“Marxist Disco (Cancelled)”, installation view, Kunstverein Munich, 2008 (Photo by Wilfried Petzi)

Work / Art

Scott King

Scott King trained as a graphic designer, and worked as both Art Director at I-D and Creative Director of Sleazenation. He has also been exhibited worldwide (London, New York, Berlin, etc.), suggesting that he’s perhaps made the tricky move from design to art – from being a designer to an artist. Here we’re running an excerpt from an essay Adrian Shaughnessy wrote for our latest issue, which looks at King’s career, and asks whether design really can be art…

The Crapness of Things: Scott King
Text by Adrian Shaughnessy

Can design be art? This question remains a persistent favourite among graphic designers. But increasingly it feels like an old and tired debate – especially when you consider the astonishing levels of interest among the current generation of design students in using design skills to tackle social issues. And yet, because I keep meeting designers who think, speak and behave like artists, I can’t quite forget about this old chestnut. Like a throbbing boil on the end of my nose, I just can’t help noticing it.

I blame it on the tutors in the design schools. There is a generation of tutors who were radicalised in the 1990s and who now hold senior positions within design schools. These teachers – mostly in their 40s – were inspired by the notion of the designer-as-author. They threw out the 1980s fixation with designing wine labels and logos for pasta restaurants, and replaced it with self-initiated briefs and the cult of self-expression.

The result of this is an education system – in the UK at least – that produces large numbers of graphic designers who view their work with the inward looking subjectivity of fine artists; designers who produce work laden with autobiographical intent and self expression, a generation who yearn to see their work on gallery walls and whose ambition is to produce design solely to be admired by other designers…

To read the rest of this piece, please purchase the issue here.