Don’t Shoot the Messenger
The Expanding Field of Graphic Design //
11.10.2013 - 12.1.2014 @ Design Museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki
Official info: "Design Museum’s main exhibition of the autumn season addresses contemporary phenomena and challenges in graphic design from the perspectives of Finnish and international designers."
"Graphic designers are messengers, whose role is being redefined as their professional field is expanding, as in many other areas of the arts and design. This exhibition at Design Museum explores the present state of graphic design and asks where it is headed."
"Sixteen designers or design offices from five European countries have been chosen for the exhibition. The participants include Ben & Julia (DE), Carnovsky (IT), Eike König (HORT) (DE), hint.fm (US), Kokoro & Moi (FI), Letman (NL), Linda Linko (FI), Merijn Hos (NL), Metahaven (NL), Milla Ahola (FI), Tsto (FI), Studio Moniker (NL), Santtu Mustonen (FI), Ollanski (DE), Janine Rewell (FI), Thisissand (FI) and Tzortzis Rallis (GR/GB)."
"A separate entity within the exhibition consists of the exhibit Fully Booked: Ink on Paper which has been compiled of work by 29 designers in up to 300 printed publications. This exhibit has been curated by the Gestalten publishing house of Berlin. The featured designers include Stefan Sagmeister and Coralie Bickford-Smith."
"Don’t Shoot the Messenger asks how contemporary phenomena appear in the work of contemporary designers. These include critical design and political views, the birth and death of media, the changing concept of work, new methods such as participatoriness, and changes in tools and technologies."
"The graphic design of the exhibition is by Tsto, a Helsinki-based design office."
"Visitors to the exhibition can also see a graphic designer in action. The Dutch graphic designer Letman (Job Wouters) will paint a 17-metre long mural in the exhibition space. Letman will paint from 31 October to 3 November during the museum’s opening hours and the public is welcome to follow his work."
The book to the exhibition is in Finnish only: Johannes Ekholm (ed.): Graafinen suunnittelu. Käytännöt, tekniikat, strategiat. [Graphic Design. Practices, Techniques, Strategies]. Tallinna: Tsto, 2013. Cost: 2 Euro.
The introduction is a manifesto about graphic design today. It is one of the most remarkable texts I have read this year. It should be translated into English.
It is about the fundamental transformation of a graphic designer's job in a world of neverending and ever-expanding stream of images and information.
According to Ekholm, the traditional connections of a graphic designer's job in Finland to a national romantic identity project or to advertising have been severed.
Simultaneously long-term commitments have been replaced by short-term jobs.
There is a risk of cynicism.
"After the shipwreck of the project of modernism, is there anything left of graphic design but a digital but alienated labour attitude? On the one hand there are the conveyor belt jobs, draft services, logo-on-demand, homepage machines and default templates, on the other hand extremely specialized luxury markets".
It is an ironic, challenging, combative stance. The exhibition is a reflection of many kinds of contemporary graphic design. I think it is all about being against cynicism.
Go see it.
Read the introduction to the book. I have started to sample the 300-page dialogue chapters of the book, too, and I don't know yet what to make of them. At least they are a record of the dialogue of our times.