Journalism


Michael Bierut
In Praise of Slow Design
Is there a such a thing as slow graphic design? A look at 80 years of barely perceptible design changes at The New Yorker.


Rob Walker
Object Journalism at Mmuseumm
The new season of Mmuseumm speaks to our present, by way of unlikely objects.


Debbie Millman
Kate Bolick
Debbie Millman talks with writer Kate Bolick about society’s historically skeptical view of a single woman.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Nurse Midwife by W. Eugene Smith
The mystery of birth


Rick Poynor
Exposure: James Nachtwey by Antonin Kratochvil
Portrait of a war photographer


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Dysturb poster in Paris by Jeanne Frank
Taking photojournalism to the street



Observed
Announcing the New Places Journal
Our longtime partners have launched a strong new website


Steven Heller
Confessions of a Frustrated Newsprint Lover
I’ve held on devotedly to newsprint as long as humanly possible but I recently reached the point where my loyalty gave way to expedience.


Adam Harrison Levy
Letters in Reverse
Adam Harrison Levy on a son’s hopes for his father.



Debbie Millman
Debra Bishop
Design Director of More Magazine, Debra Bishop discusses her career designing for magazines, including her years working for Martha Stewart, and the tension between designers and editors.



Observed
Susan S. Szenasy with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design
Thursday, March 20th Susan S. Szenasy will talk with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design about her distinguished career as a design critic, journalist and educator.


Chappell Ellison
You’ll Never Guess the Amazing Ways Online Design Writing and Criticism Has Changed
A call to support better desgn journalism.


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.


Alexandra Lange
Criticism = Love
Why you have to love design to be a critic.


Rick Poynor
The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest
I have always liked Pinterest’s exclusively visual focus and unlimited boards structure. A week ago I joined.


Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.


Rick Poynor
The Writings of William Drenttel
Essays from the Design Observer archive show the wide scope of William Drenttel's interests and concerns.


Debbie Millman
Susan Szenasy
Susan S. Szenasy is editor-in-chief of METROPOLIS, the award-winning New York City-based magazine of architecture and design.


Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia
The late Martin Sharp was a visual innovator whose work erased artificial distinctions between applied image-making and fine art.


Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
One of the incidental pleasures of Judith Major’s new book on pioneering architecture critic Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer is the glimpse it gives into the life of a cultural journalist at the turn of the past century.


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.



Ralph Caplan
The Trip From Bountyful
Ralph Caplan on his first job: staff writer on a putatively satirical magazine just being formed.


Alexandra Lange
Praise the Partner(s)
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, but let's not forget the other partners.


Alexandra Lange
Home Improvement
The Sweethome, where Consumer Reports and Amazon product reviews meet.



Debbie Millman
Wendy MacNaughton + Caroline Paul
Wendy MacNaughton and Caroline Paul on a journey from advertising to Rwanda to illustration, and from Stanford to firefighter to author.


Owen Edwards
The 99 Factor: A Man About Town + Country
Owen Edwards reminisces about Frank Zachary, former editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine.


Mark Lamster
The Bush Library
A review of the Bush Library.



Observed
Rick Poynor: Writing with Pictures
Rick Poynor is increasingly preoccupied, as a photographer, with making images himself and will speak about it at a DCrit lecture April 9, 2013.



Observed
Found: National Geographic
In honor of their 125th anniversary, National Geographic is showcasing photographs that reveal cultures and moments of the past.


Alexandra Lange
Patterns of Houston
How do you critique the urbanism of Houston? Look for patterns.


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.


Rob Walker
Tracking War Drones
Online projects that seek to make the drone war comprehensible.


Rob Walker
The Latest In Journo-Comics
The New tablet magazine Symbolia debuts, a worthy additoin to today's vibrant nonfiction comics scene.


Alexandra Lange
Let’s Talk About Women in Architecture
A panel on Women in Design, and questions about whether such panels should exist.


Alexandra Lange
The Critical Olympics
What the best sports commentary does is just like criticism: it makes you care about the previously abstract.


Alexandra Lange
Introducing Strelka Press
On Strelka Press, a new "digital first" publisher of longform architecture and design criticism.


Alexandra Lange
The Mother of Us All
Reyner Banham on Esther McCoy: "She speaks as she finds, with sympathy and honesty, and relevantly to the matter at hand." Could there be a better definition of the role of the critic?


Rick Poynor
Phil Sayer, Designer of Photo-Portraits
Phil Sayer’s photographic portraits for Blueprint gave the magazine great visual impact and presence.


Rick Poynor
Another Design Voice Falls Silent
As design criticism takes off as a branch of academic study, design publications such as Grafik keep closing.


Alexandra Lange
Announcing LetsGetCritical.org
My new blog collects the best arts & culture criticism, essays and reviews.



Michael Erard
Notes on Getting the Daily Newspaper
Michael Erard tells of the experience of sharing the physical newspaper with his son.


Rick Poynor
The House That Design Journalism Built
Printed design magazines continue to fail and close. Where does that leave design writing and criticism?


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant’s Lilliput
Stefan Lorant’s use of photos in pairs could be wry, funny, bizarre, whimsical, satirical and not always kind.



Alexandra Lange
Reading Out Loud
The disappearing physical on-ramps to reading.



Maria Popova
Helping People Help Their Narratives
Interview with Andrew McGregor, founder of The Tiziano Project



Julie Lasky
Ripped from the Headlines
Johnny Selman is a third of the way through his year-long project to graphically enliven the news.


Alexandra Lange
Criticism Kerfuffle 2010
There are people trying to write their way to a future of architecture criticism. But it isn't just the writing that's the problem.


Nancy Levinson
News/Print
The Last Newspaper, New City Reader, Newsstand: Print news may be dying, but it's alive in the galleries.



Maria Popova
The Language of Design Imperialism
Essay on the flawed language used to describe humanitarian design efforts and what it indicates.



The Editors
Humanitarian Design vs. Design Imperialism: Debate Summary
Bruce Nussbaum started a firestorm with the question "Is humanitarian design the new imperialism?" — and the conversation has spread through the blogosphere. Here, a digest of essays and related posts on this subject.






John Thackara
What Should Design Critics Write About?
Address to MFA students in the School of Visual Arts' Design Criticism program, April 30, 2010.



Alexandra Lange
Another New York
Every time I get an issue of
New York Magazine lately I ask myself: is Adam Moss turning it into a men’s magazine?



Alexandra Lange
Bauhaus + Betsy
New York Magazine covers two of my favorite topics: the Bauhaus and Betsy-Tacy books.



Alexandra Lange
Pre-Blog Work
Here are links to writing published before I began this blog in June 2009.



The Editors
13th Annual Webby Awards
We are pleased to announce that Design Observer has been nominated for Webby Awards for Best Culture Blog and Best Writing.



The Editors
Julie Lasky & Ernest Beck Join Design Observer
Design Observer announces that Julie Lasky and Ernest Beck will be joining the Design Observer team as our website makes a major editorial expansion to incorporate new content under the banner of Change Observer.



Michael Bierut
David Foster Wallace, Branding Theorist, 1962-2008




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.



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?



Michael Bierut
Rest in Peace, Herbert Muschamp
Officially published for the first time as a posthumous tribute: a loving parody of the writing of the late, great architectural critic Herbert Muschamp.



William Drenttel
A Plea to The New York Times: Index Your Art
Why does the art that adds so much to the texts published in The New York Times disappear? Why cannot The New York Times simply index the art that it publishes, at least leaving the bibliographic tracings of the work in their newspaper?



Alice Twemlow
Design Criticism's Winding Road
To what extent does design criticism inspire a reaction; to whom is criticism addressed and what happens as a result of it being read? This article discusses the way in which an excerpt from a review of a 1955 Buick unexpectedly inspired a painting by one of the world's best-known Pop artists, Richard Hamilton.



Richard Turley
Off the Grid
When you abandon most of the rules, how do you define a mistake? How to art direct a newspaper from the middle of the muddy Glastonbury music festival.



Adrian Shaughnessy
The 2012 Olympic Logo Ate My Hamster
Designers often bemoan the lack of coverage given to graphic design in mainstream media. Yet when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise.



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.



Jessica Helfand
The New Manifest Destiny
When does a picture solidify a news story, and when does it merely sensationalize it? Decisions about words and pictures are made by editors and publishers, designers and photographers — but they are consumed by a public fully capable of an entire range of emotional responses. After this week's events at Virginia Tech, words and pictures do a poor job of communicating outrage and pain. And no amount of compositional ingenuity can reverse what happened.



William Drenttel
Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing
In partnership with AIGA, we launched the Winterhouse Writing Awards for Design and Criticism, an initiative to increase the appreciation of design — by recognizing new voices in design criticism and commentary. Here are the 2006 recipients.



William Drenttel
Threat Advisory Pandemic Alert System (TAPAS)
How do we measure the danger level from the Avian Influenza A (H5N1) virus? What we lack is that one Tom Ridge-like bit of inspiration that would lend clarity to these confusing times. We took our cue from a certain John James Audubon. Herewith, one option for Homeland Security. Yes, we know: it's for the birds.



Michael Bierut
Where the Happy People Go
The ferociously positive letters column in Architectural Digest magazine demonstrates that design can make people almost unnervingly happy.



Lorraine Wild
Good Font, Shame About The Reporting




Michael Bierut
Innovation is the New Black
Innovation is the latest buzzword to overtake the design profession. What does it mean?



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.



Rick Poynor
Emigre: An Ending
Issue 69 of Emigre will be the last. In its heyday, it was the most consistently interesting design publication produced by anyone, anywhere. By 1990, it was one of those magazines you simply had to get hold of and read straight away.



Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?
There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.



Rick Poynor
The Guardian’s New European Look
The Guardian's choice of the "Berliner" format, half-way between broadsheet and tabloid, is an inspired alternative. The paper is the first British title to adopt this European page size. Elegant, well-proportioned pages make its tabloid rivals look like poor relations.



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.



Michael Bierut
Credit Line Goes Here
Design is essentially a collaborative enterprise. That makes assigning credit for the products of our work a complicated issue.



Rick Poynor
We Are All Editors Now. Or Are We?
Many designers aspire to be editors. But being an editor is not simply about choosing some things you like and throwing them together. Editing is about deep engagement with content and the construction of meaning.



Michael Bierut
The Obvious, Shunned by So Many, Is Successfully Avoided Once Again
Does anyone devote as much energy to avoiding simple, sensible solutions as the modern graphic designer? Publications of designers' own work demonstrate what effort they go through to needlessly complicate what might be simple solutions.



Lawrence Weschler
The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch — the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor — will be continuing to hold court there.



Rick Poynor
The I.D. Forty: What Are Lists For?
How do we measure one kind of achievement in design against another to arrive at a ranking? The truth is we can’t. The real purpose of I.D.’s list was to underscore the magazine’s position as selector and taste-maker.



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.



Michael Bierut
Logogate in Connecticut, or, The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part II
A new logo for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism by Cummings & Good provokes a public controversy on the value of design.



Michael Bierut
First Person Shooter
News photographs from Iraq are eerily reminiscent of video game images.



William Drenttel
Font Forensics, Or Whether George W. Bush Is Hiding Something




Michael Bierut
To Hell with the Simple Paper Clip
Answering the question "What's your favorite designed object?" with something humble and anonymous may be a tiresome cliche, but it's one that resonates with editors of the New York Times Magazine and curators at the Museum of Modern Art.



William Drenttel
Posted Without Comment




Rick Poynor
Where are the Design Intellectuals?
Prospect magazine has published a list of the 100 top British public intellectuals. A handful of visual art and architecture people make the cut, but no from design is included, reflecting its absence from public debate.



Rick Poynor
Theory with a Small "t"
A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.



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.



Rick Poynor
How to Say What You Mean
There is a crucial difference between subtle and complex ideas and needlessly convoluted forms of expression. The challenge now for design writing is to move outwards into a world in which design is everywhere.



Jessica Helfand
Annals of Typographic Oddity: Mourning Becomes Helvetica




Michael Bierut
The Final Decline and Total Collapse of the American Magazine Cover
Comparing the magazine covers of today to those created for Esquire magazine in the 1960s by George Lois leads to only one conclusion: today's magazine ideal magazine cover is enticing, not arresting, aiming not for shock, but for seduction. And it stinks.



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.



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



Jessica Helfand
Fatal Grandeur
Maybe design isn't going to kill you if it falls on your head. But if YOU fall, design is not exactly going to save you, either.



Michael Bierut
The New York Times: Apocalypse Now, Page A1
Michael Bierut on the typographic redesign of the New York Times, October 2003.



Jessica Helfand
The Real Declaration




Observed | December 07

A historic ruling by the Supreme Court on the Apple Samsung case explains what happened, and why. [JH]

“A sheet of parchment is the end product of a bloody, protracted, and very physical process that begins with the death of a calf, lamb, or kid, and proceeds thereafter through a series of grimly anatomical steps until parchment emerges at the other end. Like laws and sausages, if you love parchment it is perhaps best not to see it being made.” [MB]


Observed | December 06

Can design change the world? [JH]

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory introduce software that lets anyone design (and test) their own drone. [JH]

How a 40-year-old movie predicted today’s media dystopia. [MB]

Students and staff at RISD work with NASA to design for a new audience: life on Mars. [JH]

Best Christmas commercial of the season. Thanks, Poland! [JH]


Observed | December 05

In India, the Design Yatra is a pan-India initiative that aims to touch people’s lives through design. [JH]

How humans became consumers: a history. [MB]

From Carissa Carter at the Stanford d-school: let’s stop talking about THE design process. [MB]

Design and healthcare: a story from the UK. [JH]

How design thinking turned the Rotterdam Eye Hospital into a bright and comforting place. [MB]

The largest 3D printed object in the world debuts at Design Miami. [MB]


Observed | December 02

Design is the best weapon we have against fake news. [MB]

Frank Gehry’s design for Washington DC’s Eisenhower Memorial, long resisted by the former president’s grandchildren, inches towards approval. [MB]

“I myself am a color man; I love colors. When I see colors, my heart and emotions are taken.” Swiss design takes Shanghai! [JH]


Observed | December 01

Intentionally ugly design! Discuss amongst yourselves. [JH]

Forget the cyborg. Meet the eyeborg! [JH]

Windows new design language, set for release in 2017, is being described as a cross between holographic and augmented reality. [JH]

Design in the age of Napoleon. [JH]


Observed | November 30

From graphic design to ... pediatric oncology! One student’s inspiring and decidedly non-traditional path. [JH]

The convergence of design and development. [JH]

Exquisite, hand-printed books by Romano Hanni. [JH]


Observed | November 29

Does design come from crocodiles? [JH]

How the Toronto Symphony Orchestra uses graphic design. [JH]

Graphic Design 101—a pretty good description of what designers do, and how to attract a good one. [JH]

Buckingham Palace, as you’ve never seen it—rendered in gelatin—and more unusual design materials. And on the subject of food design, I give you: the enduring mystery of the Oreo! [JH]

The always amazing Rafael Esquer: Alfalfa Studio lights up New York! [JH]


Observed | November 28

How can a DIY design platform be valued at $345 million? Here’s how! [JH]

2017 Biomimicry Global Challenge announced: you have until the end of April to submit your proposals. [JH]



Jobs | December 07