Winter 2002

The unanswered question (review in brief)

What Is Graphic Design?

By Quentin Newark
RotoVision, £19.99

This chunky, chatty ‘essential design handbook’ strives to provide something for everyone. It’s part primer, part greatest hits, divided into ‘Issues’, ‘Anatomy’ and ‘Portfolio’. An opinionated glossary has ten entries, including content (‘a fugitive word’) and mainstream (‘a lazy term’). There’s a dash of debate and theory, but the mood is more celebratory than critical, with a Wildean disclaimer in the front matter: ‘It is very much more difficult to talk about a thing than to do it.’

The author raises some big questions – ‘Is there a distinction between design and advertising?’, ‘With poststructuralism’s grave questions about the “self”, exactly what is “self-expression”?’ and ‘Has commercial culture split belief and action irrevocably?’ without coming to any serious conclusions. The book ends with a display of recent work by designers such as Rabia Gupta, Browns and the author’s own Atelier Works.

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