Jarrett Fuller

Welcome to Scratching the Surface, the brand new design podcast interested in the intersection of criticism and practice hosted by Jarrett Fuller. Released weekly, each episode will feature conversations with designers, writers, critics, educators and people who do a combination of these. We’ll talk about the role of design criticism, the state of design writing, and try to figure out new ways to talk about graphic design.

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Abbott Miller is a designer, writer, and a partner at Pentagram where he leads a team designing identities, exhibitions, and books. Before Pentagram, Abbott ran a studio, Design Writing Research, with Ellen Lupton and wrote for publications like Eye, Print, and I.D. A monograph of his design and writing, called Design and Content, was published in 2014. In this conversation, Abbott and I talk about where his interest in critical theory came from and how he’s worked to incorporate it into his design work, using writing to find new ways into design, and how his various interests have come together ...

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In the second episode of my miniseries interviewing my professors and advisors from MICA, I talk to my writing professor, Abraham Burickson. In addition to teaching writing at MICA, Abe is also an architect, poet, and performance artist who runs Odyssey Works, a performance group that creates durational performances for audiences of one. In this conversation, Abe and I talk about his background the relationship between design, writing, and performance, design fictions, and creating experiences.

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Adrian Shaughnessy is a designer, writer, and publisher. Along with Tony Brook, he co-founded Unit Editions, an independent publishing company that specializes in design books and monographs for people like Paula Scher and Herb Lubalin. He’s written for publications like Eye and Design Observer and his collected essays were published as a book, also called Scratching the Surface, in 2013. In this episode, Adrian and I talk about his transition from designing to writing, how the design discourse has changed over the course of his career, and the value of a strong design criticism.

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Aggie Toppins is a graphic designer and educator whose work centers around active citizenship and intellectual pursuit. She’s currently teaches at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and maintains an independent studio practice publishing zines, collages, and a fun series called Critical Theory Cocktails. In this episode, Aggie and I talk about her introduction to critical theory and how she introduces challenging texts to her students, how her time at MICA inspired her to start teaching, and why it’s important to decolonize the design discourse.

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In this week’s episode of Scratching the Surface, Jarrett talks with architecture critic Alexandra Lange. Alexandra is currently writing for Curbed and has previously written for publications like The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Dwell. In this conversation, we meet in a Brooklyn coffee shop to talk about how one becomes a critic, the role of criticism within the architecture profession, writing for an audience, and Alexandra’s own writing process.

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Alice Twemlow is a design writer, critic, and educator. She was the co-founder and chair of SVA’s Design Criticism program in New York City and is now the Head of the Design Curating and Writing Program at the Design Academy Eindhoven. She also recently published the book, Sifting the Trash, which is a fascinating history of design criticism. In this episode, Alice and I talk about her interest in design and writing, the history of design criticism and how its evolved, and the collapsing borders between the various design disciplines.

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Alissa Walker is the urbanism editor at Curbed where she writes about cities, infrastructure, transportation, and policy. Before that, she was the urbanism editor at Gizmodo and has written extensively about design, cities, and architecture for places like Design Observer, Dwell, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. In this episode, Alissa and I talk about the differences between writing about designed objects and writing about the city, the role of the critic, and how she writes about government, policy, and transportation through the lens of design.

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Andrew Lister and Matthew Stuart are designers, editors, educators, and publishers. Together, they edit and design Bricks from the Kiln, a new journal that ‘centers in and around graphic design.’ In this episode, Matthew, Andrew, and I talk about Bricks from the Kiln and how they started it and what their goals are, how publishing and editing has influenced their design practice, and the overlap between editing, teaching, and writing.

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Andy Chen and Waqas Jawaid are the founders of Isometric Studio, a New York design studio that promotes inclusion, equality & progress. Andy and Waqas were thesis critics at MICA in December and I sat down with them while they were in Baltimore to talk about their backgrounds in sociology and architecture influence their design practice, the value of design criticism in the contemporary design profession, and what type of design writing they’d like to see more of.

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Anne Burdick is a graphic designer, writer, researcher, and educator. She’s the chair of the Art Center College of Design’s Media Design Program and has written for publications like Emigre and Eye. In this episode, Anne and I talk about her own background and journey through design — which we discovered had many parallels to my own design career. We also talk about new modes of practice, the relationships between writing and designing, and asking the big questions of design’s role in society and culture.

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Anne Quito is a designer and writer currently working as a design reporter at Quartz. Anne is the founder of the design studio Design Lab 360 and a recent graduate of SVA’s Design Criticism program. In this episode, I talk with Anne about her design background and her journey into writing, how to write about design for a general audience, and how she wrote her own job description when she joined the Quartz team as a “design reporter.”

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Armin Vit is the co-founder of Under Consideration with his wife Bryony Gomez-Palacio, the site behind popular blogs Brand New, FPO, and SpeakUp. In this conversation, I talk to Armin about how he started writing, why he shut down SpeakUp in 2009, why everyone is critiquing logos now, and how social media is changing the design discourse.

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Bryan Boyer is a partner at Dash Marshall, an architecture and strategic design studio based in New York and Detroit, where he leads their Civic Futures practice. Bryan studied architecture and interior renovation before heading to Finland to help start the Helsinki Design Lab, where he worked on a team that helped improve public institutions through design. In this episode, Bryan and I talk about the value of an architecture degree, the ideas behind strategic design, and the limits of design thinking.

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On this week’s episode, I talk with Bryn Smith, a designer, writer, and editor based in New York City. Bryn is a graduate of SVA’s Design Criticism MFA and the co-author of the new book, Twenty Over Eighty. We talk about her experience in SVA’s program, what a design critic could do at major publications, and how to use design artifacts to write about larger cultural issues.

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Cameron Tonkinwise is a design theorist, educator, and writer based in Australia. He’s written on subjects ranging from sustainability to interaction design, design thinking to systems design and has taught in design institutions around the world. In this conversation, Cameron and I talk about his early interest in philosophy and politics and how design became a way he could bridge the gap between those, the challenges with design’s newfound cultural currency, and how designers need to reconsider how their work lives in the world in this current cultural and political moment.

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David Reinfurt is a design polymath operating at the intersection of design, publishing, curation, and exhibitions. His studio, O-R-G, is now a small software company “that programs, publishes, and sells apps, websites, screensavers, and other small chunks of code”. With Stuart Bailey, he’s the co-founder of Dexter Sinister and with Bailey and Angie Keefer, he publishes The Serving Library. In July, I interviewed David about his work across mediums and how they intersect, the fluid boundaries of graphic design and the type of writing around design he enjoys the most.

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Dmitri Siegel is a creative director, designer, and writer. He’s currently the Vice President of Global Brand for Sonos and was previously Executive Creative Director at Patagonia. He also was one of my favorite writers of the Emigre-era, where his writing appeared in Emigre, Design Observer, and Dot Dot Dot. In this episode, Dmitri and I talk about his interest in writing about design, going from writing for Emigre to leading design at Sonos, and how design criticism has changed over the course of his career.

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Doug Thomas is a designer, historian, writer, and teacher. He’s the author of the new book, Never Use Futura and an Assistant Professor in Brigham Young University’s graphic design department. After graduating with a degree in graphic design, Doug continued his education by getting a masters degree in history at the University of Chicago where he began his research on typography history. Doug and I met while we were students in the MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art, where he was turning his historical work into a book. In this episode, Doug and I talk about the book ...

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Elizabeth Glickfeld is a design writer and lecturer currently based in London. She’s the co-founder, along with Anna Bates, of Dirty Furniture, a new kind of design magazine that looks at “when design leaves the showroom” by focusing each issue on a specific piece of furniture. She’s also written for various publications including Eye, Design Issues, Domus, and Frieze. Previously, she was a student in The Royal College of Art’s Critical Writing in Art and Design program and was a lecturer in design theory and history at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. In this episode, Elizabeth and I talk about ...

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In the final episode of my June series on my professors, I talk to the co-director of MICA’s MFA graphic design program Ellen Lupton. In addition to her work at MICA, Ellen is the Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, and a prolific author of notable design books like Thinking with Type, Type on Screen, and Graphic Design: The New Basics. In our conversation, recorded a few days after graduation, I talk with Ellen about her own career as a designer, writer, curator, and educator, how she thinks about writing for emerging designers, and how the design discourse ...

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Elliott Earls is a graphic designer, performance artist, and the artist-in-residence in Cranbrook’s 2D Design program. He also produces the YoutTube series Studio Practice, a “no bullshit resource for those things that animate the artist and designer’s studio.” In this episode, Elliott and I talk about experimental graphic design, Cranbrook’s interesting critique format, and how he thinks about his own work, as well as working outside the preconceived styles and movements, how to connect theory and practice without letting the theory get in the way of the making, and how teaching at Cranbrook relates to his own art and design ...

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Emily Smith is a designer, researcher, educator, and visual anthropologist based in Berlin. She is currently professor and Head of Communication Design at BTK University of Art and Design where she teaches a range of interdisciplinary, research-based design courses and lectures in design, fine art, anthropology, and architectural academic settings. In this episode, Emily and I talk about her journey through design to anthropology, how graphic design is like choreography, form as a container for ideas, and how research and anthropological processes can play a role in both practice and discourse.

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Francisca Monteiro is a typographer and book designer based in the United Kingdom. While I was working on my MFA thesis on design criticism in Baltimore, Francisca was also working on a thesis, at the University of Reading, on Emigre and the relationship between design and writing. I was struck by the similarities in our projects which we use to frame a discussion about the history of design criticism, the role of magazines in creating a discourse, and how the design writing has changed over the years.

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Francisco Laranjo is a graphic designer based in Portugal and publisher of Modes of Criticism, a journal and research platform interested in critical graphic design. His writing has also been published on Design Observer, Eye, Creative Review, Grafik. In this episode, Francisco and I talk about Modes of Criticism and his goals for the project, parsing terms like critical and speculative graphic design, and how to use graphic design to critique politics, colonialization, and culture.

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