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02.11.14: Alexandra Lange

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.
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11.05.13: Rob Walker

Seeing The Problem
How a graphic communication campaign could help us address a real electoral map crisis: Gerrymandering 2.0.
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09.24.13: Alexandra Lange

Learning New Tricks
Harvard doesn't have any design courses, but I've found new friends in "material culture." What it's like for a critic to go back to school.
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07.02.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
In the mid-1990s, Inkahoots became a graphic design studio with its sights set on social causes.
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06.26.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
The Australian design team Inkahoots is a model of community-based graphic design practice.
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06.04.13: Alexandra Lange

Praise the Partner(s)
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, but let's not forget the other partners.
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04.17.13: John Thackara

Big, Hairy, and Agile
The UK government’s digital services platform, gov.uk, has won the Design of the Year award.
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04.09.13: Alexandra Lange

What It Costs (to Buy a Bench, to Extend a Curb)
Participatory budgeting lets communities put their own urban priorities in order.
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03.10.13: Rick Poynor

Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
By celebrating political posters for their design do we collude with the established order they seek to challenge?
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01.14.13: John Thackara

Healing The Metabolic Rift
John Thackara on the possibilities and issues global business leaders will face at the 2013 World Economic Forum.
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01.08.13: Alexandra Lange

Kicked A Building Lately?
That question, the title of the 1976 collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s work for the New York Times, embodies her approach to criticism.
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11.13.12: Alexandra Lange

Knolling Your Polling Place
Knolling your polling place: for the next election, a little spatial organization would go a long way.
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10.08.12: Alexandra Lange

Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.
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09.27.12: Alexandra Lange

Let's Talk About Women in Architecture
A panel on Women in Design, and questions about whether such panels should exist.
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09.24.12: Rick Poynor

Demonstrations, Democracy and Design
After demonstrations in 2011, Barcelonas Plaça de Catalunya became a carnivalesque village of protest.
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09.15.12: Rick Poynor

Why the Activist Poster is Here to Stay
Digital communication has given posters produced to contest an outrage or support a cause a new lease of life.
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08.29.12: Rob Walker

Focusing On 'Optics'
Optics: The indispensible buzzword for those who analyze pseudo-events.
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08.09.12: Rick Poynor

Sending Signals about Political Graphics
Issue two of Signal, a journal about the visual languages used around the world to support political protest.
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07.11.12: Alexandra Lange

Obama's New Fonts
Obama bets on American nostalgia, shrinking Gotham and picking a script.
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05.23.12: Rick Poynor

Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
Jan van Toorn’s provocative 1972/73 calendar for the printer Mart.Spruijt has been reprinted by a Dutch design company.
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05.03.12: Julia Novitch

Public Space and Citizenship: An Interview with Elihu Rubin
Public spaces can be charged politically because they enable citizens to gather, to represent themselves and to transmit messages.
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04.30.12: Michael Bierut

The Poster that Launched a Movement (Or Not)
In the age of social media, does political graphic design matter?
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04.06.12: Rick Poynor

The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
An exhibition of Richard Hollis’s work provides the first public opportunity to assess the entire shape of his output.
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02.12.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.12.12
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment. This week's focus is Politics.
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01.05.12: James Biber

Vestige(s) of Empire
Comparing the repurposing of two monuments to lost Empire: London's Commonwealth Institute and Berlin's Palast der Republik.
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11.28.11: Owen Edwards

Hair Apparent
Who will be the Republican hair apparent?
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08.05.11: Alexandra Lange

Welcome Back, Overbite
Albert C. Ledner's mid-century scallops and portholes have staying power.

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06.16.11: Jessica Helfand

The Public Face of Disgrace
The funny thing about lying is that it's about as far as you can go from the expectation of trustworthiness with which we characterize public leadership. 

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05.26.11: Rick Poynor

A Dream World Made by Machines
Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a complex, demanding, audacious piece of television.
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04.12.11: Rick Poynor

Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade
Why, at the height of his early success, did a brilliant British illustrator decide to walk away and what happened next?
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02.01.11: Alexandra Lange

The Moms Aren't Wrong
Why planning cities for children would make them better for us all.
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01.20.11: Mark Lamster

Gerd Arntz: Design Icon
Gerd Arntz: A design icon who designed icons.
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12.27.10: William Drenttel

A Conversation with Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven
An expansive interview with Daniel van der Velden, co-author of Uncorporate Identity.
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12.22.10: William Drenttel

WikiLeaks: Design Proposals by Metahaven
The Dutch design research studio, Metahaven, took a bold, newsworthy step last weekend in Amsterdam by proposing new graphic identity options for WikiLeaks.
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11.23.10: Alexandra Lange

New City Reader: Sidewalk Sale
How Atlantic Yards became Barclays Center and disappeared from Brooklyn in the process.
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10.06.10: Mark Lamster

Center of Controversy
By now you’ve surely seen the new renderings by SOMA architects for Park51, the Muslim cultural center in Lower Manhattan.
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06.08.10: Alexandra Lange

Girl Power?
I saw this photo in the New York Times this morning and thought that Carly Fiorina’s campaign poster seemed kind of… girly.
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03.29.10: Mark Lamster

Terror and Resilience on the Moscow Metro
The last time I was in Moscow, in 2004, there were a number of subway bombings — though outside the stations, not on the trains or platforms — and a couple of airliners were bombed.
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03.10.10: Sze Tsung Leong, David Burdeny

A Matter of Perspective?
The Vancouver Sun has run a long follow-up story, by Jennifer Moss, to my Los Angeles Times pieceon the plagiarism charges leveled by Sze Tsung Leong against David Burden
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02.25.10: Mark Lamster

London Calling
Back in my old life as an editor at Princeton Architectural Press, I had the great pleasure of editing (and designing) the Architecture of Diplomacy, which remains the definitive history of the American embassy building program.
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01.12.10: Michael Bierut

Designing the Unthinkable
For more than fifty years, there have been arguments against nuclear proliferation. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple visual analogy.
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07.07.09: Mark Lamster

Nazdorovye!
Barack Obama is in Moscow hitting the reset button on Russian-American relations.
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06.30.09: Mark Lamster

No More Neon on the Novy Arbat
In legislation somewhat reminiscent of Mike Bloomberg's restaurant smoking ban, Vladimir Putin isshutting down all casinos in Russia, effective tonight.
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01.21.09: Mark Lamster

A Letter to the President
A letter to Barack Obama the day after his inauguration.
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01.19.09: William Drenttel

Polling Place Photo Project
To commemorate the inauguration of President Barack Obama, please enjoy this short film by Andrew Sloat inspired by Polling Place Photo Project.
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12.28.08: Jonathan Barnbrook

New Year's Greeting
A New Year's greeting from Jonathan Barnbrook, with a quote from George W. Bush.
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11.29.08: William Drenttel

A Design-Oriented National Endowment for the Arts
A proposal for a design-oriented National Endowment for the Arts.
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11.05.08: William Drenttel

The Obama Victory
The Polling Place Photo Project, staged in partnership with The New York Times and AIGA, seeks to visualize democracy in action with photographs by citizens engaged with voting at the polls. Yesterday was Barrack Obama's day, and these photographs are dedicated to him.
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10.31.08: Teddy Blanks

A Year of Political Banner Ads
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this year's political landscape is the degree to which political banner ads have invaded our web space. Whether bearing the graphic identities of the major campaigns, or the crude, cobbled typography of web-marketing firms, they have popped up almost anywhere. And for the past year or so, I've been collecting my favorites.
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10.15.08: William Drenttel

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Working with Amnesty International, Woody Pirtle designed a series of posters that spotlights 12 of the individual articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We celebrate these, today, the 60th anniversary of the UDHR.
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10.12.08: William Drenttel

Polling Place Photo Project on November 4, 2008
We are pleased to announce that the Polling Place Photo Project is continuing into the 2008 presidential election, supported by a partnership of The New York Times, AIGA and Design Observer.
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09.30.08: William Drenttel

Designersforobama.org?

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09.22.08: Gong Szeto

Interview with Brian Oakes
It’s not often that graphs and numbers take center stage in a popular film, but in the brilliant hands of graphic designer Brian Oakes, information design is not a backdrop but a main character in the recently released documentary I.O.U.S.A. Interview by Gong Szeto.
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09.04.08: William Drenttel

Whose Flag?
Nearly a decade into a new century, I believe it is unacceptable for a design organization, foundation, board of directors, magazine or other enterprise, to mount an initiative with an all male panel of judges. Such behavior is no longer acceptable and should not be tolerated by a community of designers (or any other community).
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08.28.08: Alice Twemlow

A Look Back at Aspen, 1970
The 1970 International Design Conference at Aspen provided the setting for a collision between two very different conceptions of design. The IDCA board members who organized the conference and a number of art and environmental action groups, many of which where from Berkeley, California and had made the 1,000-odd mile journey to Colorado in chartered buses.
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07.17.08: Paula Scher

It's How You Said It
Paula Scher: "The problem with the New Yorker's controversial Obama cover is not that it's dangerous and tasteless. The problem is that it isn’t dangerous or tasteless enough."
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06.07.08: William Drenttel

Thoughts on Democracy, July 4 2008

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06.05.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Over the Rainbow
June marks the start of a month-long series of LGBT Pride celebrations in cities around the United States and the world, as well as the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag — the de facto symbol of the LGBT community. While the visual and media focus of the celebrations have been the parades, the most enduring element is perhaps the rainbow.
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06.04.08: David Stairs

The Little Logo That Could
If it seems too hyperbolic to say that Obama stands as one of the most cleverly branded candidates in our history, look closer. Otheres have attempted to lay claim to the fifteenth letter of the Roman alphabet with mixed success. But to date, no one has been remotely as successful in so short a time as the Obama has with his campaign.
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03.24.08: Steven Heller

The Magic of the Peace Symbol
There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy
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03.12.08: The Editors

Marc Rabinowitz: Prostitution Facts
In spite of the tawdry glamour of "high-priced call girls," let's remember that this supposedly victimless crime takes a vast human toll that goes far beyond the embarrassment of powerful men. Marc Rabinowitz’s project invites us to imagine prostitution’s stark statistics...
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02.04.08: William Drenttel

Polling Place Photo Project on Super Tuesday
Voting on Tuesday, February 5, in the U.S. presidential primaries? We hope you will contribute a photograph to the Polling Place Photo Project.
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01.12.08: William Drenttel

Polling Place Photo Project 2008
We are pleased to announce that the Polling Place Photo Project is continuing into the 2008 presidential primaries and election, supported by a new partnership of The New York Times, AIGA and Design Observer.
READ MORE

01.08.08: Michael Bierut

Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up?
In the late 50s, Swiss designer Ernst Bettler created a series of seemingly harmless posters that brought down a drug company with a Nazi past. It's a great story, but it never happened. Why do we need to believe in Ernst Bettler?
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11.04.07: Nichelle Narcisi

Except You
Nichelle Narcisi, winner of last month's Command X competition at the AIGA Next Conference in Denver, presents "Except You," her proposed campaign to raise the voter participation rate for 18 to 24 year olds.
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11.01.07: Elizabeth Tunstall

What If Uncle Sam Wanted You?
What if I decided to apply design thinking to the U.S. military? What roles could design thinking play in war? A recent The New York Times article, "Army Enlists Anthropologists in War Zone," makes these questions especially relevant today.
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10.22.07: Michael Bierut

Déjà Vu All Over Again

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08.11.07: William Drenttel

The Presidential Rash
It was reported this week by the Huffington Post that President George W. Bush has had Lyme Disease since last August — when he got the "characteristic bullseye rash" on his left shin. So what does a Presidential rash look like, anyway?
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05.31.07: William Drenttel

Al Gore for President
Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.
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03.01.07: David Stairs

That (Other) 1970's: The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland, Kevin McDonald's film about Idi Amin's notorious presidency, opened in Uganda to great fanfare. The VIP screening took place at Kampala's Cineplex, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Forest Whitaker in attendance. The premiere was not targeted to the average Ugandan...
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02.08.07: William Drenttel

The Good Citizen's Alphabet
Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.
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01.23.07: Michael Bierut

Speech, Speech
The State of the Union Address is tonight. Messages, big ideas, careful details, second-guessing, refinements and revisions, anonymity: graphic design has a lot in common with political speechwriting. What kind of client do you suppose the President is?
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01.09.07: Lorraine Wild

Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato
In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.
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12.23.06: William Drenttel

Voting & Religion in America: A Slideshow
The reality, contrary to my perception, is that millions vote in religious settings all across the country, casting this important act of citizenry in distinctly non-secular environments.
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11.17.06: Jessica Helfand

Into the Pink
Co-opting a color and making it your own.
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09.21.06: Jessica Helfand

Death 'N' Stuff
Smoking Kills: The label days it all. Or does it? Once the allegedly chilling skull and crossbones is marketed as a decorative pattern on a silk bowtie, its credibility as an mark of peril seems, well, somewhat questionable, begging the question: have we become so bored by life that we've inadvertently become inured to death?
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09.19.06: DJ Stout

Remembering Ann Richards
To create the famous Texas Monthly cover of Governor Ann Richards astride a Harley, art director DJ Stout used a body double. "For many years, I would run into Ann Richards at my favorite Mexican food lunch spot in downtown Austin and she would always thank me for giving her such a 'sexy body.'"
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07.25.06: Rick Perlstein

What is Conservative Culture?
Ask a conservative activist to explain what anchors and unites their fractious movement, and he will point to ideas. They will not mention the extraordinary role the development of a self-contained and self-conscious conservative culture played in transforming the politics of the United States.
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07.10.06: Michael Bierut

Regrets Only
Five graphic designers have chosen to boycott a breakfast at the White House for the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. A principled stand or an empty gesture?
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06.12.06: William Drenttel

The Red Hand : A Graphic History
I keep thinking about the red hand. Where did this graphic metaphor come from? The many uses of the red-hand — it's metaphorically rich and graphic history — remind me that symbols do have meaning. Whatever I think of Congresswoman Nancy Johnson here in northwestern Connecticut, I don't think she got caught red-handed, whether in a cookie jar or pie or pool of blood. This is a bad use of an historical symbol, and trashy politics as well.
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04.30.06: Jessica Helfand

Disaster Relief 101: No Door Hanger Left Behind
Door hangers seem the perfect metaphor for FEMA's failure: they're one-dimensional, unnecessarily complicated, and basically useless.
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03.02.06: Jessica Helfand

Give Me Privacy or Give Me an ID Card
The proposed National ID Card further blurs the line between the privacy and full disclosure of personal data in the public domain. It's the Card's design that appears the final string that may either secure our rights as individuals or rip them apart.
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02.02.06: Jessica Helfand

Freedom of Speech or Filching of Style? The New Law of Eminent Lo-Mein
DIY design invading typography terrain: culture-jamming in the domains of freedom of speech, pharmaceutics, and pop-culture.
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11.17.05: William Drenttel

David Hughes: Caricaturist of Our Time
But my favorite, in recent years, is the British illustrator David Hughes. I yearn for his drawings, look for them in my favorite publications, and save them whenever and wherever I find them.
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10.06.05: Jessica Helfand

On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.
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08.23.05: William Drenttel

Reading the News & Charting Death
The potential for terrorism is not a chart I can make in my head. The numbers are there, but the design alludes me.
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05.07.05: Lorraine Wild

A Design Annual Captures 1968
The title on the cover of the booklet is "Business as Usual" subtitled "Fourteenth Annual Type Directors Show—Typography Wherever It Exists"... On every spread of the book there are lovely pieces of typography, things most any of us would have been proud to have created, and then an image as brutal as a slap on the face. It was 1968.
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05.05.05: Rick Poynor

Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March
The “Get it Lounder” design exhibition in Shenzhen, billed as the first of its kind in China, reflected the lifestyle aspirations of its participants. Will Chinese design be able to confront social reality in more overtly critical ways?
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03.28.05: Michael Bierut

No Headline Necessary
A wordless billboard depicting the purple-stained fingers of Iraqi voters makes a potent advertisement for that country's newborn democracy.
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02.23.05: William Drenttel

Stop The Plant: The Failure of Rendering
There is no single rendering ominous enough to create public fear; no image so compelling as to create political momentum; and no symbol so memorable as to unite the opposition. Whether through artistic renderings or compelling information design, no one has made a visual case against these plants that is wholly effective. This is, I believe, a fundamental failure of design.
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12.08.04: Michael Bierut

Just Say Yes
A seemingly legitimate news release from Dow Chemical on the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster was actually a hoax perpetrated by The Yes Men, who have created a new kind of civil disobedience uniquely suited to the media age.
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12.01.04: Michael Bierut

The Whole Damn Bus is Cheering
The familiar yellow ribbons stuck to cars urging us to "support our troops" have lots of competition and are horribly designed.
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11.25.04: William Drenttel

My Country Is Not A Brand
Branding was originally an approach for creating reputations for commercial products.
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11.03.04: Jessica Helfand

Am I Blue
Bumper stickers and lawn posters aside, Americans showed their concern on election day 2004 by standing in epic lines at polling centers around the nation, but also in certain subtle, discreetly visual ways. From dressing in all blue (or red) to wearing "I voted today" buttons, there has been a kind of silent visual communication effort steadily in play for the last 36 hours.
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10.08.04: Jessica Helfand

The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part I
We need to listen to people besides designers. We need to get in those boardrooms, those war rooms, those bastions of decision-making where no designer has ever been before. We need new legacies, better policies, richer histories for the next generation of graphic designers.
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09.20.04: Michael Bierut

Graphic Designers, Flush Left?
Are graphic designers as a class predisposed to favor left-wing politics?
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07.25.04: Michael Bierut

The Bodoni Conspiracy
Eerie parallels between the cover designs of the reports of the 9/11 Commission and the Monicagate investigator Kenneth Starr suggest a conspiracy that can be traced back to sixteenth-century type designer Giambattista Bodoni.
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05.17.04: Michael Bierut

India Switches Brands
The 2004 elections in India were an exercise in branding as well as politics, as a well-funded "India Shining" campaign failed to convince the electorate to retain the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
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05.09.04: Michael Bierut

My Democracy Was Irretrievably Undermined by Reactionary Idiots and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
Will a designer t-shirt contest have any effect on the US presidential elections?
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04.28.04: Michael Bierut

Better Nation Building Through Design
A new flag design for Iraq may inadvertantly symbolize much of what is misguided in the US's occupation of that country.
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04.22.04: Michael Bierut

Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire
Nozone #9: Empire and a new promotional campaign for the radio station Air America demonstrate alternate ways that graphic design can engage political issues and their audiences.
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04.20.04: Jessica Helfand

One Person, One Vote, One MRI?

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04.15.04: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Flanerie
Graphic Design's real power comes from its ability to reach us through any of a number of means, both real and virtual, now and later. This ability to transcend the everyday and resonate in the heart, the soul, the mind and the memory—this is graphic design's reality, its legacy, and it is, decidedly, a reality that is more than a sum of its parts.
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04.01.04: Jessica Helfand

The Lying Game

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03.21.04: Rick Poynor

Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.
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03.13.04: Michael Bierut

George Kennan and the Cold War Between Form and Content
Diplomat George Kennan's "Long Telegram" of 1946 is a memorable synthesis of form and content, and a demonstration of how powerful form can be.
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02.26.04: William Drenttel

Typography and Diplomacy

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12.11.03: Rick Poynor

Adbusters in Anarchy
Adbusters’ once orderly pages are in a state of heaving agitation. The magazine seems to be seduced by the coolness of design as a gesture, even though this is part of the surface-fixated postmodernism it deplores.
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11.24.03: Michael Bierut

Mark Lombardi and the Ecstasy of Conspiracy
Artist Mark Lombardi's intricate handdrawn diagrams describing the relationships behind contemporary political and financial scandals are both beautiful objects and extraordinary feats of information design.
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11.06.03: William Drenttel

Information Archaeology
Russ Kick is "a self-described 'information archaeologist...'" The revealing of state secrets through deconstructing a PDF.
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