Being Another’s Witness

How does a designer look at the work of his or her fellow colleagues? What are the issues of concern?

‘Good’ design or ‘bad’ design, there is not a checklist with a set of criteria for making this judgment. Furthermore, what one declares as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is based on a set of variables such as personal taste or for the moment itself. Judging the level of ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of a design is a mental exercise performed by the designer when witnessing the work of another; apart from that, there is as well the story behind the design. The story of its editorial content, its design decision, its production journey, and the relationship of those involved are aspects that at one point or another has had their effect on the final visual outcome.

A visually trained and experienced designer is able to perform a visual autopsy of another’s work in a matter of seconds or minutes. This quick deconstruction is composed of series of analyses to see the underlying editorial structure, the story told, and the visual measures that were taken to evoke the narrative effect. When we witness the work of another, we are being presented with the final solution. We dissect the steps made by another designer—in mutual collaboration with his/her commissioner and various manufacturers—to arrive at the beginning, which is—in fact—the design process in reverse. We are to end at the beginning, where the problem stated by the commissioner should be revealed. If the design does not imply a problem, it is either a bad visual solution or a design that is unneeded and, therefore, a ‘bad’ design.

Chin-Lien Chen , Chris Vermaas