Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

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Poppy Thaxter
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Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

Design has a complicated and symbiotic relationship with societal frameworks. Whilst it is a tool of capitalism, it also serves as a tool for provoking and informing, whereby designers and thinkers unite to express their thoughts in a visually captivating way. We’ve highlighted four publications which tackle an array of topics in this realm, including city infrastructures, post-COVID commodification, and marginalisation within the creative industries.

Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

The Natural Enemies of Books is a response to the groundbreaking 1937 publication ‘Bookmaking on the Distaff Side,’ which brought together contributions by female printers, illustrators, authors, typographers and typesetters. It highlights the print industry’s inequalities and proposes a takeover of the history of the book. Edited by MMS (Maryam Fanni, Matilda Flodmark and Sara Kaaman), the Natural Enemies of Books includes essays and poems by Kathleen Walkup, Ida Börjel, Jess Baines and Ulla Wikander. It also contains conversations with former typesetters Inger Humlesjö, Ingegärd Waaranperä, Gail Cartmail and Megan Dobney as well as reprints of the original book.

Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

Graphic designers have played a crucial role in shaping our current economic system through the creation of number systems, coins, banknotes, documents, advertisements, interfaces, typefaces and information graphics. While capitalism has generated immense wealth, it has also resulted in extreme income inequality and environmental degradation, which future generations will have to bear. This raises the question of whether ethical graphic design is possible under such circumstances. Ruben Pater’s CAPS LOCK explores the inseparable connection between graphic design and capitalism, using clear language and visual examples. By showcasing radical design practices that challenge the dominance of the market, the book aims to inspire a different approach to graphic design.

Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

Experimental Jetset’s second volume in their self-reflective series is an inquiry into the role of the city as an infrastructure for language and vice versa, through the lens of four significant movements: Constructivism, Situationist International, Provo and Post-Punk. Emerging from a research project and exhibition by the world-renowned design studio, the book features extensive footnotes by 20 guest authors, including Linda van Deursen, Owen Hatherley, Adam Pendleton, Simon Reynolds, Lori Waxman and Mimi Zeiger. In addition, it comes with a 26-page zine, zooming in on the design typology of Experimental Jetset’s original exhibition.

Big ideas: 4 key publications reflecting the complex reality of graphic design in the world today

Founded and directed by London-based architect Jack Self, Real Review is a quarterly magazine exploring ‘what it means to live today’ through insightful, timely and engaging contributions from the world’s finest writers. Real Review 11, titled ‘What To Believe,’ investigates how the trauma of the pandemic has become an excuse for global capital to accelerate the total commodification of everyday life. Now, everything is for sale. There is more merchandise than love and more sponsored content than truth. As a coping mechanism, many people have decided to check out from reality altogether; preferring to inhabit tailor-made fantasies and simulations. Contributors include philosopher Timothy Morton, physicist Carlo Rovelli, economist Chiara Di Leone, and many more.