I went to see the Wim Crouwel exhibition last weekend.
The exhibition is good. Tony from Spin has done a great job of laying out a graphic design exhibition, something the Design Museum has historically been bad at. There's lots of work on show which is good.
Crouwel is a very good designer but a lot of the work, in fact all of the work, left me very cold. It felt like design for designers. If I took my mum and dad to the exhibition I don't they would enjoy it. Whereas they would have loved the Alan Fletcher exhibition. I even think they would have liked the Peter Saville one.
But Crouwel's work is to cold. Too inaccessible. It needs more warmth, it needs a way in. But there is no way in. I realise Crouwel's work is modernist and part of that is an inaccessibility and a coldness (like it or not, that's how it presents). But this for me raises a bigger question about graphic design.
Is there any point to it if it's inaccessible?
If my mum and dad can't enjoy it, is it irrelevant?
For me the exhibition exacerbates this problem. There are a group of designers (often sneeringly called Gridniks) who love this kind of graphic design and who have put Crouwel and others on a pedestal. Part of me thinks this is like a collective sulk because clients today won't buy this sort of modernistic work, so the answer is to celebrate this stuff from our past. I may be wrong about that, but I find that a bit immature.
And downstairs in the shop they've got different designers to make posters celebrating Crouwel, in the style of Crouwel. Why do that? His work is better than any of the new posters (and I assume rights issues meant they couldn't sell prints of the originals). This self indulgent exercise just highlights the design for designers issue for me.
This post will be widely criticised and widely misunderstood. So let me try and make a few things abundantly clear.
I think Wim Crouwel is a very good designer.
The exhibition is very well put together by Tony from Spin, and he deserves credit for that.
You should go to the exhibition.
The Design Museum should have more exhibitions of graphic designers.
But it raised questions and I wondered what you lot thought about that.