Autumn 2003

Designer degradation [EXTRACT]

Design and Crime

By Hal Foster
Verso Books £14, USD23

This series of essays is stimulating, as well as being beautifully designed and produced, a phenomenon surprisingly absent in critical writing on design. The book is small and intimate, with a black matt cover with red and white type, the classic colours of early Modernism. The printing and paper contribute to making it a pleasure to hold.

The book encompasses two broad subject areas which are still considered separate by practitioners: the fields of design and architecture and the world of fine art. Though the book is a challenge for those outside the arena of literary and art criticism, it is thought-provoking and illuminating. Its overall perspective explores and criticises the impact of contemporary capitalism on art, architecture and design. As the contemporary period is increasingly defined by art as spectacle, and design as a mainstream phenomenon, Foster provides interesting insights on how to understand and read the situation. His final word is that ‘Contemporary design is part of the greater revenge of capitalism on postmodernism . . .

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