Revolution Lullabye

January 16, 2009

Lupton and Phillips, Graphic Design

Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

This book was written out of response to the recent postmodern trend in graphic design, which emphasizes non-transferrable, customized, and context-specific design. Instead, the authors focus on the basic fundamental elements of graphic design, modeling the Bauhaus school of design, which “analyzed form in terms of basic geometric elements” (8). The goal of this type of focus is to understand graphic design on an intermediate, meso level: to understand design structurally, developing common language and vocabulary for which to talk about design across media. Even though the chapters focus on “the formal elements and phenomena of design” out of context, the authors acknowledge that in practice, “those components mix and overlap” (11). The elements and phenomena that are discussed include traditional ones that were studied at Bauhaus, like point, line, and plane, scale, texture, and figure/ground and more recent elements that are increasingly considered when designing with digital tools, like layers and transparency. Each chapter includes several student design projects from undergraduate and graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA.)

Quotable Quotes

“Today, the impure, the contaminated, and the hybrid hold as much allure as forms that are sleek and perfected. Visual thinkers often seek to spin out intricate results from simple rules or concepts rather than reduce an image or idea to its simplest parts” (8)

All design happens at some level “from the interaction of points, lines, and planes” (13)

“Balance is a fundamental human condition” (29) We need it physically, mentally, politically

“Balance and rhythm work together to create works of design that pulse with life, achieving both stability and surprise” (29)

“Frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object…They are part of the fundamental architecture of graphic design” (101)

“Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order” (115) Victor Papanek quote

Notable Notes

How does form work? – central question of text

Chapters: Point, Line, Plane; Rhythm and Balance; Scale; Texture; Color; Figure/Ground; Framing; Hierarchy; Layers; Transparency; Modularity; Grid; Pattern; Diagram; Time and Motion; Rules and Randomness

Bauhaus is a German institute of design

Line is an infinite series of points; a plane is a moving line

Bezier curve is a line with an anchor and control points

scale is both objective and subjective. Things that lack scale have no cues that connect it to physical reality; a lack of scale contrast results in dull design.

Horizontal and vertical scaling

Figure/Ground tension – Vanderbilt University mark

Framing – margins and bleeds

designs of tables of contents (116-117)

hierarchy exercises with lines of text, like a concert program (118)

modularity is working within constraints

patterns arise out of three basic forms: dots (isolated forms), stripes(linear forms), and grids (interaction of the two)


Schuler and Namioka, Participatory Design

Schuler, Douglas and Aki Namioka. Participatory Design: Principles and Practices. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993.

Participatory design, as opposed to expert and speciality-driven design, asks the eventual users of a product or system to assist in the design and development with it. This collection, which arose out of the 1990 Seattle Participatory Design conference (sponsored by the national nonprofit organization, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility), focuses primarily on software and system design, but the prinicples of participatory design can be applied across disciplines. Advocates for participatory design argue that it is a more democratic design process and results in higher quality products because more people are participating in the design, especially those who know the intimate context of how it will be used (the workers and users.) Drawbacks of participatory design are mainly logistical: it requires much more time to involve several people in the design process (not all are specialists or professionals, so they don’t even share the same language to talk about the design), it is sometimes difficult to locate appropriate users and find adequate motivation to get them to participate in the process, and it is difficult to keep track of (and continue to motivate) participants to assess the performance of the product or process as it is being used in the workplace. Participatory design theory developed first in Scandinavia and works well with the demographics of their workforce: highly educated, highly unionized, and ethnically and racially homogenous. When participatory design is used in the United States and other European countries, however, researchers and designers need to understand that the demographics of their particular workforces will impact the effectiveness of participatory design (what the participants will expect, what will motivate them.)

Quotable Quotes

“Leaving out the users isn’t just undemocratic – it has serious consequences for worker health, human rights, job satisfaction, and also for the work process and the bottom line” (4) Ellen Bravo “The Hazards of Leaving Out the Users”

“User involvment and iteration are generally acknowledged to be more critical to success in software design than adherence to conventional design paradigms” (xii).

“Participation Design (PD) represents a new approach towards computer systems design in which the people destined to use the system play a critical role in designing it.” (xi)

“Practice as the social construction of reality is a strong candidate for replacing the picture theory of reality. In short, practice is our everyday practical activity. It is the human form of life. It precedes subject-object relations. Through practice, we produce the world, both the world of objects and our knowledge about this world. Practice is both action and reflection. But practice is also a social activity; it is produced in cooperation with others. To share practice is also to share an understanding of the world with others. However, this production of the world and our understanding of it takes place in an already existing world. The world is also the product of former practice. Hence, as a part of practice, knowledge has to be understood socially – as producing or reproducing social processes and structures as well as being the product of them” (63) Pelle Ehn, “Scandinavian Design: On Participation and Skill”

“Central and abiding concern for direct and continuous interaction with those who are the ultimate arbiters of system adequacy; namely, those who will use the technology in their everyday lives and work” (vii)

Notable Notes

secretaries and computers, eyestrain

Expertise is valued as a resource, not an unchallenged authority (xii)

unions and participatory design

participatory design doesn’t mean workplace democracy, but it does mean a bigger chance of participating in decision making.

making products and systems integral to the workplace, not just dumped into it by people who don’t work there and understand the context

using ethnographic field methods to describe and understand before beginning the design process

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