DesignObserver (@DesignObserver)
25/01/2011 14:17
Adrian Shaughnessy: A review of Kenneth FitzGerald’s book “Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture”
Adrian Shaughnessy

Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald

The cover of the book Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture by Kenneth FitzGerald

It’s an odd experience to review a book in which you find yourself to be the recipient of a hearty kicking by the author. It’s even odder to find that you are full of admiration for the writer’s calm-eyed analysis of the design world. But I don’t deserve the kicking: more of this later.

Kenneth FitzGerald’s Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture is an important addition to the library of graphic design writing. Many followers of the discourse surrounding design over the past two decades will be familiar with FitzGerald’s texts, principally for Émigré, but also Eye, Voice: AIGA Journal of Design and occasionally for this site. He is currently Associate Professor of Art at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

FitzGerald is a fine writer with a gift for potent phrases (“As no military plan survives contact with the enemy, no design concept survives contact with the client.”) His prose is agile, unmannered, and always at the service of strong ideas born out of wide reading and deep engagement with contemporary culture, of both high and low varieties (look out for references to Thomas Pynchon and Garth Brooks). In other words, he’s highly readable. This is important. Design critics bemoan the lack of interest in design writing (it’s a near constant theme in FitzGerald’s book), but shouldn’t writers bear some responsibility for this? When designers say they don’t read, the onus is — at least partly — on writers to make their writing more engaging. It can’t all be down to language averse designers — can it?

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