The disconnect between design and content

stepmag.jpgPoynter's Design Desk prompted me to take a look at Steven Heller and his ideas about decoration and design. The picture to the left helped illustrate an article of his in the January/February edition of STEP magazine (sub. req.)

"Decoration plays an integral role in the total design scheme. It is not merely wallpaper. Good decoration is that which enhances or frames a product or message."

"The facade of a building or the cover of a brochure sparks a responsive chord even when type is absent. Decorative and ornamental elements are backdrops yet possess the power to draw attention, which prepares the audience to receive the message." I don't know how many times in a day I pick up a pamphlet design proposal, styrofoam cup from the coffee shop downstairs or a general interest magazine where it is evident the designer was phoning the work in, with no conscious connection made between the text, the design and the product.

Here's another take of Heller's on this concept, this time from an AIGA feature: What distinguishes [Frank] Zachary [the editor-in-chief of Town and Country magazine since 1972] from other great art directors is journalism. He is not a mere aestheticist, but rather, but rather a storyteller and reporter in picture and words; he is not a simple decorator, but a conceptualist with ideas as his bedrock.

Nice exercise in intellectual self-gratification, you're saying. McKay thinks he's a smart bastard, doesn't he? Well, Heller can be pretty self-deprecating:

I'm frankly not sure who gives a damn about my eclectic interests! You seem to be interested, and for that I am grateful. But I work with arcane subjects. As I said before I think the real important work will be in terms of authorship. More designers will integrate more than one medium into narrative or whatever kinds of work and from this will emerge something special (like Dave Egger's McSweeney's, for example).

Speaking of McSweeney's - here's a recent column:Things I told customers while working at a Starbucks, in a mall, in the Baltimore suburbs.

  • We don't have any lemon scones today. We do have lemon clones, which are genetically identical.
  • For 75 cents extra, customers can buy a set of wheels for easy transportation of their "Venti" (extra-large) Frappucino.
  • If a customer has ordered a "Tall" drink and finds it too small, it can be stretched into a "Venti" drink with the aid of a rack imported from Spain. This procedure also costs 75 cents.
  • The apple fritters bend light and time towards themselves.
  • The coffee scoop is expensive ($4.95) because it is made of platinum.
  • Certain kinds of coffee beans explode when you throw them.
  • Because of global warming, we are out of ice and can't make any Frappuccinos right now.
  • "Yukon Blend" coffee is grown in Alaska. By bears.

    Like how there's a coffee cup theme running all the way through this post? Mark of a true genius, I tell you.

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