Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dooyeweerd, Rookmaaker meets Don Draper

Mad Men image from Cultural Trends Examiner

In a recent AMC television episode of Mad Men, character Don Draper tells one of his creative’s that, “You’re not an artist but a problem solver”. What Dutch art historian Hans Rookmaaker (1922–1977) once said about architecture could also be applied to graphic design. That is, we should not try to simplify the status of graphic design as “applied art” since it is not really art applied but rather it is genuine activity of its own accord and not primarily artistic. A graphic designer helps to construct and send messages to someone for the purpose of communicating a desired effect. Obviously, graphic design needs to be fitting for its purpose, which is the first principle of graphic design. A brochure or a logotype, for instance, needs to answer all the duties that it is required to fulfill. In addition, another principle is that everything that a person makes not only shows the attitude of the maker but also tries, intuitively, to be beautiful. A graphic design piece should adhere to the principles of harmony, a unity-in-diversity aesthetic and the elements of form. These principles are related to styles, which at various periods of time can have very distinct and positive meanings and this is where styles in graphic design can become evident and are important. However, graphic design is not intended just for the object of beauty if that were so then that would indicate decadence rather than real and vigorous cultural development.

Conversely, from the perspective of style and beauty, graphic designers make their pieces as something necessary to meet and fulfill contemporary needs, and therefore modern forms are needed. Although it is very difficult to tell why style, requirements, spiritual needs, and inclinations are somehow complementary with each other in every real integral culture. As graphic designers, if we only see the latest styles as a matter of unharmonious cultural development, a sign of inner confusion. When we only see the really old-fashioned as grandeur then our work becomes irrelevant and without any real style.

H. R. Rookmaaker’s thoughts come from correspondence with Mr Norman Matheis in a letter dated 13 October 1955.

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