Mainstream discussions on graphic design

Mainstream media doesn’t often do graphic design, and when it does it rarely does it seriously. Preference is more often given over to art, architecture, interior design, photography and fashion.

On the odd occasion when an appropriately critical article does appear, (one that does not claim that the journalist’s 6 year old daughter could have done a better job at designing a logo), then graphic design as a discipline is not mentioned. Take this report from November 2019 about Facebook’s rebrand, which covers the topics of typography, colour, semiotics and visual identity. In the post’s category tags, technology and business are mentioned, but graphic design and typography are not. Articles around this time from the same publication about art and architecture did have accompanying discipline tags.

It was therefore refreshing to read a serious discussion in The Observer last weekend about the government’s visual approach to imparting important information to the public about Covid-19: The UK government’s coronavirus strategy: shoddy by design?

Interviewing Simon Esterson, art director and co-owner of Eye Magazine, and Eliza Williams of Creative Review—two of the most prominent graphic design publications in Britain—the piece discusses how UK government sanctioned visuals fail in communicating their desired message, and at times, send mixed messages.

It goes on to debate whether this was a deliberate strategy by the Johnson / Cummings pact, putting forward examples of good practice from countries who have managed to get this right.

One has to wonder at just how bad a job the government are doing, in order to prompt a journalist and editor to see the value in running such an article and bringing in experts from the field. Such a level of critical debate about how graphic design impacts on daily life is almost non-existent outside of dedicated magazines, blogs and academia.

Hopefully the realisation that graphic design can be a matter of life and death has highlighted to this publication at least, that the discipline can be of interest to the general public. It should be as note-worthy as any ‘high art’—given the fact we live in such a visual world and more people come into contact with graphic design on a daily basis than they do with art, I would go as far as to say all mainstream newspapers should have a graphic design correspondent and regular features.

Here’s hoping.

Published by Nigel Ball

Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design

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