The death of graphic design

I don’t like the poster either. It looks like any other graphic design trendy posters I’ve seen in the past 5 years, except for the type. :/ It’s well constructed, the rhyme is good but… It doesn’t tell me anything about avant-garde design.

Today, the world of French graphic design stood still. 21 years after it was created, the famous Festival de l’Affiche de Chaumont, a pretty select french poster festival, has cancelled one of it’s most important event. Every year, they have been setting up a big student poster competition — to show the world the quality of the youngest designers around.

This year was no exception, and 1200 posters were sent by hoping designers on the following theme: “What is graphic design ?”. Except that the jury didn’t agree to review those, stating that the quality was too poor to be taken into consideration.

On the one hand, I find it interesting that a jury might have the balls to say so, and I tip my hat to them. On the other, I’d be surprised if there were’nt any trace of a little spark of talents in those 1200 designs but maybe they’re right. They complain about the lack of creativity shown there. But what about the lack of creativity shown in the subject? Of course, as designers, we get to think about what is graphic design all the time. What it’s for, what it means, what it should be. But anyway, the box is too big and I’m afraid people didn’t get to the walls yet.

The Festival de Chaumont, as I’ve known it during my students year, is another example of those boring (yes, I use this word, sorry dear teachers) exercises — used as a leitmotiv to get things out of the students by force better than by emulation. Get your fucking poster. Use screen-printing. As a matter of fact, I never did the workshop because I didn’t feel it would fulfill my need for experimentation and creativity. It always felt like some kind of formal obligation: if you don’t do Chaumont, you’ve spoiled your year. (And as a matter of fact, I would do it now, but that’s because I’m getting old inside)

Maybe the problem is not the concentrated in the students generation. Maybe the problem is how they were taught. Or how they’re asked to respond to that kind of work. Why don’t they show up any originality? Why can’t they grasp the freedom you’re given in any subject? Does the technical abilities and creative thinking have shrinked into nothing in the past few years so that nothing good emerges from a so infinite subject as what is graphic design?

I guess not.
Sometimes it’s too easy to please a teacher and not yourself when designing something. One you’ce found the soft spot, you get to use it a bit too often. So teachers, be careful when you judge something and keep your eyes open. Teaching design is part formal thinking, creative process, and client boundaries. But the other part is using your rebellious, creative mind. Pushing away the box. Destroying it. Painting it. Well, fucking it if you’re in the mood. Because that’s what saves your sanity once in the corporate world. So teachers, tell your students to get wild from time to time. Teach them freedom and fun. Before they get stuck in a boring job.
And last but not least. If they aren’t good at design at all. If they’ll never succeed in that field. Tell them. So that they receive not 1200 crappy posters but 500 at least good work.

And students? Next year we want a Chaumont that makes us crave wih envy and jealousy and “I wish I’d done that” feelings. Kick your ass.

More infos on that (in French): Here, here and here.

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Filed under: Everyday life, Graphic Design & trends

Comments

  1. Wow, great post. Pauvre students though. That’s gotta be a hard to hear back. Side-note, your english is superb. Great writing.

  2. Zélia says:

    Thanks for the comment :) And yes, poor students. I wonder how I would have reacted given the same situation. Knowing my infamous ranting character, I’d probably be spamming every single design blog on earth screaming “unfair!”. Good things wer’e aging up sometimes.

    And thanks a lot for your comment, I’ve been trying to improve my abilities for a while with this blog, but I always get this akward sensation that I’m using the wrong words or syntax everytime. Keep practising!

  3. “Sometimes it’s too easy to please a teacher and not yourself when designing something. … Teaching design is part formal thinking, creative process, and client boundaries. But the other part is using your rebellious, creative mind. Pushing away the box. Destroying it. Painting it.”

    This is so true! Sadly, the more I become involved in the world of graphic design, the less creativity I find in it. The industry is just so saturated these days that it becomes hard to find people who are willing to design things for themselves and not just for a teacher or client. I believe that true creative design should push boundaries in a way that gives the viewer insight into something personal and meaningful — something that makes the viewer think and ask questions.

  4. Zélia says:

    Hi Teddy,
    thanks for taking the time to make such complete comments :) I feel that creativity always ends up crushed under trivial considerations, making it dull and uninteresting. I’ve met a few teacher trying to explain us how to break the evil cricle in the past, but not enough to make a difference, I fear. If people were trained properly to be creative and not only “easy on the eyes and soul”, then maybe we’d have something valuable to see in the daily graphical landscape. Lots of work here I guess…

  5. I think you are definitely right about that. Though, I wonder what exactly is not being taught. There could probably be more lessons on brainstorming and applying design elements to various aspects of life, but I wonder…perhaps creativity can’t be taught? Maybe when the graphic design industry became saturated, people began forming rigid ideas of exactly what graphic design should be. Maybe being a “graphic designer” started to mean being someone who is able to make things look pretty, which is a lot different than what the graphic design movement’s goals were to begin with: creative visual communication. *shrug* Just some thoughts.

    By the way, I added a link to your site on my blog. You deserve all the extra visitors you can get.

  6. Mohit says:

    You have highlighted a subject which was hiding somewhere, It is true that designer today is not getting proper designing education.

  7. Zélia says:

    This is a good debate starter we have here. Can creativity be taught?
    Are graphic design’s school missing the point somewhere?
    I don’t know enough schools to have a valid point, but I’d be interested in having feedbacks from people from other countries.

    I’ll ask this over on twitter, and maybe will came across with a blogpost later on.
    And thanks for the link :) My stumble upon fame is decreasing so I can do with a little more audience :D Have a great day folks!

  8. Samir says:

    Hey Zelia,
    I’d like to quote you here:
    So teachers, tell your students to get wild from time to time. Teach them freedom and fun. Before they get stuck in a boring job.

    Perfect. Period.

  9. I’m going to try and do a little more research on this topic, and if I can even find anything I’ll write a blog post detailing what I found. Hopefully I will be able to shed some light on some of the problems that exist in the graphic design world.

  10. Mike says:

    I think I would have to see the entries to decide if I agree with the Festival de l’Affiche de Chaumont and their decision to reject all of the contest entries. It strikes me as a grand gesture that, perhaps, speaks to a disagreement with or criticism of the design schools in general. It also reminds me of a teacher (ironically enough) who fails an entire class on a project in order to get them to work harder collectively or collaboratively.

    On the other hand, I feel that a lot of technology is taught in design schools (at least in the US), but the finer points of design and typography are given less emphasis. Furthermore, many of the rising number of self-taught designers tend to be techies (“geeks,” as they prefer to be called). These are generalizations. There are still great design schools and excellent designers.

    As for teachers and creativity, I think that creativity can be taught to a large degree. Some are naturals; all have to learn. Just about anyone can learn the rules of design. Ways of successfully breaking the rules can also be taught. But the best teacher will teach students how to devise their own techniques. But I also think that designers need to be taught how to work within the constraints of the corporate world. Most of design is marketing. Marketing should be a large component of a graphic designer’s education.

    It’s a huge topic. I should get back to work!

  1. [...] the original post here: The death of graphic design | I love graphics! Share and [...]

  2. [...] Creativity comes from brain power, not art. Your ability to digest the world around you creates a basis for global meaning, from which creative ideas can develop. You must always be absorbing information and learning new things to be a successful graphic designer. Sometimes it’s too easy to please a teacher and not yourself when designing something. … Design [should include a combination of] formal thinking [and the] creative process … but [you should also be] using your rebellious, creative mind. Pushing away the box. Destroying it. Painting it. –Zélia Sakhi [...]

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