Rick Poynor’s “Read All That? You Must Be Kidding Me.”


“Today’s all-access mediascape has flattened out many areas of expertise, casting shadows of doubt upon the future of journalism, graphic design, book publishing, and other specialized practices.” -Ellen Lupton

In Richard Poynor’s article, “Read All That? You Must Be Kidding Me”, recently published on The Design Observer, he analyzes Cooper-Hewitt curator Ellen Lupton and her articulated essay on today’s design culture, entitled “Reading and Writing,” a featured text in Graphic Design: Now in Production (a current survey on American design culture) that questions the role of written work in relation to visual or graphic design. After much analysis, Poynor arrives at the conclusive statement that though not always read by everyone, long-form writing does still possess a great value in curating visual projects, and it’s absence would be an absolute “impoverishment.”

This article made me curious, as a writer in a sea of designers and a primarily visual, digital culture, and makes me question, again, how much our culture is actually reading, or at that, actually wants to read. We’re given so much awesome, innovative, and interesting content to look at online each day, and our RSS feeders are exploding with new posts each day.  As creatives, with our eyes and minds on creative work 100% of the time, how much time will we devote to reading the entirety of a text when there’s something else we want to read? We’re busy hustling to get our work out there, to be seen and heard for our creative visions. Further, from the perspective of the writer, how do we find readers– advocates– who will dedicate their time to reading something we scribe in long-form text? Is the essay, as Lupton states, a lost cause?

In studying Lupton’s essay, Poynor (after admitting to only skimming the text at first) relays to us her accusation: “If you are reading this text now (and you started perusing it from the beginning, some three thousand words ago), you are a stalwart slogger indeed. The super sad truth is, this essay is a last-ditch effort at so-called ‘long-form writing.”‘; he goes on to call her bold statement, “an amazing amount of trouble to go to as a curator, editor and writer if you doubt that many people will make the effort to read [your text in its entirety].” Yet, by the end of the article, Poyner calls himself a “slogger”, which I stand to argue that we all are, genre-depending.

Digital design is a field that is beyond cross-disciplinary, and requires an impeccable eye for analysis, as well as a well-studied and well-read mind. To arrive at our our finished projects, we each read an extensive amount about those who inspire us,  their design process, and the about the methods and tools that we need to create our own.

As Lupton comments, the writing surrounding our work– or even our written comments and opinions towards the work of others– may just be a means of deriving pleasure from our experience of a piece of work, or, as she says, a means of “disseminating the self.” However, without language, there wouldn’t be any purpose behind design, as, really, the design industry is one in which we each create work that is expressive of some form of opinion, and how else do we thoroughly finalize and give detail to that opinion other than through written text? Though we often think in images, we still form thoughts and conceptualize those images with what we were built upon– the written word.

Posted By: Jeff  January 28th, 2012

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Category: Design, What We Like

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One Response to “Rick Poynor’s “Read All That? You Must Be Kidding Me.””

  1. HeroStudio says:

    Digging this.