StatementDesign Observer is, now as ever, a champion for distinctive voices, engaging storytellers, and brave critics. In our view, to be a critic, you have to have an opinion that is founded in something solid and real, but it also means you have to be bold, willing to stake your ground and hold to it. Good criticism should be exciting to read, not snarky; enlightened, not superior; and analytical rather than dismissive.
My own practice has always included writing and criticism: I seem to write a book about every five years. (My next effort, which will be published by Yale University Press, is tentatively entitled “Why Design Matters”.) When I am not writing I teach visual narrative at Yale (and elsewhere) and I make things in my studio. Sometimes, those things fall under the general rubric of graphic design. But very often they grow out of my obsessions — collecting and collage, biography and portraiture, identity and photography, biology and ephemera — and become visually manifest in a variety of forms. The core of my work seems to exist at the nexus of scholarship and practice, which is to say that I like making things that are tethered to some kind of unusual, unearthed primary source.
At Yale, I teach a seminar on visual biography and another one on the color blue. I'm deeply committed to a kind of teaching that combines research and making things; where there are often more questions than answers; where the students come in with no knowledge of visual thinking and leave not only with a heightened perspective on formal issues, but a passion to reinvent both themselves and the world around them. Often, this kind of teaching benefits from happening outside the confines of the classroom: I'm proud to be part of a very small group of educators teaching in this summer editorial course in Portugal, and this coming year I will be teaching in Paris where I lived as a child, and where I am eager to return. In Paris I'll be drawing, taking photographs for a new book project and making some very short films which I hope to post here on Design Observer.
Finally, this fall I’ll be leading the European effort on Design Observer where, as you can tell from our masthead, we have welcomed three new correspondents. I hope you will join me in welcoming them, too.