At a 1962 conference at the Museum of Modern Art, conservative art critic Hilton Kramer denounced Pop Art as “indistinguishable from advertising art” because “Pop Art does not tell us what it feels like to be living through the present moment of civilization. Its social effect is simply to reconcile us to a world of commodities, banalities and vulgarities.” But perhaps the content of graphic design is exactly that: an evocation of “what it feels like to be living through the present moment of civilization,” with all its “commodities, banalities and vulgarities.” How else can we discuss the content of a typeface or why the typography of a surfing magazine suddenly becomes relevant? Or how a series of made-up or ‘self-initiated’ posters—already a medium of dubious functionality— can end up on the wall of a major design museum? Work must be saying something, which is different than being about something.

Emily Bergerson
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