Encouraging Bullshit

When I was growing up my mother would often yell “bullshit” during dinner time discussions. In fact she used it so often it’s become a bit of a legacy for her. Now in her 80s, those who were present for those lively discussions—typically involving politics, the Viet Nam war, women’s rights, or other hot topics  during the sixties and seventies—fondly recall hearing her use her “favorite” word. As I remember it what prompted my mother to say bullshit was when anyone tried to use sensationalism, emotional appeal, fear mongering, or other tactics besides hardcore facts to win their argument.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) medalist Paula Scher recently wrote an article for Imprint in reaction to AIGA’s contest “Justified”—a design competition that will select examples of good design that are also described in terms of their effectiveness in meeting the client’s objectives. In the article, “AIGA: Unjustified,”  Scher discusses her objection to the competition which in part is due to the fact that “Justified” is AIGA’s only competition and thus sets a standard for excellence that focuses solely in an area that is based on meeting client goals rather than creativity and inspiration. She goes on to describe the many ways that meeting client goals are not necessarily in sync with design innovation. In the article Scher states that “judging design work by the quality of the designer’s bullshit as required in this criteria seems pointless. If the work is terrific the bullshit is irrelevant. If the work isn’t terrific, but the jury is moved by the entrant’s arguments, it demonstrates the dangers of bullshit. Is this something we want to encourage?” (1)

Scher raises a very valid question about what the goal of the organization’s competition should be— proving the value of design to clients, or inspiring designers. Who should AIGA be serving?

What do you think? Should AIGA’s only remaining competition be based on the value of design to the client, or by how innovative and inspiring it is to designers?

Read the full article along with many comments here and Scher’s follow up article, “Unjustified, Part II,” where she addresses comments and offers her own suggestion for a competition.

(1) http://imprint.printmag.com/design-thinking/aiga-unjustified/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aiga-unjustified&et_mid=548293&rid=23821332

Photo courtesy of Tristan Nitot via Flickr

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