Autumn 2002

Blank criticism

TypoGraphic 58: Too Much Noise

ISTD, £10

Given how mischief and misdirection have been central threads during the fifteen-year history of The Designers Republic (TDR), it’s not entirely clear how seriously one should take their design for the latest edition of TypoGraphic journal, at least in terms of its ostensible academic premise. Previous designers include UNA, Phil Baines and Reinhard Gassner. [See John Berry’s review of TypoGraphic Writing, which follows this review.]) A three-line press release from the designers describes issue 58, subtitled ‘Too Much Noise Not Enough Time’, as ‘conveying everything TDR feels needs to be said about typography’. So how does one go about reviewing 36 blank, if agreeably coloured, pages?

The answer lies in the commentary of the journal’s contributors, whose often ponderous essays are to be found inside of the fold-out sleeve. Fashionably oblique, littered with occlusive jargon and, in keeping with much modern critical theorising, either vacuous or wilfully convoluted, these arch, redundant texts evoke in the reader a sense of fractal madness, of spinning on semantic pinheads, and – worse still – of sensory sterility. (Dr Christine Wertheim’s ATOPIA project claims to ‘produce new architectural and urban models which exploit the potential of the increasingly ubiquitous condition of the post-urban environment’ – a sentence comprehensible only in terms of someone drowning in their own language.)

In contrast, TDR’s preference for unmarked sheets of colour makes perfect sense. As with 3D>2D (See Eye no. 41 vol. 11), TDR seem determined to kick at the pedestal of postmodern bunkum. To quote the words of one Charlie Chan: ‘Theory, like mist on eyeglasses, obscures facts.’ Elegant or glib, depending on your point of view.

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