Designing in the Age of Anxiety

Trump 24K Gold-Plated” (USA, 2016), an unauthorized campaign poster, featured in “The Design of Dissent”

Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic have recently reissued their book The Design of Dissent.

In a recent interview with Fast Company’s Creative Director, Florian Bacheda, they discuss how the anxiety and disorder of our time is changing design.

The release of the book in 2005, which showcased socially and politically driven graphics from around the world, was pre-Arab Spring, the election of Donald Trump, and a plethora of other conflicts and events around the globe that have polarized our world even more.

Many points about globalization are raised in the interview including the ubiquitous nature of design. Milton Glaser points out that because of social media, and certainly Google image search, some visual icons (ie. smiley face and the Guy Fawkes mask) appear everywhere.

An interesting question is raised by Florian Bacheda when he asks the authors about an interview with design author Steven Heller who wrote, “Changing an established order is the goal of dissent.” Bacheda asks that if established orders are typically governments and powerful industry special interests, will companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook become the new dominant order and will we see dissent against companies like these? We are already seeing push back from designers in the tech industry with movements like  “The Copenhagen Letter.” The effort asks tech designers to take responsibility for the world and put humans before business. They’ve gathered 3577 signatures to date.

The interview goes on to discuss the influence of social media, the introduction of new forms of media such as video, as well as showcase some excellent examples of posters designed for dissent over the past decade.

It’s also a disturbing trip through recent history and does a good job of encapsulating why and how we live in an age of anxiety. One can’t help but see the link to a recent article in the NY Times about why American teenagers are suffering from severe anxiety now more than ever. We are not only designing in the age of anxiety, we live there too.


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