Dissenting Designer Dissed

Noted designer Andy Rutledge went off the reservation, dared to imagine a redesign of the USA.gov website under an Obama administration, and discovered the true meaning of dissent: The Design of (the wrong sort of) Dissent.

I often read about and hear about how designers must have the courage to speak truth to power and how political dissent is one pillar of patriotism. These are tenets I firmly believe in, by the way. But I also find laughable the way many designers think they’re speaking truth to power by creating or showcasing design examples of Leftist political dissent, in books, in magazines, and on personal websites and blogs. I’m struck by the vacuity of how anyone in the design community can believe it takes courage to do these things when there is zero chance of suffering any negative consequences for doing so.

Not a single designer who expresses Leftist political dissent is in danger of anything more than trumpeted support from his peers because of it. No designer who expresses Leftist political dissent is in any danger of being ostracized by the members or administration of any design organization, or by fellow students, or by design school professors. In fact most designers I know work to ensure that they live with, work with, go to school with, and interact with no one but other Leftists. Social fetish and safety in numbers are principles that designers seem to learn before anything else.

So tell me again: in what way is Leftist design dissent courageous? And how is it in any way speaking truth to power? It’s not. It’s simply the cliché repetition of mantra to the in-crowd. Courage plays no part in it. A designer who creates a Left-centric, anti-conservative design message is doing nothing more than the requisite ritual of euphemistically “donning the uniform” to show the rest of the designers, “see, I’m just like all of you!” Courageous? Hardly.
What a designer must not do, apparently, is put forth dissent that runs counter to the majority opinion. Dissent, it seems, is only valid and admirable as such when it’s associated with what everyone else is doing. Today’s courageous designer is the one who goes with the flow and follows the pack. Fall out of lock-step, however, and you’re no longer a courageous dissenter, you’re just an asshole (or worse).

Leftist designers have been “dissenting” in the safe cocoon of their monochrome clique for so long that they’ve apparently forgotten what dissent is.

Last month I and many others were treated to an interesting lesson about design dissent and about how designers offer-up and regard criticism. We learned that the idea that designers respect and value dissent is a false one. We learned that the idea of political dissent being the duty of a designer-citizen is a fallacy. The vast majority of designers apparently do not hold with these supposedly foundational ideals. No, in a striking example of hypocrisy, the majority of the design community apparently holds far more strongly to the idea that dissenting views must be squashed and criticized in the foulest manner possible.

Welcome to my world, Andy.

(Hat tip: Art Rogue.)

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