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Design Against Design



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Design Against Design argues for the urgent necessity of critical engagement and political resistance through graphic practice. It draws on insights from the practice of LOKI, a small graphic design studio committed to working with social movements towards radical political change. With con­versational interviews, personal and critical essays, and a wide-ranging selection of graphic works, this book unravels the real-world relationships, motivations and contradictions involved in a socially engaged design practice.

Both a passionate indictment of the discipline of graphic design, and a utopian love letter to its radical potential, Kevin Yuen Kit Lo’s collection of almost confessional, candid essays challenge the status quo of design writing. Design Against Design demands that we think more intimately about the politics of visual culture under contemporary capitalism and, importantly, how we can act against it.

Design Against Design is organized around four key themes: Critique presents a political-economic analysis of graphic design in relationship to capitalism and considers practical ways to resist it. Practice looks critically at how designers work towards (and sometimes against) social change within both a professional studio context and alongside social movements. Materiality focuses on the craft of graphic design; on language and typography, legibility, and illegibility, on the acts of speaking and making. Autonomy considers the emotional and relational aspects of graphic design, understanding that interdependence is intricately bound to any possibility for self-determination within and beyond design.

Featuring interviews with Philippe and Nancy Vermes, Sandy Kaltenborn, Kaie Kellough, Chadi Marouf and Sabine Friesinger, Sarah Auches, and Jenn Clamen.

“In what is perhaps the most radical graphic design book of the the last years, Lo weaves the personal and political in this collection of stories showing the usefulness of design in everyday struggles. There is none of the design saviour talk we hear all too often. These are words of action.”

– Ruben Pater, author of the Politics of Design and Caps Lock

“This collection of essays, historical reviews, and interviews takes on the myriad critical issues involved in making design that purports to “do good.” Noting all kinds of traps, from “do-goodism” that does nothing to change the dominant order, to the continuous commodification of activist stances in a late-capitalist society, to the “named enemies” of White Supremacy, performative allyship, and historical erasure, the book alternately discusses capital, labor, and meaning without retreating into a comfortable ivory tower and closing the shades. Rather than relying on the dogma of one “ism” or another, the book is personal: The anger pulsing just under the text is clearly Kevin’s own.”

– Natalia Ilyin, author of Chasing the Perfect and Writing for the Design Mind

‘There are many ways that Design Against Design plays the fraught relationship between radical political commitments and graphic design. The notes range from “sad-but-true” to earnest joy in craft, and from glaring indictment to ecstatic experimentation. The book works through graphic design’s own contestability and wrestles with its capacity for antagonism, to confront us with the fact that despite what our teachers and bosses have told us, there is yet something profound to struggle with, and yet something that urgently needs to be said in design. For many of the book’s likely readers, especially the designers, Kevin’s book furnishes us with words and pictures and poems and collages and fonts and pantone swatches—as, yes—forms that enable a mutual recognition of shared struggles and feelings, and to find, as André Breton proposes, our comrades.’

— Chris Lee, author of Immutable: Designing History


Published by Set Margins' 2024 first printing