Posters, Disasters, and Plans

Lately I've been digging back into the topic of my 2021 paper for the Design History Society annual conference: posters designed as a response to the Fukushima, Japan nuclear and environmental disaster of March 2011. Here are a few highlights from that study: Themes within reader commentary included cultural concerns, making/selling, designer recognition, future histories,… Continue reading Posters, Disasters, and Plans


Opinion as Artifact as Data

What is the value of opinion? Or a disagreement? Design forums overflow with both but range in length, proximity, quality, and legitimacy. The passage of time between responses and publication time gets shorter and shorter as the forums become more digitized.   If opinions and disagreements were made (or written) by a designer, does that make… Continue reading Opinion as Artifact as Data

A Mass of Unknowable Readers

Of the many features that blogs and social media share, one that continues to pull me in is the identity of readers. When writing comments, readers can choose anonymity or, if conveying a desire for authorial influence, they might use their full names. One of my pilot studies showed a prevalence of full names recognizable… Continue reading A Mass of Unknowable Readers

Nothing Alternative is Fixed in Time

Blogs are a type of early alt-lit, but that term is usually reserved for a genre of online poetry featuring memes and social media networks (also, it might be dead). It’s a form of online literature that is intrinsically, well, created and dealing with the internets. Calling it literature may be a product of its… Continue reading Nothing Alternative is Fixed in Time

Smart-Asses and Outsiders

Perspectives of unsanctioned knowledge have value, write Paul Hazell and Kjetil Fallan, and allow for new ways to perceive design products and processes. A blog comment can harbor anyone’s words, and once there, removal would take a divine act of the internet gods (or, hey, just the blog’s moderator). Whether driven by experts or novices, an… Continue reading Smart-Asses and Outsiders

Gold Below the Fold

Where do design blogs go when they die (besides Facebook or Twitter)? Over the past several months, my research assistant Jessica Miller and I have been scrolling through archives to identify specific types of design blog content. This has not been a search for posts with sexy titles or award-winning authors. Instead, it’s a hunt for needles… Continue reading Gold Below the Fold

And Call It Design Writing

The name *design writing* is one that puzzles me. The Design History Society describes it as the “work of critical debate in design through writing.” Often, though, the waters are muddied when design writing is used interchangeably with design criticism, which Massimo Vignelli tells us is “creative interpretations of the work, period or theory being analyzed.” Not all design… Continue reading And Call It Design Writing

C’mon Over to My URL

In the early 2000s, the DSL lines were buzzing with traffic to pioneer design blogs like Design Observer and Speak Up. These were places to go without ever leaving my desk. Or sofa. Everyone seemed to know so much. Some people expressed humor while others cast shadows of doubt or murmured support. For every thought shared, just as many… Continue reading C’mon Over to My URL

Noise and Subjectivities

What role does noise have in the historiography of design? In her book The Universe and the Teacup, science writer and radio commenter K.C. Cole wrote "one person’s data is another person's noise.” Famously, in Silence, avant-garde composer John Cage tells us that noise is simply sound (or media) to which we are unaccustomed. Noise is anything… Continue reading Noise and Subjectivities

Design Writing Out of Sight

I began this project nearly six years ago when I searched for written design conversations. There's no lack of material. My archive grows with design-centered editorials, letters to editors, website comments, and social media snapshots. But these glimpses of design history aren't so easy to locate. This patchwork of civic-oriented multilogues is generally well-concealed from search algorithms… Continue reading Design Writing Out of Sight