Portrait of a studio
in 1000 images.
by 2x4, New York

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Editorial Description

Clothbound
Hardcover

1000 Pages

Publisher:
2x4, Inc

Language:
English

Edition:
First, 2009

Edition Size:
2000

ISBN:
978-0-615-31307-8

Dimensions:
140mm x 195mm

Shipping Weight:
1.25 kg.

It is what it is

(or...Are we done yet?)

 

What’s your deliverable? It’s a common question, as crass as it is self-evident. We deliver Design…24/7. But it’s a strange word – deliverable – with so many embedded assumptions. Someone else demands, requires, needs, wants, and ultimately pays (or doesn’t), but we always deliver. The verb makes sense, it’s the noun that’s the problem: what is this thing we are handing over?

On most business forms, Graphic Design is listed under Service Industries, so that much is clear: we deliver service. We service people, people in need of…design. Okay, so maybe it’s not so clear after all. Perhaps the problem is in the shifting definition of the design object. The material nature of the design object keeps slipping over the course of a project and from project to project, client to client, year to year, generation to generation.

A graphic design project starts out as a relationship, transforms into a process of loose analysis and more-or-less insightful speculation, then enters into a practically autistic phase of visual generation, followed by a synthesis of speculation and experimentation that morphs into a purely computational and mechanical production – accomplished with or without the involvement of any number of outside trades – and finally emerges in the world through a complex of socialization and acculturation that includes publicity, public relations, distribution, retailing, advertising, focus testing, and criticism.

Some version of this process is applied to everything: from high art to low commerce, from the intellectual to the banal, from the edifying to the disingenuous. And the process may be interrupted at any point – in ways both positive and negative – by collaborators, authors, editors, clients, vendors, users, lawyers, censors, and politicians, all demanding modifications that range from the minor to the catastrophic. Add into the mix that the studio is comprised of thirty headstrong individuals engaged in multiple, overlapping projects – all utterly out of sync – concerning wildly different subjects, players, timelines, technologies, audiences, budgets and geographic locations.

On top of that, designers have their own private agendas, ambitions, anxieties, compulsions, and references that they attempt to implement. Those agendas may mesh with the content at hand – and with the overarching, collective vision of the studio – or may be grafted onto content and live on parasitically. Personal vision is the designer’s value-added; it’s an indexical presence assumed so resilient it can survive in any context, from the base to the effete.

The compelling aspect of design is that each part of this messy process produces things. There is a constant stream of material pumping out of the studio at all times. This superabundance defies any simple definition 
of the “object” (and any simple declaration of completion). Design can never be reduced to a direct process of transmission because the design object carries multiple messages: some overt, others sublimated, some literal, some haptic. And besides, the actual receptor of the communiqué is also opaque. It could be an imagined audience, an ideal audience, a peer, a studio mate, a passerby, whomever.

Design is always about creating a physical effect: it is both read and felt. Designers make things – deliverables – but these are not always the discrete things for which one gets paid. The simplest study can yield an idea, effect or emotion. Printing, binding, programming and building don’t necessarily have anything to do with it. A designer’s “things” happen at every stage of a design process; they are always finished and never finished. But the bigger project, the one that is never complete, is the one that is carried over many projects and many years. 
It’s the project that demands persistent, diligent, never-quite-satisfying attempts. That’s the work, and the life, of the studio.

So this book is a blurry telling of a blurry story. It superimposes diverse projects, scales, eras and voices onto a typical trajectory, starting from first contact and concluding with delivery into the world. It makes no attempt to segregate the polished from the in-process. Each thing is complete. Through rude juxtaposition it attempts to find an intuitive master narrative in a day-to-day process where clients come and go, the population of the studio is in constant flux, and projects fall into our lap or slip away without rhyme or reason.

This is not a book about what our work is about, but about the way that it is about it. From the ephemeral to the concrete, each page is drawn from a pastiche of projects: some finished, some dead in the water, some successful, some not. It includes sketches, models, prototypes, collages, animations, drawings and site photographs – the things we make every day. This book tells the story of how we work, what we think about, and how what we think about becomes part of what we make.

Here ends the attempt to explain it, the rest is left to the things themselves. They are what they are.

Exhibition

Eye of Gyre, Tokyo    September 17 – October 18, 2009

iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition iiwii Exhibition

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Customer Reviews

23 September 2009

New Kid on the Block

★★★★

by Jeannie Kim

It is easy to imagine this brick-like book next to similarly volumetric books on a sympathetic bookshelf: S,M,L,XL, Phylogenesis, FARMAX, any recent Lars Muller publication, etc. And yet this poignantly transparent publication - despite the almost complete lack of explanation and fragmented (frequently Asian and therefore predominantly indecipherable) glimpses of actual copy - manages to divulge the key aspects of the research and design thinking behind one of the most interesting practices on the scene today in the discipline of ...

23 September 2009

Five Stars: One for Every Color.

★★★★★

by Gavin Browning

Carrying around a copy of 2x4's "it is what it is" invites a lot of rubbernecking. And for every bright red book carried in public, I know there's four other sets (blue, yellow, gray, pink) of inquisitive passersby wondering "What is that?" The short answer is that it's a lot more that what it is. This visual history limns the closet spaces and corners of 2x4's design process--unearthing throwaways, puzzles, case studies, wrong turns, right turns, demographies and stray thoughts to show how design can defamiliarize, reacquaint and enhance the experiences of everyday life: walking, reading, seeing, being.

23 September 2009

Five Stars: One for Every Color.

★★★★★

by Gavin Browning

Carrying around a copy of 2x4's "it is what it is" invites a lot of rubbernecking. And for every bright red book carried in public, I know there's four other sets (blue, yellow, gray, pink) of inquisitive passersby wondering "What is that?" The short answer is that it's a lot more that what it is. This visual history limns the closet spaces and corners of 2x4's design process--unearthing throwaways, puzzles, case studies, wrong turns, right turns, demographies and stray thoughts to show how design can defamiliarize, reacquaint and enhance the experiences of everyday life: walking, reading, seeing, being.

23 September 2009

New Kid on the Block

★★★★

by Jeannie Kim

It is easy to imagine this brick-like book next to similarly volumetric books on a sympathetic bookshelf: S,M,L,XL, Phylogenesis, FARMAX, any recent Lars Muller publication, etc. And yet this poignantly transparent publication - despite the almost complete lack of explanation and fragmented (frequently Asian and therefore predominantly indecipherable) glimpses of actual copy - manages to divulge the key aspects of the research and design thinking behind one of the most interesting practices on the scene today in the discipline of ...

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