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« TOPOLO': a borderland between reality and imagination | Main | Developing nations join G8 talks »

Graphic designers snubbed White House gala

Graphic designers snubbed White House gala

In a symbolic gesture of protest to the Bush administration, five American graphic designers (see names in the letter below), honorees of the National Design Award, turn down Laura Bush's invitation to breakfast at the White House citing that it would be inconsistent to their values and beliefs as designers to accept an award celebration from the representative of the administration who abuses language and mass media.

Drumming for attention or displaying meaningful act of dissent? -- you decide.

full story: http://www.designobserver.com/archives/015742.html

Dear Mrs. Bush:

As American designers, we strongly believe our government should support
the design profession and applaud the White House sponsorship of the
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. And as finalists and recipients of
the National Design Award in Communication Design we are deeply honored to
be selected for this recognition. However, we find ourselves compelled to
respectfully decline your invitation to visit the White House on July

Graphic designers are intimately engaged in the construction of language,
both visual and verbal. And while our work often dissects, rearranges,
rethinks, questions and plays with language, it is our fundamental belief,
and a central tenet of "good" design, that words and images must be used
responsibly, especially when the matters articulated are of vital
importance to the life of our nation.

We understand that politics often involves high rhetoric and the shading
of language for political ends. However it is our belief that the current
administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words
and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in
America. We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values
previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and
communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged
in a prolonged assault on meaning.

While we have diverse political beliefs, we are united in our rejection of
these policies. Through the wide-scale distortion of words (from "Healthy
Forests" to "Mission Accomplished") and both the manipulation of media
(the photo op) and its suppression (the hidden war casualties), the Bush
administration has demonstrated disdain for the responsible use of mass
media, language and the intelligence of the American people.

While it may be an insignificant gesture, we stand against these
distortions and for the restoration of a civil political dialogue.

The letter was signed by Michael Rock, Susan Sellers, Georgie Stout, Paula
Scher and Stefan Sagmeister.

2006 finalist Chip Kidd was also asked to sign. But Kidd questioned the
appropriateness of the gesture, said so in an email to the group. "The
real issue here is that we were not invited to a rally in support of the
war in Iraq. We were invited to recognize the National Design Awards, in
our nation's capitol, in an extraordinary building that is a cornerstone
of our history." He added that, like them, he was opposed to the Bush
administration's policies, and pointed out that, also like them, he had
created and published work that had expressed those views in no uncertain
terms. But, he added, "it is that ability (hey, the freedom!) to make and
send meaningful messages that we are supposed to be celebrating."

Kidd concluded, "Of course I respect your decisions, as I hope you all
know how much I respect you and your extraordinary talents. But as graphic
designers, we rightly complain that those talents are too often uncredited
and taken for granted. Personally, in this case, I think it accomplishes
more to stand up and be counted than to stay away."


Originally from
ReBlogged by ann p on Jul 15, 2006 at 01:41 PM Posted by ann p on Jul 15, 2006 at 01:41 PM


The important issue isn't their motivation (which we can only guess at) - though it seems unlikely that these finalists would need to draw attention to themselves, especially when they know it will probably attract at lot of criticism from the Right. More important is the question of whether their criticisms are justified - I'd say obviously they are - and whether it's an appropriate thing to do. I'd say it is, because it helps legitimate criticism of the Bush regime (which has been far too muted for too long in the US) and shows how widely such views are now spread. I disagree with Kidd's view that they should just be grateful for some recognition of design and meekly and quietly accept the awards. This amounts, as they imply, to tacit approval of Bush and co. - silence suggests consent.

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