Interview excerpt

, 2013

DB: what do you think the most significant developments in graphic design have been in the last five years?

EJ: the crisis we currently find ourselves in. and we’re not talking about an aesthetic or conceptual crisis in graphic design – in fact, we think the work created by young graphic designers nowadays is more interesting than it was in previous decades. we’re really talking about the economic and political crisis that is taking place in society at large. and obviously, this crisis has a very dramatic effect on the current cultural landscape.

there used to be a time when cultural institutes and museums would really support independent studios, and young designers. but nowadays (mainly because of the whole mixture of neo-liberalism, privatization and populism that is currently forced upon us), a lot of cultural institutes (even the smaller ones) simply decide to play it safe, and choose to work with large branding and advertising agencies instead. in turn, these large advertising agencies then just hire some young designers, to do the ‘cultural work’ for them – and just discard these young designers after the work is done. after all, for these large agencies, these cultural projects serve primarily to add some ‘depth’ to their corporate portfolios – but they wouldn’t want to actually invest in those cultural projects, in any intellectual or ideological way.

we feel there’s a really strange discrepancy going on – while young designers seem to be getting more and more intellectual and progressive, a lot of cultural institutes are actually trying to achieve a more populist tone, and getting more conservative. they seem to move in opposite directions – and we have no idea how this rift can ever be solved.

young designers are currently producing a lot of very interesting work – but this production takes place on a more subcultural, isolated level: in the spheres of self-publishing, small exhibitions, underground projects. to survive, these young designers are either forced to work (or worse, to intern for free) for large corporate agencies, or they have to find a ‘day-time job’, outside of the field of graphic design. there seem to be fewer and fewer opportunities nowadays for young designers to just start their own small, independent studios, and inject their ideas straight into the public space – and we think that’s a real shame.

in harsh times like these, we think it’s really important for independent designers and small studios to stick together, and keep an open mind towards each other. above all, we should maintain some sense of solidarity, of dignity. we might have our aesthetic or conceptual differences, but in the end, we’re all in the same boat. it’s so easy to constantly attack each other, but all this energy can be better put to use trying to actually survive. 1

  1. Anthony Butler, “Experimental Jetset Interview” Design Boom (2013)

Updated on September 03, 2020