9 April 2014 -

Occasional Papers, a non-profit press based in London specialised in histories of art and design, is grateful to the Design History Society for its generous support of the forthcoming collection of essays Graphic Design: History in the Making, co-edited by Sara De Bondt and Catherine de Smet. The book brings together the proceedings of a sold-out conference held at the St Bride Library, London, in May 2011. The conference marked the first event of its kind in the UK solely devoted to the historiography of graphic design. Whereas historiographic awareness of such fields as object design and architecture is relatively high, the field of graphic design has suffered from a paucity of methodological innovation. The St Bride conference — and the ensuing book — seek to redress this lack, by offering a wide selection of approaches to graphic design history. The success of the conference demonstrated the need felt by graphic designers, writers and curators for more varied and nuanced histories of graphic design. The book in turn will bring these same issues to a much wider and diverse audience, including in particular teachers and students of graphic design and its histories.

Graphic Design: History in the Making is a sequel to the earlier, now out-of-print title, Graphic Design: History in the Writing (2012), also generously supported by the Design History Society. Whereas the latter featured a selection of published essays by eminent theorists and practitioners on lesser-known histories of graphic design, the present book will focus solely on the present with new writing by emerging as well as established writers. Roughly divided into two sections, the book on the one hand addresses successful (yet often taken for granted) historiographic methods, including the biography (with an essay by British scholar and teacher Christopher Burke) and the edited anthology (with a contribution by highly regarded American editor Alston Purvis). Moreover, an essay by American historian Steven Heller will bring his extraordinary experience to bear on the role of publishing in the dissemination of graphic design history.

The second section of the book comprises essays on more recent and/or experimental historiographic methods. French design historian and co-editor De Smet brings the interface between graphic design and art history — too often understood as antagonistic — in stark relief with an essay demonstrating not only the deep methodological ties between the two areas of study, but also the underestimated impact graphic design has had on the history of art. American artist-designer David Reinfurt turns his attention to the increasingly widespread condition of graphic designers as both practitioners as well as historians. Such practices as Reinfurt's are as deeply aware of the history of graphic design as the need for these histories to be scrutinised and critiqued. Finally, the last two essays in this section each consider hybrid methods of telling the (hi)stories of graphic design: the exhibition as historiographic tool (by renown British critic Rick Poynor), and the need for greater methodological transdisciplinarity, for example between architecture and graphic design (by French scholar and writer Sonya de Puineuf).

The conference programme included as moderators two respected graphic design educators: David Crowley, currently head of Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art, London; and Teal Triggs, now Associate Dean of Communication at the Royal College of Art. For the book, Crowley and Triggs contribute two new texts about the key role of pedagogy in the diversification and internationalisation of graphic design histories. The two editors themselves — De Bondt and de Smet — are both active teachers of graphic design, at KASK in Belgium and the L'École européenne supérieure d'art de Bretagne, respectively. This understanding of, and sensibility to, the challenge of teaching graphic design histories differently is what will make this book a valuable addition to design curricula at both undergraduate and graduate levels.


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