The first lecture in the 10 week series was on the issue of authorship in design. Delivered by our CTS tutor, Andrew Slatter, we were made aware of the relationship between designers and readers, and who the author is/ who the author can be.
In preparation for the lecture on Thursday, we were asked to read Ellen Lupton’s “The Designer as Producer” to gather some context. In this she analyses German critic, Walter Benjamin’s “The Designer as Author”.
Although I was slightly confused after first read, I reread it a couple of times and highlighted the key parts for me to think about.
After reading this, I was made to question the role of a graphic designer. It is not just about the creation, it is about the thought process. Lupton also discusses how in this era, we need to be masters of technology rather than slaves to it; and how doing this will allow us to empower the reader/viewer to become producers as well as consumers.
This point was expanded in the lecture, when Daniel Eatock’s work was discussed. Eatock is best known for his branding of the television series ‘Big Brother’ back when it first started in 2000. However more recently, he has developed ‘Indexhibit’ a website which allows anyone to become a collaborator. This is achieved through a sidebar on the website acting as exhibition space for content. The website presents the reader with a modernist functionalism; you can take the source code, buy some web-space, implement the code into that, and then you have your platform to add your content to. By doing this you become a co-author. In the credit section of indexhibit.org, it is read “Created by Daniel Eatock, Jeffery Vaska, and You” highlighting the empowerment of the reader, becoming a producer as well as a consumer.
We also learnt that there is more to authorship than writing, and that graphic designers have the capacity to deliver content as well as form.
Often in working practices, designers will be given the content for what needs to be produced, and shall work around this to create a design. After this lecture, I have been influenced to continue developing my own ideas though, and creating my own messages through my work rather than conveying someone else’s. Linking back to Ellen Lupton’s idea of “designer as producer”.
An example of this can be seen in ‘Tree of Codes’, a book by Jonathan Safran Foer and published by Visual Editions. Visual Editions believe books should be beautiful productions; designed to be read by many not just a few. They are against the high end production books that go for £100 meaning no one can or will read them, as well as being against the ‘cheap paperbacks sold in airports’. They pride themselves on publishing books in between the two.
‘Tree of Codes’ is a delicate book which has been made by die cutting from an existing book to create a new story.
Going back to the concept of readers and viewers becoming part of the production of the idea, Slatter discussed the work of John Cage. One of Cage’s most famed pieces, 4’33” (1952), was inspired by Rauschenberg‘s White Painting (1951), which as suggested in the name is a number of canvases painted fully white. 4’33” is four minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence. Both Cage’s and Rauschenberg’s work were ridiculed by the art world and were seen as a scandal. Cage’s work was said to be an exploration of non intention and he aimed to pose questions rather than to make choices in his work. His work presaged minimalism by a decade.
Other things discussed in the lecture and worth looking into if you are interested in the topics discussed about authorship are:
Hans Arp – Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, 1916-1917
Marcel Duchamp – Fountain, 1917
Banksy – Who is his audience?
“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” – Roland Barthes