The Editors | Twenty Years of Design Observer


New Scientist
New Scientist, 5 July 1979. Cover illustration by Muscle Films (Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson) From The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image

Like designers in their attention to sentient observation, scientists are trained to ask penetrating questions. They’re interrogators, and instigators, cartographers, and data-obsessives, procedure-followers, temperature-takers, and integrators— tireless seekers of clear, cogent, demonstrable evidence—much of which is visual. (Like grids!) Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide. They split and fuse and spike and engineer—but most of all, like all visual thinkers—they look. Historians of science look too: at propaganda, at public health, at anatomical metaphor, and at posters. (This might be one spot where designers and scientists beg to differ!) To spend any time at all with scientists, Jessica Helfand writes, is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us. Right brain left brain? For those who self-identify as visual learners (and that includes scientists), it hardly matters. We need them. And they need us.

 The Editors Design Observer was founded by Michael Bierut, and Jessica Helfand.

More from The Editors

Over the course of the last twenty years, we’ve looked at the truncated narrative rhythms of Twitter, unpacked nineteenth century satire in France, climbed Ramparts, skewered Malcolm Gladwell, heralded critical writing, interviewed journalists (and investigative journalists), interviewed editors (and designers-turned-editors), analyzed subversive comics, critiqued newspaper redesigns, shared reflections on Gonzo Journalism and wondered if seeing really was believing.

Design is a natural topic for television. And for movies. And for everything in between, especially now that nearly all of these things are delivered across portable screens.

What does design have to do with sadness, or fury? With kindness—or loss? With empathy, and asking better questions? (With honesty, and seeking better answers?) A fundamental tenet of design practice, humanism reminds us that we make things as people, for people: not for audiences, or for metrics, or for users—but for real people.

To be part of a design community, in 2003—back in the comparatively prehistoric age that preceded social media—meant participating in conversations with designers and scholars, students and business owners, technologists, educators, artists, and writers all over the world.

To try to define art in the context of the design professions is to engage in questions of authorship, editorship, adaptation, interpretation, and now more than ever, fair use.

Jobs | December 02