The Internet and the digital environment today presents designers with new challenges and opportunities to reconceive creativity, authorship, and their relationship to design. Confronted with an unprecedented amount of visual stimulation, designers have the opportunity to move beyond the creation of new designs and manage, parse, appropriate, and reconstruct those that already exist.
What does it mean to be a creative practitioner in the digital age? With constant web access and the accompanying information overload, is it still possible to hatch an original idea? Or does all creative production rely on reexamining and reconfiguring what came before?
Most designers are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most designers are converted to design by design itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any designer knows these truths, no matter how deeply they submerges that knowing.
Writers and artists such as Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Andy Warhol embodied an ethos in which the construction or conception of the work was just as important as the resultant work itself. By extending this tradition into the digital realm, uncreative design offers new ways of thinking about identity and the making of meaning.
In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be reworded as “The world is full of design, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in design today: faced with an unprecedented amount of available visual stimulation, the problem is not needing to design more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. How I make my way through this thicket of information—how I manage it, how I parse it, how I organize and distribute it—is what distinguishes my design from yours.
The literary critic Marjorie Perloff has recently begun using the term unoriginal genius to describe this tendency emerging in design. Her idea is that, because of changes brought on by technology and the Internet, our notion of genius—a romantic isolated figure—is outdated. An updated notion of genius would have to center around one’s mastery of information and its dissemination. Perloff has coined a term, moving information, to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process. She posits that today’s designer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing and executing.
It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing.’ Plagiarism and piracy, after all, are the monsters we working designers are taught to dread, as they roam the woods surrounding our tiny preserves of regard and remuneration. There is a desperate need for academics to reconceive notions of pedagogy, plagiarism and criticalminquiry to reflect the mash-up mindset of modern-day reality.
Can we justify copyright infringement by today’s standards of the information age, where everything is data/building block?
Uncreative Design proposes a radical redefinition of authorship for the digital age, which would make context the new content. Even if it is impossible to create substantively original works, art may still derive its aesthetic value from its conceptual basis.
In a world in which long-cherished notions of creativity are under attack, eroded by file-sharing, media culture, widespread sampling, and digital replication uncreative design rises to the challenge by employing strategies of appropriation, replication, plagiarism, piracy, sampling and plundering as compositional methods.