Opinion: The worst of graphic design


In the 1951 film “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the lead actor, Marlon Brando, sported a simple white T-shirt as outerwear. That rebellion against the then-dominant fashion soon became a fad. By the 1958 U.S. presidential campaign, supporters of candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower added a slogan “I Like Ike” to T-shirts, and the notion of “graphic design” printed itself onto American, then global, culture. In their original form, the mottos emblazoned were only “graphic” in that they were artistic interpretations of some intended message (imagine the yellow smiley face of the 1970s). But now, much of the clothing has become graphic in the other definition of the word, namely obscene, profane, violent or intentionally disturbing.

Airports, sporting events and sidewalks on a sunny day offer those eager to share with us their view on some subject via a personal billboard. Maybe it is to share news of one’s support for the local soccer team or assert brand loyalty to an expensive luxury-goods manufacturer. We have become so inundated by the messages that many go only noticed subconsciously. So, those craving an audience turn up the intensity of their communication.

A fit-enough middle-aged human sauntered along, working to ensure that others could not pass him in the long hallway. His pace guaranteed that each would be presented with his personal ideology presented on both the back and front of his attire. “No f***s given” proclaimed the bright design on a dark cloth. Is his endeavoring with such great vigor that all know that he does not care prove the very contrary? Is the profane message proclaiming: Please give me your attention for it is desperately needed? If we really didn’t care, why would we bother to tell anyone? Profanity, vulgarity, counter-cultural iconography – are they all secret messages saying, “ Please look at me?”