some virtues of art & design


One of the most prominent arguments when art is discussed is the necessity of virtue: Should we be upholding artists to high moral standards?

Is a designer worse or better because they fail to consider Concern for Otherness?

Is an artist worse or better because he paints a woman inaccurately for the benefit of the male gaze?

This book explores the distinctions and similitudes between Gui Bonsiepe’s 1998 essay Some Virtues of Design and chapter three of John Berger’s 1972 book Ways of Seeing.

The piece is an original design: composed, printed, and bound by hand.

six memos for the next millenium:
lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, consistency

— Gui Bonsiepe

the virtue in chapter 3 of Ways of Seeing:
women are largely shown and treated as objects upon whom power is asserted by men either as figures in the canvas or as spectators.

— John Berger

When designing the book, I kept these five descriptors in mind: delicate, intentional, thoughtful, sophisticated, and contemporary. The work that I did with the typography was precisely in pursuit of drawing them into my book. Typesetting it in such a fine, airy manner, only bringing color into the text when using a passionate pinky-red, I aimed to evoke an air of refinement in each paragraph. The red was highly intentional, too; I selected it because of its symbolization of passion, creativity, sensuality, religious fervor, and emotional intensity. All fierce descriptors of the content, on the page and in between the lines. The difference in tone of paper – bright white for Bonsiepe, toned ivory for Berger – is meant to further separate the contents, disentangling each chapter to allow them each a chance to stand on their own, if only for a moment. My photography findings, credited in the footnotes, were all handpicked to visualize the readings and provide balance, scale, and flow to the texts. The juxtaposition between the vibrant colors accompanying Bonsiepe’s essay and the black-and-white classics alongside Berger’s words is meant to evoke a certain thoughtfulness surrounding the two works.

The principles of art & design are not so different. Ultimately, beauty is paramount. I concluded through work on this book that being a successful artist or designer is not about having the “right” virtues – it is about having virtue at all.

I ask myself, and any other artist: How do I, as an artist and designer, establish my own virtues? How do I apply them equally to everything I create? How does this make me better at what I do?