by Set Margins

Who can afford to be critical?
Afonso Matos
Set Margins - 15.00€ -

‘Critical Designers’ produced by an increasing number of design schools are prompted to address social, political and environmental issues through their practices. Yet, who can afford to continue such effort after graduation?

In a dynamic style holding multiple voices, Who Can Afford To Be Critical? discusses the limits that affordability, class and labour impose upon the educational promise of holding a ‘critical’ practice. Why do we tend to ignore the material and socioeconomic constraints that bind us as designers, claiming instead that we can be powerful agents of change? In fact, where does our agency lie?

Instead of focusing on the dream of ethical work under capitalism, could we, instead, focus first on designers’ own working conditions, targeting them as one immediate site for collective action? And can we engage politically with the world not necessarily as designers, but as workers, as activists, as citizens?

What is post-branding?
Oliver Vodeb, Jason Grant
Set Margins - 22.00€ -

Post-Branding empowers better design of public communication for civic and activist groups by replacing corporate branding’s predatory principles with a new set of strategies embedded in a new culture of craft. A new way of being and knowing, for a new way of relating with the world.

Brands aren’t just intruding on culture, they are our culture. They are the sponsored mechanisms for constructing and manipulating meaning and human identity. But should we cede such a fundamental human need to the market? If not, why not, and is there an alternative?

What is Post Branding? is a work of ‘practical theory’. It is a compact ‘pocket-book’ format publication composed of four main sections. The first, ‘DIS-BRANDED’, is a text of 20 short page-long chapters exposing the ideological underbelly and real-world impact of branding. The second, ‘MIXED MESSAGES’, is a provocative visual essay illuminating the texts’ main themes. The third, ‘MANUAL’, presents a framework for a critical alternative to corporate branding, humorously appropriating found instructional diagrams as a brand manual satire. This section also includes examples of completed contemporary projects that have implemented post-branding principles. The book concludes with ‘CONTEXT’, featuring a conversation with cultural theorist Brian Holmes and an argument with design historian Steven Heller.

Part design experiment, part critical theory, and part how-to-manual, What is Post-Branding? introduces a creative counter to branding’s neoliberal orthodoxy.

Cycles, the Sacred and the Doomed
Morgane Billuart
Set Margins - 22.00€ -

In a world propelled by swift technological progress and perpetual obsolescence, women frequently find themselves adapting and altering their daily experiences in order to remain functional. In the 21st century, as technology purports to comprehensively assess and address women’s conditions and physical discomfort, Cycles, the Sacred and the Doomed delves deeply into the realm of female health technologies, revealing a space where science, holistic methods, and mythology converge. This book challenges the idea of combining ancient wisdom with modern innovation and takes readers on a multidisciplinary journey to explore the intricacies of female’s health.

Design Against Design
Kevin Yuen Kit Lo
Set Margins - 25.00€ -

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.

What Design Can’t Do: Essays on Design and Disillusion
Silvio Lorusso
Set Margins - 24.00€ -

Design is broken. Young and not-so-young designers are becoming increasingly aware of this. Many feel impotent: they were told they had the tools to make the world a better place, but instead the world takes its toll on them. Beyond a haze of hype and bold claims lies a barren land of self-doubt and impostor syndrome. Although these ‘feels’ might be the Millennial norm, design culture reinforces them. In conferences we learn that “with great power comes great responsibility” but, when it comes to real-life clients, all they ask is to “make the logo bigger.”

This book probes the disillusionment that permeates design. It tackles the deskilling effects provoked by digital semi-automation, the instances of ornamental politics fashioned to please the museum-educational complex, the nebulous promises of design schools. While reviving historical expressions of disenchantment, Silvio Lorusso examines present-day memes and social media rants. To depict this disheartening crisis, he crafts a new critical vocabulary for readers to build upon. What this exposé reveals is both worrying and refreshing: rather than producing a meaningful order, design might be just about inhabiting chaos.

What was once a promising field rooted in problem-solving has become a problem in itself. The skill set of designers appears shaky and insubstantial – their expertise is received with indifference, their know-how is trivialised by online services, their work is compromised by a series of unruly external factors. If you see yourself as a designer without qualities; if you feel cheated, disappointed or betrayed by design, this book is for you.

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