Discussing Criticism at SF Design Week

Photo from My Panel Discussion at SF Design Week

This past Tuesday I flew to San Francisco to moderate an event at Adobe headquarters called “Things We (Don’t) Talk About When We Talk About Design,” a panel discussion that was part of the annual SF Design Week festival. I was joined by two panelists: Molly Fulghum Heinz, chair of the Department of Design Research, Writing & Criticism at the School of Visual Arts, and Anne Quito, design and architecture reporter for Quartz.

The three of us talked about the current state of criticism in design, a topic that regular readers here know that I’ve been interested in for some time. In fact, in a few public appearances recently I’ve been giving a talk on this very subject: about how discourse in our profession is dominated by practitioners—designers writing about design for other designers—and how that limits our ability to have the thoughtful and truly honest analysis that our craft deserves. Molly and Anne expanded brilliantly on my somewhat cursory assessment of the situation; they offered tons of revealing insights into the challenges of conducting critical discourse, the economics of writing about design, the pitfalls of commenting within such a small professional community, a path forward for both designers and writers, and more.

Our conversation lasted about an hour and was live streamed; you can watch an archive of it below. Huge thanks to Molly and Anne for joining me, to the amazing communications team at Adobe for putting the event together, and a special shout out to the folks at Stream Thirteen for their exceptional stage and streaming video production.