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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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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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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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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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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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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To continue my series interviewing the professors from MICA who have helped shape this podcast, this week I talk to my critical theory professor Ian Bourland. In addition to teaching at MICA, Ian is an art historian and critic whose work focuses on the diaspora, photography, and the global contemporary. In this conversation, Ian and I talk about his background and interest in art, the role of the critic in the art world, what a new type of design criticism could look like, and how designers can think about their work critically within a larger cultural context.

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Ian Lynam is a designer, writer, teacher, and publisher currently based in Tokyo. He runs his own design studio, teaches at Temple University Japan and Meme Design school, is chair of VCFA’s MFA graphic design program, writes for magazines like Idea and Slanted, and runs the boutique type foundry and online shop Wordshape. In this conversation, Ian and I talk about his early interest in writing and designing zines, the state of design discourse and the problems with the sort of design writing you find on sites like Medium today as well as the role of writing in his own ...

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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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Jack Self is an architect and writer based in London. He recently founded The Real Foundation, an architecture practice and curatorial institute. The Foundation’s flagship publication, The Real Review is a quarterly magazine about architecture, material culture, and what it means to live today. In our conversation, Jack and I talk about his career as both architect and writer, the goals and ideas behind The Real Review, and the types of discourses we’d like to see around architecture and design.

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James Langdon is a designer, writer, and curator. He is one of six directors of Eastside Projects, an artist-run exhibition space in Birmingham, England, runs an independent design practice, and has written for publications like The Serving Library and Bricks from the Kiln. He’s a professor in the communication design department at HfG Karlsruhe and in 2013, he founded the itinerant School for Design Fiction, working with students to investigate the storytelling inherent in the design process. He’s also written and researched extensively on the work of Norman Potter. In this episode, we talk about how Dot Dot Dot sparked ...

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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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Joe Potts is a graphic designer, educator, artist, and writer working with found and synthesized images, sound, typography, and language. He teaches typography and graphic design at Otis College of Art and Design and the University of Southern California, and is the founding director of the Southland Institute (for critical, durational, and typographic post-studio practices). In this episode, Joe and I talk about the Southland Institute, both why it exists and what it’s trying to do, the economic burdens of design education, and the value of building an interdisciplinary practice.

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John L. Walters is the editor of Eye Magazine. Before becoming the editor in 1999, John worked as a writer and editor on a variety of publications and newspapers, including The Architectural Review and The Guardian, and previously was a musician, touring England with his band, Landscape. In this episode, John and I talk about the transition from music to writing, how he started writing about graphic design, and how the design discourse has changed over his nearly twenty years of editing Eye and how the magazine has to both evolve and stay true to its identity.

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