1 Aug 22
course intro

2 Aug 29
reading: Jack Halberstam, “Introduction: Low Theory” from The Queer Art of Failure

3 Sept 5
reading: Jacques Rancière, “The Surface of Design” from The Future of the Image

writing exercise:
1. Identify three keywords while reading this dense and poetic theoretical text.
2. Write one paragraph that uses one of the three keywords, along with other words, to elucidate the idea(s) that the keyword contains. Unpack the idea. Produce a verbal variation on its theme, but always with an anchor in the reading itself. Don’t try to express an opinion about the idea. Just try to elaborate it with as much precision and attention to the reading as possible.
3. After writing your paragraph, read it carefully. Look at every word and ask yourself, is this the right word? Ask, is this word even necessary, or do other words already express the idea. Delete any word that isn’t necessary to the description of the idea.
4. Repeat the process for two more paragraphs.

4 Sept 12
reading: McKenzie Wark, “Agony, on the Cave” from Gamer Theory

writing exercise:
Read the text for memorable, evocative sentences that can stand alone as slogans. Maybe the sentence is too complex to perfectly function in such a compressed and isolated context, but that’s ok because we’re experimenting with the form of the sentence as slogan, jingle, proverb, adage, maxim, etc.
Pick 5 sentences that as a set dramatically crystallize the arguments of the text (or that just work really well in this context.) You can think of these as pedagogical devices, or as inspirational quotes (you know like “keep calm and carry on”).
Typeset each sentence on a single letter size sheet. On the back of each sheet, write a sentence or two that elaborates or queries the sentence on the front.

5 Sept 19

Zine 1: Produce a zine that identifies a concept from one or more of our readings and follows it through (1) the three texts we’ve read so far, (2) your own written responses, and (3) the texts you’ve been given by classmates. This zine will be an exercise in how we can deploy theory in our design work. Practice using a concept, discovered through reading, to structure the materials you’re putting together. Imagine the concept as a metaphor with implications for a design practice. We could name this sort of practice “low theory,” following Jack Halberstam.
Use the concept to organize all your textual materials. Think of this primarily as an editorial project, rather than a typographic one. The format of the zine is folded letter sheets: letter-half. Aim for at least 4–6 folded sheets (16–24 pages). We will print 5 copies of each zine in two colors on the risograph.
Come to class with your concept identified and with some rough sketches of how the zine will deploy the concept.

6 Sept 26

reading: excerpt from Nicholas Thoburn, Anti-Book

7 Oct 3

Zine due
reading: Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image”

Find and project one digital image that exemplifies contradictory features of the “poverty” that Hito articulates for the contemporary image.

8 Oct 10
reading: Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image”

writing exercise:
Identify an image of design — an image that is “about” design (a specific design process or activity) or an image that is itself so mediated by design that this mediation becomes its subject. Explicate the image according to the rhetorical categories that Barthes articulates.

9 Oct 17
reading: Everyone read the first chapter (“Warning”) and the last (“Summary”) of Vilém Flusser’s Into the Universe of Technical Images. Using the summary in the last chapter, pick two essays in the rest of the book to read.

writing exercise: Pick another “image of design” — an image that is “about” design or one that is used in a design practice. (1) Write a single paragraph that completely describes the appearance of the image, so that one can see it in the “mind’s eye” just by reading the description. Print this description on one side of a letter sheet.
(2) Write an analysis of your image in the terms of the two chapters you chose from Into the Universe of Technical Images. As we were discussing in class, think about how this image is used in a design practice — by whom, to what end, etc. And how it is technically (and socially) produced. Print this analysis on the other side of the sheet.

10 Oct 24
visit: Inga Bookstore
Poster due.

Produce three tabloid posters which present three texts about a single image.

(1) Choose an image of design — an image “about” design or one that is used in a design practice or one that is produced as design. Choose an image that might function as a “technical image” in the senses that Flusser gives that term. Choose a technical image of design.

(2) Produce three texts that describe and theorize the image. Your writing should clearly and evocatively present your image to the mind’s eye, as well as elucidate it as a theoretical (a “technical”) object. Elaborate other related theoretical dimensions of your image using one or two of the earlier texts we’ve read in this sequence. Focus on your writing, on its content and its stylistic form. Design this writing as a series of three pieces, in a particular order (or not).

(3) Typeset and print the three texts as three posters. The only graphic design decision you should make is about legibility.

11 Oct 31
reading: Shiraz Abdullahi Gallab, “Entry Point,” from Amalgam Op. 3, edited by Pouya Ahmadi (2021)

writing exercise: Using “Entry Point” as an editorial model, pick one word or phrase and sketch its definition through your own writing and through the assembly of its instances in other found writing. Think of a word that has a metaphorical dimension and is also a word with implications for design. In a similar way in which you picked an image of design in the last exercise, identify a word with design characteristics and meanings: a word that is used to describe or theorize design and/or a word that is specifically used in a concrete design practice. Look for sentences in which your word appears on the web, in books, in our readings, wherever. Produce a couple paragraphs around/about this word — your own writing as well as the sentences you’ve found — on a single sheet of paper.

12 Nov 7
reading: Anja Kaiser & Rebecca Stephany, “Dear Daddy Design,” from Glossary of Undisciplined Design (2021)

writing exercise: In the lyrical epistolary spirit of “Dear Daddy Design,” compose a letter to an imaginary interlocutor in the world of design. Your addressee might be real, partially real, imaginary, generic or particular.

13 Nov 14
14 Nov 21
15 Nov 28
Zine 3 due.