Graphic Designers

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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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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Allison Arieff is the editorial director of Spur and a columnist for the New York Times where she writes about architecture, design, and cities. Before that, she was the editor-at-large for both Good and Sunset Magazines and was the editor-in-chief at Dwell. In this episode, Allison and Jarrett talk about how she wanted to be a writer since eighth grade, the expanding definition of design, and the relationship between design and policy.

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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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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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Brian LaRossa is a designer, illustrator, writer, and reader. He’s a design director at Scholastic, writer for Design Observer, and on the adjunct faculty at CUNY. In this episode, Brian and Jarrett talk about his early resistance to the design world and how discovering its history and culture opened up a new love for the discipline. They also talk about how he started writing, his love of reading, and the similarities between his writing process and design process.

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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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Dan Hill is a designer, educator, and writer. He’s currently a director at Arup, a visiting professor at The Bartlett School, and Adjunct professor at RMIT. He’s also the author of Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary, and the long-running blog City of Sound. He previously worked at the Helsinki Design Lab and as director of Fabrica. In this episode, Dan and I talk about the evolution of his career, his vision for a new type of design education, and the role of writing in his work.

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Daniel Eatock is a designer and artist based in London. He studied design at Ravensbourne College and earned his MA from the Royal College of Art. In this episode, Daniel talks to Jarrett about studying design and discovering conceptual art, his resistance to labeling his practice, the role of teaching in his work, and how he’s working towards being more present.

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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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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.

Read More

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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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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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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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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