• Mc_2
Graphic Design

Who’s the Duchamp of design?

Guest posted by Michael Crowe,

This week we welcome something of an It’s Nice That favourite, Michael Crowe. Michael was part of the first evening of talks back in April this year and then wrote the fantastic The Shameful Alternative to Stamp Collecting for our second issue of the publication. This week he instigates the investigation into “Who’s the Duchamp of Design?”.

My first idea for frenzied discussion here was: Which “It’s Nice That” gent is better looking, Alex or Will? Will or Alex? Thrilled with my question, I demanded they posted photos of themselves without make up and let the public have a little beauty brawl. But, as neither would agree to be seen without a touch of foundation, a snifter of mascara, some rouge, a dab of lip gloss, copious eyeliner and an ocean of concealer I have been forced to think up some other tripe, which is this:

Who is the Duchamp of design? One might say Cage is the Marcel of music, but what about design? If the answer is insultingly obvious to you, then please play around with the question a bit more: Who is the Jack Vettriano of design? Or who is the Michael Flatley of dance? Etc. Etc. Of course suggesting that Design should have a Duchamp might be wholly wrong, and if the discussion focuses on the logical nonsense of the question I think that would still be interesting.

I would like everybody who joins in with this discussion to bear in mind that this must all eventually end in complete and utter agreement. There are to be no loose ends. If at any stage the discussion feels like it is drifting then please do feel free to post a link to the best (classy) free fonts. (Would seriously be much appreciated.)

Also: The summary by Will or Alex must, and on this point I absolutely insist, must be written this time in Ottava rima, a rhyming scheme using a stanza of eight lines with an alternating a-b rhyming scheme for the first six lines followed by a closing couplet. First used by Boccaccio, it was developed for heroic epics but has also been used for mock-heroic poetry. (source: Wikipedia)

Michael Crowe is a writer and an artist. His writing, mostly short fiction, combines deadpan wit with absurd sentimentality. In recent stories he noticed your bank statement slowly appearing as the sunrise, combined all Chinatowns to make a second actual China and suggested that Jupiter rotates in the opposite direction every time you say nah. He’s currently working on Mysterious Letters Part 2 with Lenka Clayton. figcrumbs.blogspot.com

Comments

12942304153401344 MathewWilson on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

By 'Duchamp' and then mentioning Vettriano and Flatley, do you mean who is popular to the masses yet disliked by the industry - or are you a fan of all three? Either way, in design right now it would have to be Starck. Love him or loath him, he is the most recognisable face and accent on the scene.

12942304163996968 nikondriver on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

Considering Duchamp was such an iconoclast. I think Wolfgang Weingart would be a good candidate.

12942304171101549 MathewWilson on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

If we're being serious then, Stefan Sagmeister.

12942304178351283 figcrumbs on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

Hi Mathew, I mention Vettriano as the antithesis of Duchamp. I admire Duchamp as much as I find Flatley to be a hilarious, egocentric character (I recommend his autobiography, Lord of the Dance).

12942304185492315 gerrrsh on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

If there is a Duchamp of design I'd say James Victore.

He subverts images similar to Duchamp (Columbus Day poster with the Native American), he has used popular imagery, his work is heavily conceptual much in the Duchamp's was, and full of parodies.

Not to mention his use of strange medium with his plates, cars, and surfboards.

12942304195804205 farleyideas on Tue Nov 3rd 2009

What about David Carson? I thing you would have to think about which Duchamp really.

12942304203536763 harrietplatts on Tue Nov 3rd 2009

Duchamp's real significance lies in the way in which he brought into question the very definition of art with his ready-mades. His art contained no ostentation, was not intended to be visual and left the art establishment reeling. I therefore agree with Mathew Wilson that the only possible contender for the Duchamp of design is the design minimalist par excellence Philippe Starck.

He has challenged the very definition of design, applying his principles to everything from toothbrushes to juicers to windmills. Like Duchamp he doesn't specialise in the creation of provocative and expensive single pieces like other designers. Instead, his product designs are of usable household items which Starck himself helps to market for mass production. In particular, his recent anti-fashion cashmere designs for Ballantyne, deliberately intended to be un-photogenic, were obviously conceived in the light of Duchamp’s Dadaism or anti-art.

It seems that Starck himself even identified himself with Duchamp. Significantly when he designed the men's wash room for the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong he deliberately chose not to include urinals of the Duchamp and traditional type, instead replacing them with a floor to ceiling glass wall looking out onto the city for users to urinate against. If that isn't a tongue in cheek nod to Duchamp then I don't know what is.

12942304210792856 letsget_awesome on Thu Nov 5th 2009

I am not sure that there is/can/will be a Duchamp of Design. That would require a single person to reject design completely, and change the very nature of it forever. I suppose if we were to simply look at the surface/aesthetic of Duchamp and draw parallels between a designers practice and that, we could, but I don't think that can be justified.

1294230422028015 mvmnt09 on Thu Nov 5th 2009

personally.. i think its me.. hehehaha.. common guys.. why so serious ?

Posted by Michael Crowe

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    We haven’t featured Oslo-based studio Heydays on the site for a while but a quick check-in with their portfolio shows they’re still producing top-quality work for an eclectic range of clients. Nöra is a design house based between London and São Paulo which among other things supplied the seats for the World Cup stadia in Brazil. Heydays wanted a look and feel that felt “sophisticated with a stylish twist.” The pointillist type treatment pulls this off neatly and there’s some impressive animated elements you can see below as well. Keep up the great work team Heydays!

  2. List

    When it comes to a trendy commission, a restaurant in east London that serves everything on the bone is right up there. Credit is due then to Burgess Studio, whose identity for the eatery doesn’t take itself too seriously. Built around a nice typographic wordmark and the simple idea of making the all-important bone into a smile, the look and feel rolls out seamlessly across everything from bags to cups, menus to the website. It’s simple, it’s striking and it steers well clear of some kind of terrible hipster overload, all of which is to be very much commended.

  3. List

    It’s been a while since we last checked in with Stockholm-based Bedow studio but there’s a host of new work to enjoy over on their site as ever. I was particularly drawn to their ongoing collaboration with Essem Design, “a Swedish manufacturer of artisanal hallway interiors.” Bedow used a refreshingly straightforward way in to what might seem like rather a niche product, building an identity around the Swedish words for “hello” and “goodbye” – the utterances most commonly heard in a hallway.

  4. List

    Producing graphic collateral for one of the world’s largest international contemporary art fairs is a brief that would have some graphic design studios quaking in their boots, but when London-based Studio Frith was approached by Frieze Art Fair they accepted with relish.

  5. List

    “Churn out” always sounds like a derisive expression when referring to exceptional creative work, but the prolific nature of some studios means it’s the only one I like to use use to conjure up the relentless mechanical precision with which these studios proceed – and I definitely don’t mean it derisively. And so to Praline, the products of whose churning we’re here to admire.

  6. List

    For graphic design types, the opportunity to run wild with a printer’s various techniques is pretty much the dream brief, and Mexican agency Anagrama have well and truly lived that dream. They were one of seven agencies studios invited to create a notebook with Imprimerie du Marais, and they were given free rein to experiment with effects like hot foil stamping, microembossing, silk screening and sewn binding.

  7. List

    When David Mckendrick told us he was leaving Esquire and setting hop a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher, we were fascinated to see what the fruits of such a top-notch collaboration might look like. Last week we got our answer, when a copy of the new Christie’s magazine came dropping through our letterbox.

  8. List

    When you’re set a challenge by Google’s UXA design team, there’s the expectation for something pretty darn special to be created. Fortunately for Manual, they nailed their brief and created a smart, clean, eye-catching interpretation of Google’s visual language.

  9. List

    It’s a widely-acknowledged fact that Tony Brook and his Spin team can do no wrong – they just design cracking stuff. So imagine our surprise when… no, just kidding, their latest project’s a belter too. Commissioned by Sim Smith, a London-based gallery representing emerging British talent, Tony and his team went about producing a slick, simple, monochrome identity that’s as unfussy as the artists the gallery represents. The logo, website and print collateral are all pleasantly understated, meaning the Sim Smith name won’t ever get in the way of the most important thing – the artists’ work.

  10. List

    Some design cultures outside the UK are very familiar to us, others less so, and it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse into how others are interpreting the visual world, which is why I was immediately drawn to the Prague-based Anymade Studio.

  11. List

    Few figures have impacted on the UK design scene quite like Neville Brody, and this week he announced the launch of Brody Associates, “a boutique studio network” that will specialise in digital, identity design and typography.

  12. List

    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what our banknotes and coins would look like without Queen Liz’s face slapped all over them. As it looks like that won’t change anytime soon, I instead look to other countries for monetary inspiration.

  13. List

    When a studio with a back catalogue as impressive as Hey’s relaunch their website it’s tricky to know where to start in terms of choosing what aspect of it to cover. Is it the crisp design of their now fully-responsive site, the beautifully conceived identity for a Miami-based jam company that represents the product’s moreishness through the medium of randomly-generated die-cut patterns, or the 500 unique invitations they produced for ArtFad 2014, a contemporary Art and Craft Award? In this instance all of them because, as ever, all of Hey’s work is much too good not to show off.