October 5, 2008

I´d like to take the opportunity to quote from an essay I read the other day. Rick Poynor´s lecture “The Time For Being Against”, held at the Looking Closer: AIGA Conference on Design History and Criticism in February 2001. (Note: Ah, this is where the headline for the blog is from!)

For the fact is that, among our own group, designers–and especially young designers–this appears to be a fairly general view. The phrase is actually taken from a book called The World Must Change: Graphic Design and Idealism. It’s a quote from a Dutch design student: “I do not want to separate. I have no interest in being against. I want to include. The time for being against is over.” Not long ago, a design historian of my acquaintance, a clever young woman with a PhD, said something very similar to me: “You can’t be against everything all the time.” I used to teach at the Royal College of Art and this issue of not being against things–the consensual feeling that we have somehow reached a point of rapprochement or healing or wholeness–came up all the time. To be against things was to be negative and what’s the point of that? Life is too short. You can’t change anything by being “against things” – the world is what it is – so all that negative energy is just going to boomerang back on you in the end. By being against things, especially when most people agree that the time for being against things is over, you will only make yourself unhappy. The whole issue came to a head for me when I sat in on a project with an environmental theme, organized by one of the other Royal College of Art tutors. He gave a spell-binding performance, unleashing a scintillating stream of facts, statistics and examples of earlier environmentally-based art and communication projects. He outlined the issues and constructed a cogent and provocative set of arguments. The students–about 40 of them, all studying at masters level, young adults in their mid-20s–sat there like a bunch of sullen, unresponsive kids, offering only a few occasional, usually sarcastic remarks. Here was someone who was very definitely against things, but this display of a fiercely engaged, critical intelligence seemed to make this group very uneasy. It’s not even that they argued against his point of view. Why should they? What a waste of energy and for that matter how uncool! The time for being against things is over.

Now, that´s something to think about. Should I feel offended? Or maybe my fellow students? This lecture is from 2001, but it could as well be held today. I think it´s slightly polemic, but nevertheless he has a point. I don´t think it´s uncool or too exhausting for people, it´s more that they just don´t care. I often feel that people don´t enjoy having a discussion anymore. By that I don´t mean, trying to convince someone with your opinion, but rather listen, exchange thoughts and state your own. It´s not that hard, and can be quite fun. And come one, there are so many things going wrong in the outside world, it doesn´t always have to be about design. Anyone disagreeing?

I found this on a website, quasi a step by step guide for the modern uncritical designer:


– When another person makes a statement with which you disagree, state that you disagree with them, rather than appearing to agree. Even if you passively say nothing, you have, in effect, agreed with them.

– Make the fact that you disagree clear.

– Explain why you think the other person is wrong. Use specific evidence where you can. Use clear logic, linking cause and effect.

– You can soften the impact by appreciating how the other person may be mistaken, but do not let this weaken your disagreement.

– If you have a contrary view, then follow up your disagreement by stating this view. Where possible, be constructive, helping them see a way forward from any embarrassment.

– If appropriate, listen to their response, and be prepared to change your own view if what they say makes sense. Never change because of fears or threats.

– If you do not want to discuss the matter further, then say so.

– Do not be drawn into a destructive argument. If they become emotional or aggressive, stay cool and do not give in just to calm them down.

– Reward them for a good response to your disagreement with a smile or other accepting behavior or language.


John, I think you’re wrong. If you do that then you will add risk to the schedule. We cannot do this in less than a month.

That’s not true. I was there last week and saw it with my own eyes.

I can see how that may appear to be so, but I spoke with Sam today and she told me that she was not there. We could try speaking with Susan.

Alright? Alright!


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