• 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. Rubenfischer-main-int

    Aha, some “digitale malerei und grafiken von Ruben Fischer,” a new protégé of Eike Konig over at Hort in Berlin. It’s no secret that Eike has spectacular taste in who he hangs around with in terms of design talent, and Ruben is a prime example. His digital collages in fun, primary colours are all untitled, which suggests that he’s not yet doing work for clients and the like. But to see someone crack out posters, record sleeves, identities and illustrations just for the hell of it is fantastic and refreshing. Something tells us Ruben has a unique way of looking at the world, and some computer skills up his sleeve – some very important strengths in this day and age. You can see some of his more recent work on his very, very colourful Instagram feed.

  2. The-plant-art-central-4-int-list

    The white marquee walls and immaculate dressers within them at big art fairs feel at odds with anything “frenetic,” but it’s movement and dynamism that have driven the design concept for Art Central’s identity, and boy does it work. London agency The Plant is behind the energy-inspired identity, having worked on similar projects including creating the branding for Art Hong Kong and London Fair Art 15. Art Central is a new fair for Hong Kong launching this month, and cleverly takes the Chinese character for “Central” ( 中 ) as its, well, centre.

  3. Jenniferdaniel-portfolio-6-int_copy

    San Francisco-based designer, editor and illustrator Jennifer Daniel manages to combine the difficult beasts of quality and variety, making infographics for Bloomberg, children’s books about space and drawing hot dogs jumping into swimming pools.

  4. Colline-new-list-int

    Tonight sees the launch of a new book by photographer Annie Collinge at Ti Pi Tin bookstore up on Stoke Newington High Street in London. Some of you should get down there, but we appreciate that others of you are perhaps thousands of miles away. So here for your delectation are some spreads from the book and some close-ups of the images within.

  5. Zoo-art-and-music-int-list

    “Each project is an adventure,” says French design agency Zoo. And their enthusiasm shows – the work on their site is fresh, dynamic and brilliantly executed. The visual identity for Musique en Ville, a multi-venue event run by Rosny-sous-bois city council, manages to be hip without losing all-ages appeal, and is adaptable across any season or touchpoint. “We aimed to express ideas of a party and a travelling stage while leaving room for imagination,” says Zoo. “The images show one area with several spots of light; each word is the central point.”

  6. Grilli-type-int-list

    It wasn’t long ago that we were singing the praises of Grilli Type, a foundry looking into new and innovative ways to show off the new typefaces that their designers produce, and coming up with fun and playful mini-sites in the process. Now we’re back to let you know that it has done it again for GT Cinetype, a font designed by Mauro Paolozzi and Rafael Koch, which was inspired by cinematic subtitles.

  7. Currency-post-4-int_copy

    The Royal Mint has unveiled a new coinage portrait of the Queen, only the fifth during her 63-year reign. The new coins, which will go into circulation later this year, feature a portrait designed by engraver Jody Clark selected in a competition hosted by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee. In light of this, we thought we’d have a look at some proposed and actual redesigns of currencies around the world, from age old gold standards to Bitcoins, and abstract pixels to odes to scientific discovery.

  8. Paul-schoemaker-eventburo-int-list

    If nominative determinism had been a stronger force in German designer Paul Schoemaker’s life, perhaps we’d have a cordwainer on our hands. Or feet. Instead, Paul chose a graphic design route, and we’re glad he did.

  9. Paulinelepape-int-main

    Exciting new student alert! Meet Pauline, currently working on her advanced degree in type design at École Estienne in Paris – how glamorous does that sound? It’s rare to find a student with as much consistently fantastic work on their site, and for a while I didn’t actually twig that Pauline was still studying. She’s designed typefaces, had a bash at letter pressing for her business cards, and made some publications that I’d actually buy. The way she represented a bunch of Stéphane Monnot short stories is well-designed without overshadowing the writing, and that publication about the concept of an ornament just looks fantastic. Remember this name: Pauline Le Pape, she’s got big things ahead of her.

  10. Gabriela-maskrey-lapulperia-int-list

    In the two years since we first featured nomadic designer Gabriela Maskrey she’s taken on a lot of new projects and pushed her skills in all sorts of new directions. Originally she was all about editorial design – which it has to be said, she was great at – but she’s recently branched out into branding for Peruvian luxury food company La Pulperia. Her bold serif rendering of the company name coupled with historic imagery referencing Peru’s gastronomic culture combines to satisfying effect, and the addition of hand-drawn icons is a great touch too. All in all a great first foray away from the world of books and magazines.

  11. Freytaganderson-fraher-int-list

    Often the most interesting branding work hinges on a simple twist, and such is the case in this work by Freytag Anderson for Fraher architects. The Scottish studio’s concept revolves around the neat idea of the “F” in the logo doubling up as an architectural floorpan.

    “The intersecting compartments or rooms create a simple graphic device for containing text, images and texture,” the designers say. “A vibrant red accent colour supports the minimal yet functional aesthetic.” Rolled out across stationery, a soon-to-be-launched website and internal presentation documents, it’s a really impressive idea executed to perfection.

  12. Karl-anders-vitra-int-list

    Designing for a design fair must be as much of a dream brief as a terrifying one. But one agency more than up to the task is Hamburg-based Karl Anders, which is behind this brilliant campaign for Vitra’s presence at the Maison et Objet fair in Paris. We can’t get enough of the bright colours, playful art direction and unusual way of presenting the Swiss furniture brand’s products. The concept behind the campaign, Home Complements, is based around the idea of “unexpected outcomes,” hence the gloriously haphazard feel to the display of the products in the photographs, which are shot by Nicolas Haeni and Thomas Rousset. It looks brilliant, and marks a nice departure from the more serious look interiors brands often go for.

  13. Bdb-portfolio-7-int

    Amsterdam-based designer Bart de Baets has been making great work for ages, and 2014 was no exception. There are conference posters for the Goethe Institute, brochures for architecture pavilions and a really nice record sleeve for Melbourne-based band Total Control. Bart manages to combine minimal line work and graphic humour with a vast frame of reference and really great colour-ways. There are also slugs kissing.