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 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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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 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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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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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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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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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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Helen Armstrong is a designer, educator, and writer. She’s published two anthologies of design theory as well as a book on user-generated design and is currently associate professor of graphic design North Carolina State University. Prior to studying design, Helen’s studies focused on literature, English, and critical theory and she’s since applied what she learned in her previous studies to graphic design. In this episode, I talk with Helen about her transition from academia to graphic design, the intersection of theory and practice, and the value in criticism and theory for practicing graphic designers.

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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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In 2013, Jack Cheng self-published his first book, a novel called These Days, on Kickstarter. Before that, Jack was working as a designer in advertising in New York City while working on the book during his nights and weekends. Now based in Detroit, Jack just published his new book, See You in the Cosmos. In this episode, I talk with Jack about his transition from designing to writing, the similarities between designing digital products and writing fiction, and the intellectual questions he’s asking himself in his work.

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Jessica Helfand is a designer, writer, podcaster, and publisher. She cofounded Design Observer in 2002 with Rick Poynor, Michael Bierut, and William Drenttel and most recently wrote the book, Design: The Invention of Desire. In this episode, the first part of a two-part conversation, Jessica and I talk about the origins of Design Observer, how she started writing, writing about design in relationship to culture, and how emerging mediums like video and podcasts can provide a new platform for design criticism.

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In my second conversation with Jessica Helfand — recorded earlier this month when Jessica was in Baltimore — we talk about Winterhouse (the studio she co-founded with William Drenttel), publishing, the role of design (and design criticism) in Trump’s America, and what she’s learned in her first semester teaching design at the Yale School of Management.

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Jon Sueda is a designer, curator, and educator. He is the founder of the Stripe, a graphic design studio based in San Francisco specializing in printed material, identity, and exhibition work and the Chair of the MFA Design program at California College of the Arts. He’s also curated the exhibitions for the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, the 25th International Graphic Design Biennial in Brno, Czech Republic, and SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. In this conversation, Jon and I talk about his design background, the intersection of graphic design and curation, and studying under critics like Lorraine Wild ...

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Kenneth FitzGerald is a designer, writer, and educator. His writing has appeared in Emigre, Speak Up, Design Observer, and was collected in the 2010 book of essays, Volume. He’s also on the founding board of AIGA’s new academic journal, Dialectic, and steering committee member of the AIGA Design Educators Community. In this episode, Kenneth and I talk about his early writing for Emigre and how the design discourse has changed over the course of his career, the role of design criticism, and how he gets his students interested in writing and thinking critically about their work.

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Khoi Vinh is currently Principle Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost and previously co-founded Mixel and was the design director of The New York Times online. Khoi’s site, Subtraction.com, was one of the first blogs I started reading when I started designing over a decade ago and in this episode, I talk to him about how he started blogging, how writing has influenced his design career, and the the need for a more rigorous criticism around digital product design.

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In a special mini-series for the month of June, I’ll be interviewing a few of my professors at MICA who advised my thesis project and helped shape this podcast. First up is Kristian Bjørnard, a designer, educator, and sustainabilitist, who I met two years ago when I took his Interactive Design class. Kristian and I bonded over a shared love of design theory, reading, history. In this episode, Kristian and I talk about his background and how he got into design, bringing theory and criticism into the classroom, and his deep interested in sustainable graphic design and what that means ...

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Liz Danzico is part designer, part writer, and part educator. She’s currently the creative director at NPR, where she oversees both the visual and user experience of NPR’s digital platforms and content; chair and co-founder of SVA’s MFA in Interaction Design program; and has written about design for publications like Eye, Fortune, and Interactions Magazine as well as her own site, Bobulate. In this episode, I talk to Liz about the connections between design and writing, the role of criticism in her own work, and intersections between technology, media, journalism, and design.

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Louise Sandhaus is a designer, educator, and writer based in Los Angeles. She teaches a variety of courses at CalArt and in 2013, published Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires, & Riots, a book of graphic design from California. In this episode, Louise and I talk about how she stumbled into a critical theory class that changed her approach to design and her entire life, as well as form as language, and how writing a design history book changed how she designs.

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Michael Bierut needs no introduction. As a partner at Pentagram since 1990, he’s worked on projects ranging from logos and environmental signage systems, books and packaging for clients including Verizon, The New York Times, MIT Media Lab, and Hillary Clinton. But Michael is also a prolific writer, having co-founded Design Observer in 2003 and co-editing the Looking Closer series, and in this episode, I talk with Michael about that writing. We talk about the origins of Design Observer, how he started writing, and how the public’s growing awareness of graphic design has changed the discourse.

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On this week’s episode, I talk with the designer and writer Michael Rock. Michael is the co-founder and creative director at 2×4, teaches at Yale and Columbia, and writes for The New York Times T Magazine. This summer, I visited Michael at 2×4’s New York headquarters to talk about his own history, how he thinks about his roles as a designer and writer, the importance of theory in design practice, and writing about design for a general audience.

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Mitch Goldstein is a designer, artist, and educator based in Rochester, NY. He is an Assistant Professor the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, works in collaboration with his wife Anne Jordan on client projects, and maintains an ongoing art practice focusing on experimental darkroom photography. He also co-hosted the design podcast Though Process and has written and lectured extensively on design and design education. In this episode, Mitch and I talk about our evolving definitions of the words ‘graphic design’, critique methods in the classroom, and the problems with contemporary design discourse.

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