Essay 3 of 3 for MdN Magazine July/August 1995

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I briefly contributed a series of short essays for MdN Magazine in Japan at the invitation of Prof. Yuichi Inomata of Tama Art University. I stopped because I saw that rapid change required actual work, rather than my unneeded, feisty discourse.






One cannot carry everywhere the corpse of one's father.”
- Guillaime Apollinaire (1880-1918)

It is difficult to distinguish today's computer-aided designer from the designer-aided computer. This is because thanks to the DTP industry's furious development efforts, the computer has surpassed the designer's expressive abilities and imagination and has come to govern the majority of visual development. Digital designers worldwide all work under the same art director, whose name begins with a scarlet A. Meanwhile, media evangelists tout the bright future of the World-Wide Web, and how designers will play an important role in defining this future. However, don't be fooled–recent press releases make it clear that unsurprisingly, DTP technology will simply migrate to the web and appear as just another pulldown menu that we will all be forced to learn. Designers no longer define culture; designers must abide by a culture defined by technologists. The renowned architecture educator William Mitchell states in Digital Design Media (Van Nostrand Reinhold: 1991) the logical conclusion to this predicament: “We are very close to the point to which the average designer may have nothing to sell that is worth anyone's money to buy.”

When I first began studying industrial design (I.D.), I was surprised at the lack of books on the subject compared to the seemingly endless number of publications on graphic design. Reasons cited by industrial designers themselves have been that industrial designers are too busy to write or are inherently poor writers. At the conclusion of preparing this series of three articles for MdN, I now understand the true reason for this phenomena: namely, that I.D. cannot be fully expressed using printed words or pictures—it can only be rightfully expressed as physical, three-dimensional form. Similarly, I have found that no matter how much I write or illustrate the concept of digital metadesign, it only begins to make sense when seen and experienced in its rightful form of software. This failure to express in print what I can easily express in digital form is a sign of success and a source of encouragement that true digital design for this digital age actually exists. Ironically, it fits on a floppy disk with a megabyte to spare. Strange.

Many fellow designers have criticized my work as being too abstract and expressive, ignoring the most important issue in graphic design: namely communication. However, my original intentions for retreating to the abstract were to distill a fundamental vocabulary of digital dynamic forms to be used someday for effective communication. I have just recently begun to understand how to use this vocabulary as exemplified in the accompanying software. This of course is just the beginning...

The download described in this essay is available [here]. It is designed to run on a pre-OSX Macintosh for a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. There is no guarantee that it runs any longer.


Copyright 2005, John Maeda.