According to Marxian tradition, the fetishism of commodities empties them of meaning, hiding the real social relations invested in them through human labor. This allows the imaginary, ideological, and symbolic social relations to be, in Sut Jhally’s terms, “injected into the construction of meaning.” Jhally maps the new meanings advertising produces through commodity fetishism in four successive religious stages: 1) utility/idolatry, in which commodities are freed from being merely utilitarian things; 2) symbolization/iconology, in which commodities serve as abstract representations of social values; 3) personification/narcissism, in which they are intimately connected with the world of interpersonal relations; and 4) lifestyle/totemism, in which the first three stages merge to define the group under a singular lifestyle.
Is it possible that graphic design has only one thing left to do, which is posting itself on the internet? And – to go a little bit further – is it possible that jokes have an untapped political power, which was historically always present but never so useful and necessary as now? Could, then, the leftovers of graphic design be turned into jokes? Might – through this re-allegiance – design rediscover actual societal impact? Can jokes scale? Can they supersize? Can we laugh so loudly at those in power that they fall? Can jokes, in fact, bring down governments?
One outcome of the hybridization of expression and mechanical production in the Arts and Crafts education was, in places, a progressive trans-disciplinary pedagogy based on the apprenticeship model. The founder of the Central school was the architect William Lethaby, who, with the support of William Morris and others, advocated a direct handling of tools in the classroom, and dissolving the barriers between the designer (then perceived as an abstract, intellectual calling) and the craftsman or artisan (then seen as a baser calling) (Gronberg, 1984, p.18). This approach bears a relation to what we would consider today a “thinking-through-making” and “mimetic learning” (Billett, 2015) pedagogy. The predominant 19th Century method of teaching art teachers involved copying from historical ornament, progressing painstakingly from line to geometrical form, which Morris and Ruskin felt stifled creativity. It was workers, not art teachers, they argued, who most needed training and education. Lethaby likened the dominant theoretical approach to art and design education as being like trying to learn to swim in a thousand lessons without ever getting in the water. He dispensed with paper qualifications and examinations and appointed staff who were specialist practitioners in the daytime, who taught at the school only after their main jobs were finished. Students had access to workshops in the day, and were encouraged to specialize in a particular handicraft while exploring the links between crafts: “you must go upstairs and see how stained glass windows are made and books are bound and gilding done.” (Gronberg, 1984, p.18).