Professional reflection and visual arguments for patients

Is graphic design really a critical practice?

Authored by: Karel van der Waarde

The Routledge Companion to Criticality in Art, Architecture, and Design

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138189232
eBook ISBN: 9781315623412
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter attempts to frame different kinds of critical evaluations of graphic design. The basis is formed by the idea that a profession will prosper if critiques are an integral part of the activity of design. Based on interviews with practitioners, the activities of graphic designers can be described in two diagrams: the first describes a design process as ‘a development of a visual argument’, while the second shows that graphic designers undertake at least nine simultaneous activities to build these argument strategies. This description of professional practice is used as a base to formulate detailed comments about a specific designed object. A detail of a package leaflet was analysed to show that at least six different perspectives are relevant: designers, clients, the regulatory framework, the professional communities, actual users and their proxies, and society. Each of these uses its own value system, criteria, data, and approaches. The description of the graphic design profession, in combination with the six critical perspectives, seems to point to a possible shift in emphasis of activities of graphic designers. Graphic design can only develop as a critical practice when graphic designers integrate the value systems of others into their processes and results.

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