Authenticity, Business Cards, and Spaghetti Sauce Labels
On Design Observer, Michael Bierut posts some interesting thoughts on authenticity and graphic design and elicits some interesting comments. Here's a bit of his post:
No one loves authenticity like a graphic designer. And no one is quite as good at simulating it. Recently on Speak Up, Marian Bantjes described the professional pride she took in forging a parking permit for a friend. "And I have to say," she admitted, "that it is one of the most satisfying design tasks I have ever undertaken." This provoked an outpouring of confessions from other designers who gleefully described concocting driver's licenses, report cards, concert tickets and even currency.
Every piece of graphic design is, in part or in whole, a forgery. I remember the first time I assembled a prototype for presentation to a client: a two-color business card, 10-point PMS Warm Red Univers on ivory Mohawk Superfine. The half-day process involved would be incomprehensible to a young designer working in a modern studio today; with its cutting, pasting, spraying, stirring and rubbing, it was more like making a pineapple upside-down cake from scratch. But what satisfaction I took in the final result. It was like magic: it looked real. No wonder my favorite character in The Great Escape wasn't the incredibly cool Steve McQueen, but the bewhiskered and bespeckled Donald Pleasence, who couldn't ride a stolen motorcycle behind enemy lines, but could make an imitation German passport capable of fooling the sharpest eyes in the Gestapo.
And the illusion works on yet another level. Consider: that business card was for a start-up business that until that moment had no existence outside of a three-page business plan and the rich fantasy life of its would-be founder. My prototype business card brought those fantasies to life. And reproduced en masse and handed with confidence to potential investors, it ultimately helped make the fantasy a reality. Graphic design is the fiction that anticipates the fact.