Well, it’s the future . . . Even, or especially, for young people who will have to live and thrive in it longer than the rest of us. Considering we went to the moon on less RAM than a MAC classic, this should be Utopia. It may be the future but its not the future that they dreamed of in the Bauhaus. It’s a new world where we urinate on logos and the corporations whose names are printed on the deodorizer holders see that as a branding opportunity. Where you can live your life on your phone, never see anyone, and still have a thousand friends. Where the best minds are on Wall Street, not NASA, and people pay a premium to wear advertising on their clothing. Computers are faster than we are and look like Lamborghinis, but the type still sucks.
I’m old enough to be a product of Modernism and I’m glad I won’t be around to see where post-modernism ultimately takes us. It already gave us George W. Bush and Sherri Levine, but it may turn out OK. Maybe I’m just sentimental because I still read and can remember Gravure printing.
The digitization of design has brought us many good things. It has also brought us one syllable widows at the top of a column on the front page of the New York Times. Does it matter? It used to, but the old typesetters are dead or downsized and no one really gives a damn anymore. No one has time for useless minutiae. Time magazine looks like a facebook page, and that may be the point. As the palette gets smaller the details don’t matter. Digital ebonics will eventually replace typography as we knew it and no one will notice except type geeks and Luddites who remember punctuation.
So here is a modest argument for design memory, for looking and thinking, for integrating 500 years of trial and error and human invention into digital media in a way that doesn’t suck. This is the utopian future that all those dead Modernists ranted about, and it isn't pretty.
We can have David Carson and Jan Tschiold and type
that looks as good as the explosions and exit wounds in
video games. Strip mining design annuals for cool ideas
and sampling the gods of Modernism is legitimate in the Post-Everything petri dish where everyone is appropriating everyone else and reprocessing the same raw materials.
Even Picasso said you have to know who to steal from,
but you also might want to know what it is you're mashing
up, why it was amazing in 1940, and why it’s still cool
seventy years later.