation, yes I think there is such a thing as a designer’s statement. And for me it is synonymous with what my artist’s statement would be. I approach writing them from a transparent and earnest place, setting out to not only inform others on my intent in making but also to understand my work more, selfishly. Through writing artist’s statements for my projects in graduate school, my personal projects and work in general I can better illustrate an understanding of key themes running through my process, content and formal executions—they are all linked. In a world where everything is up for grabs and context means everything, statements can clarify even if they never leave your desktop sticky note.

Designer’s haven’t always had a voice, and with our calling shifting and changing through the years and oscillating between “art” and “not art”, we’ve created content and formed opinions. We’re not flipping graphically designed burgers, asking if our viewers and clients want fries with that (metaphor snagged from my mentor, Elliott Earls). The time for speaking is here and has been for a while. So why not write it down? Knowledge is power.

Nicole

(sent from my phone. forgive the misspelling)

——-

Juliette Cezzar

Vadim,

The phrase “designer’s statement” is always going to be a tense one. Designers are usually in the business of responding, rather than stating, and it implies that the economy of design resembles that of an art market (you make the stuff first, then sell it). And in parts of our design universe, it works exactly that way: a client or art director commissions someone like Todd St. John or Marian Bantjes for a signature style, not because they’re looking for someone to untangle communication problems.

But in the last ten or fifteen years, the value of signature style has been dropping, the perceived value of “design thinking” is at an all-time high, and even illustrators are dropping the commission model to make their own products. The project is becoming the unit, the thing discussed, rather than the designer. And assigning credit for these projects is increasingly complicated. While I totally get and enjoy the designer-as-artist, designer-as brand model, it usually doesn’t involve the kinds of projects I’d rather do.

So should there be a designer’s statement? On an individual level, trying to clarify what your bigger aims are is always going to be helpful. For a practicing designer, I think a body of writing rather than a short statement is a more reliable way to get there. For a student, most programs involve a big fat swim in the sea of self-reflection, a statement is probably imperative to prove that you’ve gone through that process. I can see where it’s useful to go through all the soul-searching that it takes to get there, and to do it in a context separated from all of the pressures of what everyone else is going to think or do in response.

Which I know is impossible. Bonne chance!

All the best,
Juliette

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John Malinoski

Is it possible for a designer to write an artist’s statement? A designer is not necessarily an artist but often the titles are swapped out without much thought. Artist’s statements are prevalent accompaniments and requests while no such official priority exists for designers. I have read or heard many designer’s thoughts through a variety of sources — manifestos, interviews, talks, lectures, critiques, performance, happy hour, so are these not designer’s statements? Try to be honest and critical of your work, reflect on it. Put these thoughts into words. Realize these words are not permanent and can change as you / we change — ” less is more ! NO ! WAIT A MINUTE ! Less is a bore ! ” If you are unclear or confused say so, do not mask frustration. Realize your expression and meaning in words consistent with your demonstration of visual matter. Honesty and truth are noble yet difficult goals, self reflection is healthy.

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Look for Part 6 soon!

 

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 4): Sulki and Min, Stewdio, Brandt, Olson, Catalogtree

This is part 4 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, […]

This is part 4 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Sulki & Min

Dear Vadim,

Here is our answer. I hope this prove helpful. Good luck with your project!
—–

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I think there exists such a thing as a “designer statement,” perhaps in a form different to an artist statement. In fact, a statement of intention and interest, with a certain rhetorical implications, written by a designer to support or supplement his/her design work, is embedded in a designer‘s everyday practice: in a formally written proposals, presentations, reports, publications, or in a simple e-mail message accompanied by an attached PDF. Of course we normally expect a design work to function as a self-contained entity, independent of an additional statement. But I think we expect the same thing for fine arts, too (not all the people who enjoy arts read artist statements). In some circumstances, however, a statement by a designer can affect the perception of his/her visual work, as much as an artist statement would affect the perception of the supposedly independent but in effect not so self-contained work of art. So, I think both a designer statement and an artist statement belong to a rather specialist realm, not of general public, and they both are important.

(Sulki&Min)
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Stewart Smith (Stewdio)

Hey Vadim

It’s very nice to hear from you. Sorry to drag my feet on this email! I’ve been here in Germany working on a project since after the holidays and it’s been intense. I don’t have a good answer for you. At Yale we were supposed to produce a thesis book before graduating. In addition to work samples it was supposed to have text describing our approach to design, so basically a designer’s statement. (Edvin Yegir’s is definitely worth a read and I think would qualify as a designer’s statement—a good excuse to get in touch with him.)

But for whatever reason I just couldn’t deal with the assignment. I wasn’t that happy at Yale to begin with and the assignment felt like it was fencing me in instead of being a foundation to build outward from. So I took some content that would have appeared in my thesis book and instead inserted it into other classmates’ books. Some of them allowed me to actually integrate my work into their InDesign files. Some of them didn’t allow anything so I just made some subtle bookmarks and such and hid them inside books randomly. Somehow I got away with not writing a real manifesto and not producing an actual book. (As far as I know I’m the only student ever to graduate from the program without producing a thesis book.)

So basically I’m not the best person to ask. I seem to be unable to produce a real designer’s statement. But because I’m frustrated by that I suppose I do think it’s an important exercise. I wish I had something more coherent to add but it’s after midnight german-time and I’m fading fast. Let me know how your investigation of artist / designer statements go. Maybe Michael Rock (http://2×4.org) is also someone to ask. Or Glen Cummings (http://mtwtf.org) who is a fantastic guy and had the very unfortunate position of being my thesis advisor. (I think you may have met him through Juliette even?)

Ok . . . bed time!

+ Stewart
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Eric Olson (Process Type Foundry)

Hi Vadim -
Thanks kindly for getting in touch.

My answer is: I’ll be straight with you, I think this is irrelevant.

Hope this helps.
Best,
Eric O.

——-
Mr.Olson,

Thank you kindly for a sincere reply. I have already received a number of responses and their range alone is quite interesting. If nothing else, this survey shows a spectrum of current approaches to the practice of design and its relation to the practice of art (or a lack there of). On a personal level, it feels good to engage individuals whose work has inspired me for many years.

Thanks again,
Vadim
——-

Vadim -
Thanks for your endurance and understanding because my comment (upon reading it back) seems harsh! I don’t mean it that way at all. There are many tangled terms and titles in the field(s). How about graphic arts? Finger nails on the chalkboard!

Look forward to your results when you post them.
Best,
Eric O
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Erik Brandt

Dear Vadim,

How well I remember struggling with these same issues as a graduate student, as I am sure many of us have and always will. These questions never go away, indeed, they constantly grow in and out of themselves as time goes on. Today, I feel sure that there is no need to define a difference between artists and designers, and, speaking to your questions specifically, these issues are no different than the struggles of any person who seeks to make things, or is simply moving through life. It’s an essential question that people ask themselves everyday, why do I do what I do? Why am I here, who am I really? In short, if we agree that design is simply purposeful action, the question becomes, how am I designing my life, my experience, my reality?

With only my own limited experience to offer, I thought you might enjoy a look at how I addressed this issue in the introduction to my own thesis work at VCU from 1998. Hoping not to bore you, my work then centered around ‘unconscious’ visual communication systems, natural evolutionary schemes that have taken form over millions of years. I devised that work as a combination of multiple essays and formal projections, but here are the introductory paragraphs.

00:00 Ante Omnia
The orange tree grows oranges to perpetuate itself. It does so without cognitive intent and yet it has purpose. The tree does not know it creates an orange fruit that contains its seeds, yet it does so. The orange itself does not know why it is orange, but the orange orange serves to attract. The beings that are attracted to the orange use it as a source of nourishment. They eat for themselves, not for the tree, but they serve the tree regardless. Seeds ingested or released by this activity are sometimes carried further afar. Once there, they may take root and begin again an endless cycle of life. The orange tree succeeds in perpetuating itself and is spared of being surrounded by too many of its own kind.

All without knowing why.

00:01 In Abstracto
My work strives to capture the eye and then address the intelligence and imagination of the viewer. This does not mean that I weigh (or judge) the relative cognitive abilities of my audience, on the contrary, I try to create a space where viewers might find themselves in relation to the work on their own terms. For myself, I isolate, focus, estrange, and extend simple things.

Looking back, I find this simple orientation still very much appropriate to my current practice. Indeed, I still isolate, focus, estrange, and extend simple things, and I truly hope to be something like the orange tree.

Maybe someday.

All the best to you and your own search for meaning. Don’t worry if you get lost sometimes, and when you do, return to form and giving form to things! It will help reveal your path again.

Erik
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Catalogtree

Hi Vadim,

Thank you for your kind interest in our studio. We would like to answer your question as
follows:

Write a ‘Designer Attitude’ instead.

We think it is not about how you define yourself as a designer, it is about what you do when you end up in a place not covered by your definition. The most Beautiful sites are just outside the reservation.

We hope this helps, please feel free to contact us if you need anything else.
Best Wishes!
J&D
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Look for Part 5 soon!

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 3): Ponik, Lupton, Eatock, Nelson, Yegir

This is part 3 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking: Is […]


This is part 3 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Scott Ponik

I have to apologize for the radio silence, once again. Very sorry. In regards to your question:

I recently had a friend refer to an artist statement as their “jingle.” In case you don’t know, jingles are a short tune used in advertising, something catchy that will make you remember the brand it’s used for. They’re a form of sound branding, the ultimate situation of a “song stuck in your head.” A classic example:

“I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me!” Written by prolific jingle producer, Barry Manilow. Link

An artist communicating their “jingle” is similar in that it should be memorable, in 1 or 2 sentences, that “ah-ha moment”, “so that’s what it’s all about”, “I’ll take one.” Although it’s hardly ever that simple. What about the artist who wants to confuse the reading of his/her work? Etc. Etc.

I think this might be what you’re referring to as “problematic.” With designers, being able to sum up an assignment in 1 to 2 sentences is graphic design 101. We typically have no problem talking about the reasons behind any given project, but when posed the simple question “What is your work about?” it’s practically crippling. Although paralyzing at first, it’s a question that lights a fire. The question already implies there’s an agency to the work. The answer could be called a statement, or a thesis, I’m not sure, but I think trying to answer it should be exercised.

Maybe the problem is in the question: As part of our studies, we were asked to write an “artist statement.” It seems like it’s leading you to a dead-end, or somewhere that may result in a jingle. ?

Sorry if I just made matters worse.

Sincerely,
Scott

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Ellen Lupton

Some designers call them manifestos. For an artist today, writing a manifesto would seem ridiculously out-of-date, but many designers have embraced the retro-vanguard directness of posting your beliefs in some kind of list. It’s an opportunity to say what you believe with humor and clarity, and it’s a format that people seem to understand. Bruce Mau, Bruce Sterlling, Emily Pilloton, and Ulla-Maaria Engeström have all written provocative and influential manifestos.

This is one of my personal favorites (concise, witty, and direct):
http://www.hobbyprincess.com/2005/03/draft_craft_man/comments/page/2/
It was published in MAKE magazine, also no stranger to manifestos.

el

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Daniel Eatock

Hello

Artist Statement for IASPIS:

Using my background knowledge from working as a graphic designer, I employ a rational, logical and pragmatic approach when making work. I have an ongoing interest to proposing and finding solutions to problems, often problems that cannot be formulated before they have been solved, the shaping of the question is part of the answer. I look for things to fix or improve, working like a tinkerer/inventor, I propose alternatives to existing models, preferring to find ways around doing things properly, bypassing the struggle. I use self referentiality as an objective guide to reduce the extraneous and subjective, and strive for a conceptual logic. The idea is paramount and the material form secondary. My website is a tool where I both create works, and index and exhibit projects chronologically. I propose systems, templates, invitations and opportunities for collaboration, creating social networks where contributors shape the outcome and participate in the building of works. I embrace contradictions, and dilemmas. I like gray areas, oxymorons and the feeling of falling backwards. My favorite colour is the purple found in a soap bubble. I prefer to swap and exchange things rather than use money. I seek alignments, paradoxes, chance circumstance, loops, impossibilities and wit encountered in everyday life. I often change my mind, go full circle, and arrive at the beginning.

Daniel Eatock

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Ryan G. Nelson

Hello again Vadim,

I think you’re question is an intriguing one. I’ll do my best to assemble my thoughts on the matter —

*********
Yes, I do believe that there is such a thing as a “designer statement” and I also believe that periodically crafting one is a relevant and important step for any serious designer. That said, I also imagine that there are many people (designers included) who would scoff at the idea of a designer statement.

A designer statement certainly is not a subject that makes its way into the fore of conversations surrounding design issues very often. But, my theory is that, if interjected into these conversations in some way, this subject would subsequently spark debate amongst designers from many different groups and schools of thought. For example, because a designer statement so readily brings to mind the artist statement, I think that a lot of people would find themselves in the middle of the ever-present art versus design debate (Can art be design? Can design be art? Where does the boundary begin and end? Is a designer an artist? Et al.).

I can also just imagine all of the different reactions designers would have when asked about designer statements—I’m guessing opinions on the matter would range from “crucial” to “unnecessary” to “strategic” to “cliche” to “pompous.”

Personally, I have taken the time and energy to craft my own designer statement because I’ve found that the process of doing so is beneficial to my own practice and to the way in which I present myself and my work. On average, I’ve written a new statement or edited and/or reconfigured a previous one every six months or so (each iteration typically being posted on my website). That may sound tedious and time-consuming, but I find it completely natural considering that I’m continually learning and evolving as a designer as well as gaining knowledge about certain subjects and viewpoints (design related and not) that tend to build upon or change my outlook on design and how I practice design.
I think many designers may be able to file their thoughts about design and how those thoughts have progressed through the years in their mind, but I’ve recently become more interested in actually recording those thoughts on paper as a way to start building a personal history that I can then use as a basis for introspective analysis of my work and principles.

To answer your question about how to go about crafting a designer statement …

Until recently, I had never used any sort of methodology to structure my statement. Though perhaps as a result of writing and re-crafting numerous statements, I’ve been able to develop a number of core questions that I ask myself in order to build up the framework of my statement. The questions, in no particular order, are as such:

— What defines the state of my practice? (i.e., What current ideas/influences/references are important to me as a designer? What am I reacting or responding to?)
— What factors define my methodology?
— What principles guide and shape my practice?
— Lastly (the newest addition to the set of questions I ask myself), there are a number of very simple and straightforward questions I ask that are borrowed from an excerpt written by the NYC design studio 2×4 for their recent “It Is What It Is” project/publication (http://www.iiwii.org/):

“Designers have their own private agendas, ambitions, anxieties, compulsions, and references that they attempt to implement. Those agendas may mesh with the content at hand … or may be grafted onto content and live on parasitically. Personal vision is the designer’s value-added; it’s an indexical presence assumed so resilient it can survive in any context, from the base to the effete.”

In speaking about “agendas” and “personal visions” this excerpt not only implicitly refers to (and perhaps argues for) the designer statement, but it has also posed some simple questions to me that I now use in the process of crafting my statement:

As a designer, what are my … agendas? ambitions? anxieties? compulsions? references?

Each of these questions are very simple and honest and, of course, are things that all designers think about consciously and subconsciously. Therefore, I’ve found that this last set of questions allows me to build upon my statement in a very frank way.
*********

Thanks again for posing the question to me, Vadim! Let me know if you have any questions or want any clarifications on my response.

Best of luck to you on your graduate work!
Talk to you soon,
Ryan

——-

Edvin Yegir

Hope this note finds you well.

Rather quickly: The below may seem rather dismissive of your question, nevertheless;

Why not simply use PROJECT STATEMENT [as it is universal and all inclusive] and do away with ARTIST STATEMENT vs DESIGNER STATEMENT or whatever other craft ascribed prefix as they tend to be unnecessarily particular and exclusive.

Such statements usually describe the work at hand in any case and the title ascribed to the maker [imputing a particular discipline] is somewhat irrelevant. Additionally we no longer fit into clear delineated categories as the lines between disciplines are can be quite fluid.

BEST / E

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Look for Part 4 soon!

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 2): Krishnamurthy, Ibarra, Pesko, Heller, Experimental Jetset

This is part 2 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking: Is there such […]

This is part 2 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

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Prem Krishnamurthy (Project Projects)

Dear Vadim

In brief response to your question:

It’s an interesting issue, as typically artist statements are attempts to encapsulate a singular practice, whereas graphic design practice is typically collaborative, context-driven, multi-part, and less easily reduced to singular aims, as it is filtered through commissions and situational responses. The easy, not-quite-critical answer, is that “designer statements” are typically the portfolios themselves, as when designers simply show their past commissioned and let others find the common threads within it. The more self-conscious answer requires designers to formulate a set of pre-conditions, interests, and focuses that guide both the selection [or initiation] of the work and its creation.

All this being said, the use and abuses of artists statements is a pretty interesting topic in itself. Artist statements are often bad, self-promotional, misinterpreting, irrelevant to the work itself, or all of the above. The next issue of Paper Monument, an art journal that I co-edit and Project Projects designs, will have an essay that looks at the history of the artists statement and how it has served many functions over its evolution. I’ll let you know when it comes out, if you’re still engaged with the topic.

Hope this helps and all my best!

P.

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Radim Pesko

Dear Vadim,

Thank you for email and interest. I tried to answer, hope I understood it correctly (+ english is not my mother language, so please feel free to correct).

If I try to formulate it then:

Perhaps in terms of design practice I think yes–one can conceive a set of rules, guidelines, paths, as some kind of a statement, but in terms of design as profession I would find it scarcely possible if not contradictory. I think I have philistine doubts about such a kind of (written) things in general.

Hope it makes sense.
Thank you again. All the best,
Radim

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Dan Ibarra (Aesthetic Apparatus)

Hey Vadim, here is my reaction:

I cannot tell you whether or not there is such a thing as a design statement for you, or whether there is such thing as a design statement for me, but I can tell you that there is, and a need for, a design statement within the design community. Look to some of the most notable design contemporaries in the community; working designers like James Victore, Experimental Jetset, or Stefan Sagmeister. It is very likely that if you placed these three designers’ current work next to each other you would be able to pick out each one with little difficulty. This is because as seasoned designers they have found a balance of appropriate interpretation of (client) ideas through their own lens of how they see the world.

James Victore has a vision that he approaches every design project with that guarantees that anything he creates will be explicitly of the mind of James Victore. This could be through aesthetic or conceptual approaches, depending on the designer’s own perceptions of the world. Thus, in this argument, a design statement is essential to understand how the designer approaches their work. Strong graphic design is not purely a soulless, ambiguous creation of an idea. It is still a very intensely personal approach.

I’m fascinated to hear how you are sensing this tension between art and design. Can’t wait to hear more.

Dan

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Steven Heller

Any profession can have “statement of purpose.” Any person, artist, designer, plumber, can make a “statement.” Routinely an “artist statement” implies some moral imperative that is consistent with his or her work. Kind of pretentious, I’d say. But I think a “designer’s statement” is valid too. Its a statement of principles. Check out the film Citizen Kane, at one point Mr. Kane writes out said principles. A designer can do that too. Whether the designer actually lives by it is another story.

s
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Experimental Jetset

Dear reader,

Thanks for your message! We have no idea (yet) of the nature of your enquiry, but we promise to look into it, after the holiday season. For now, we just want to wish you a merry Christmas / Winter Solstice / Yule / Hanukkah, and a happy New Year!

We will not be completely offline though; we will check our mail every once in a while. But we will not respond to it (unless it is super-urgent). For all other matters, we attached below a list with answers to the most common questions. We hope this will help you further!

Here is the list:
Internship. If you wrote us asking for an internship, we will definitely take a look at your portfolio, but we will not be offering you a place, as we are not really comfortable with the whole concept of internships (long story). However, if you really need to do an internship, and want to do it in the Netherlands, you might find it interesting to check out this link: http://www.bno.nl/ontwerpers/vraag_en_aanbod/stages A short text on our views on internships can be found here: http://www.uniteditions.com/archives/experimental-jetset

Employment. We are a small studio, just three persons working from a single space, and we like to keep it small-scale. So we are not offering any job positions. If you are urgently looking for a job, you might like to check out the following link (but why not just start your own studio?) http://www.bno.nl/ontwerpers/vraag_en_aanbod/vacatures

Questionnaires by students. Normally, we try to answer all questionnaires. And we usually enjoy doing that. The problem is, we are receiving so many questionnaires these days — it is impossible to keep up. It is so easy to get lost in replying each and every e-mail, answering all these questionnaires, etc., but it is also extremely time-consuming. So for now, we decided to pause it for a while. We just want to concentrate on the actual act of designing. We are really sorry about that. If you need specific information about us, you might find your questions answered in one of the interviews listed below:

http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/archive/design-ideology.html http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/archive/sbook6interview.html http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/archive/fillstroke.html Other interviews can be found here: http://blog.iso50.com/13625/experimental-jetset-interview http://www.manystuff.org/?p=9976

http://www.uniteditions.com/archives/experimental-jetset http://www.swisslegacy.com/index.php/2007/04/11/interview-with-experimental-jetset http://www.aisleone.net/?p=951 http://www.onequestioninterview.com/2007/11/experimental-jetset.html http://geotypografika.com/2008/03/21/jenny-tondera-experimental-jetset
Recent news, links and posts can be found on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Experimental-Jetset/225316069159 For a short biography, check our MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jetsetexperimental
We are not brilliant talkers, but a recent lecture can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2pzHa6ks0M We hope these links will help you!

Studio visits. Being teachers ourselves, we know how important studio visits are for students, and we certainly experienced how difficult it can be to organize them. That is why we feel very guilty to let you know that we are currently not really up for studio visits. It is such a hectic period right now; the idea of a studio visit is just too much. But we appreciate your interest in our studio, and feel really flattered. Maybe another time, when things are quieter. We are really sorry about this!

Other news:
Hyperlinks. Currently taking place at The Art Institute of Chicago: Hyperlinks, a group exhibition revolving around the relationship between architecture and other forms of design, curated by Zoe Ryan. Displayed in the exhibition is a small selection of posters we designed for NAi Maastricht and NAiM / Bureau Europa: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=475103439159 More information about the exhibition here: http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/exhibition/hyperlinks
CAPC. Out now: the CAPC catalogue we designed for Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig. Part of a larger
graphic identity (including invitations and posters) that we designed for the Zobernig retrospective, this book was recently published by Les Presses du Reel: http://www.lespressesdureel.com/EN/ouvrage.php?id=1466

John+Paul+Ringo+George. We are thrilled to announce that the series of shirts we originally designed for Japanese t-shirt label 2K/Gingham (and that have been out-of-print for a couple of years) are currently being reissued by t-shirt label Publik. A first selection is available here: http://publik.jp/tag/experimental-jetset For information about prices, sizes, ordering, colours, etc., please contact Publik.
Still the modern world. On the subject of shirts, we recently designed a shirt for a symposium that took place at Paradiso: http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/news/still-the-modern-world.html As we are writing this, the shirt is probably sold-out (as it was a very limited edition). Nevertheless, more images can be seen here: http://www.manystuff.org/?p=9976

Kinderpostzegels 2010. We are proud to have been involved in the creation of the Kinderpostzegels, a set of stamps that was released last month by the Royal Dutch Mail (also known as Dutch Post Group). The photography was done by Anuschka Blommers and NIels Schumm, while we were responsible for the typography. More information on these stamps here: http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/news/kinderpostzegels-2010.html

Paradiso program poster. Earlier this year, we were asked to redesign the two-weekly Paradiso program poster, a poster we originally designed in 1996 and has been in use by Paradiso ever since. The redesigned poster was launched last August; more information can be found here: http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/news/paradiso.html

The full press release by Paradiso can be read here:

http://tinyurl.com/2bloh9z

For recent updates, check the News section:

http://www.experimentaljetset.nl/news/index.html

We now also have a Facebook page; feel free to check it out: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Experimental-Jetset/225316069159

We sincerely hope that the above list will take care of most of the questions that we receive daily. We will try to answer all other questions as soon as possible (after the winter), but even then, we cannot guarantee a reply; we are very sorry about that. Thanks for your understanding!

All the best,
Danny, Marieke and Erwin, Experimental Jetset. http://www.experimentaljetset.nl
PS: As you might notice, this mail does not contain any apostrophes or quotation marks. For some reason, our server did not allow us to use apostrophes in our auto-reply. Strange. Hopefully it is just a temporary glitch; we never had this problem.

PPS: Ampersands seems to be forbidden as well. So we replaced them with plus signs. Our auto-reply is getting more and more cryptic every day.

 

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Look for Part 3 soon!

What is a Designer Statement?: Reinfurt, Goggin, Dixon

——- As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement.” Producing an all-encompassing articulation of my work posed a challenge—aside from a certain violence inherent in definitions, the idea of an “artist statement” seemed somewhat problematic for a designer, having worked primarily on client-based projects for a […]

——-

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement.” Producing an all-encompassing articulation of my work posed a challenge—aside from a certain violence inherent in definitions, the idea of an “artist statement” seemed somewhat problematic for a designer, having worked primarily on client-based projects for a number of years since receiving my BA.

When I attempted to describe myself as a service provider, the statement felt cold and generic—an easily digestible marketing “jingle” with a dispassionate list of skills and expected methods. When I attempted to examine my work through the lens of a wider artistic practice, focusing on my interests, re-current themes in my work, philosophical or political views, this also felt somehow insufficient—it became difficult to reconcile the outward-looking nature of graphic design with the inwardly focused approach necessary to formulate the boundaries of an artistic practice. In my search for a perfect definition of my work I began to question the validity of this exercise and the relevance of such statements in the field of design in general. Should designers produce artist statements or is there a different model for addressing the public? What is the relevance of personal statements (vs. manifestos) in the design field today? How does one produce a definition that is genuine and useful without limiting the range of one’s activities?

The next step seemed logical; I decided to reach out to practicing designers whose work I admired by posing the following question:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production. Here are the first three responses:

——-

David Reinfurt (Dexter Sinister)

vadim,

i suppose i have a response which will at first seem glib — of course, a statement (of intent, purpose, subject, whatever) is something that designers are very often actually asked for. usually these things flow out in the either a. hackneyed language of marketing, or b. hasty recounting and slight re-wordings of someone else’s definition of design. a much stronger version is to make your work do the stating, so that a ‘statement’ as such is redundant. i do realize that this is often hard to practically make work, or make legible anyway. so we continue to write our own bios and frame our own practices. in which case, a designer statement is best read between the lines of a bio (perhaps), or (better) in the connecting threads that run one project to the next. i dont see much use in artist’s statements anyway, as it is much nicer to manifest an approach and model a way of working than to describe an agenda and illustrate it through works.

you might notice the distinction between ‘works’ and ‘working’ — this is crucial.

hope this ramble proves useful,
david

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James Goggin  (Director of Design, Print, and Digital Media, MCA Chicago)

Hi Vadim,

A really late reply from me, I do apologize. But I was pleased to receive your email and I will happily answer your question.

I’m with you on the notion of a designer statement being a problematic one. Given my own practice which is constantly influenced and directed by the given circumstances of any project’s content and context, I would likely soon contradict any statement I might make as a designer. But perhaps that in itself could be a valid statement: the conscious avoidance of one ideology or dogma but rather the recognition of the parameters and constraints placed on designers, and the willingness to embrace and subvert them.

A bigger question is perhaps not “how would you go about creating a designer statement” but more “for which audience is a designer statement actually intended”? The application of design parameters onto the very question of a designer statement.

As a test of the above, I am going to revisit an unfinished interview that Emmet undertook with me a few years ago (unfinished by me, unintentionally, just due to being to busy and disorganized — he asked some great questions) to see if, in those “designer statements”, I still agree with them, or if I have since contradicted myself. I hope I have.

Thanks for your great question, I look forward to seeing your results. Come and say hello when I’m at the Walker in March.

Best regards,
James

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Keetra Dean Dixon

hi hi,

Hope this response fits the bill. So excited to see the discourse!


Q: Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

A: There are a lot of design manifestos, initiatives, philosophies, missions and methods. Regardless of the titling, a statement outlining ones approach to work is an invaluable guide. The work we produce carries the mark of our perspective (be it grand or subtle) whether we intend it to or not. It is vital that we understand our own voice in order to contribute responsibly and extract greater meaning from our endeavors. For me, stating my goals can help move my work from intuitive to intentional. “Designer” is such a nebulous title; further defining the role for myself is key to directing my own path and its resulting impact.

I developed a half-hearted traditional artist statement when I began showing work in galleries, but I developed the most useful writing during my graduate studies at Cranbrook in response to the completely open, almost unstructured program. I needed guidance. I developed a structure to self-apply. I extracted my own voice, creating a set of guiding statements to keep me on a broad, but directed path. I still look to, and continually evolve two of sets of those guides: “What the work wants to do” (my initiatives) and “Reminders when making” (my methods). They cover the grand concerns of what am I doing & how I am doing it.
Thanks again for the inquiry!
BEST LUCK
kdd

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Look for more responses soon!