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Designer, Author, Maker

Case Studies Exploring Trends & Outputs of Influential Studies

GDE 730 Week 10

The Theory & the Case Studies

  1. Research and analyse the role of designer as author and maker;

In analysing who might be classed as an authorial designer this week, I really had to think about M Rock's evaluation of qualifying characteristics.  In his article for Eye Magazine (Spring 1996) entitled, 'The Designer as Author', he addresses motivations and example outcomes for designers who have authored their own work.  Rock explains the quandary that designers find themselves in; that the nature of their role as a service provider gives little scope for exploration of their own ideas beyond that which is dictated by the client.  In response to this, designers are entering in to 'side hustles', many of which explore identified social or political needs or personal passions.

Rock suggests that designers could employ a similar theory to that of the Auteur in the film industry.  The auteur theory defines ultimate control of the film to sit with the director, only if the following has been clearly demonstrated: technical expertise, stylistic signature and consistency of vision.  Rock acknowledges that this model does have it's limitations and if a designer was to be judged on pure authorial enterprise based on the 3 qualities above, the less experienced designer or newly established designer would be ostracised for a lack of expertise.

A contrary theory is that of poetic practice, whereby the work produced is judged for it's authorial qualities.  The artist/designers book would be an example for this theory which examines the concrete idea, the visual experimentation and the self-referential perspective.  Although clearly an act of authorship, not all self-initiated works are introspective in their approach.

The next model for analysis is work for activism.  With a clear political agenda, motivated by the author's beliefs these works are driven by personal passions and a sense of righting the wrongs of social discourse.  Rock purports that questions around the authorial nature of this model relate to the voice the designer attempts to raise through the work.  If you are devising messages for communication around a given cause, is the designer working for a 'client' and therefore constrained by the message a particular community wish to highlight?

Turning his attention to designers who write and publish material about design, Rock indicates that this model of 'designer as their own' client is a true reflection of authorial design.  The designer communicates their own voice and has the skill to write, edit and design the whole artefact without any consideration other than making something of interest to them and an audience.  

Designers are increasingly being given large databases of information and asked to make sense of and build a narrative within it, communicating in a clear and concise way.  This type of work allows designers a relatively free hand to take the brief and interpret it, elements of authorship manifesting in such projects, demonstrating respect and trust in the profession.

Modern and changing views of graphic designers and their roles, are giving birth to projects whereby the designer has ultimate control, similar to a film director.  The evolution of the graphic design definition towards 'art director' or 'design director', indicating greater standing and influence in commerce.  As designers take control of their own career paths and design direction, so the process, method and discourse of traditional graphic design model is challenged and warped.  Craig Oldham agrees when he considers that 'graphic design' is an outdated term, reserved only for those doing pure graphical work.  Oldham prefers the definition 'communication' design and indicates the multi-faceted character of many designers today.  He believes that designers should ask themselves what motivates them the most.  Are you predominately a designer with a side order of authorship, or an author who also designs?

Case Study 1: Nadine Goepfurt










Case Study 2: Evelin Kasikov





























































Delving in to authorship this week has made me realise that motivations differ when it comes to authorial work.  This breaks down in to work that is altruistic or self-regarding.  Of the latter, this is not to say that the work itself would not be of interest to someone else.  In fact you could argue that work undertaken for purely selfish reasons may produce the most enlightened, innovative and interesting as the designer can really explore their most oblique ideas without constraint.  Posting this on the ideas wall elicited responses from my peers, including Charles concurring that funding for such self-regarding enterprises could often be from followers of ones work or parties whose interest is piqued by the designers idea or concept.  I wondered how much such 'interested parties' influence and steer the project direction as the designer becomes increasingly concerned with meeting their own stated aims in order to satisfy these stakeholders.  If work is to be undertaken for truly self-centred enquiry, and allowed to evolve towards a natural and spontaneous conclusion, does a designer need a strong sense of egotism?  Marion Bantjes said in a 2010 TED talk, 


 "where my work as a graphic designer was to follow strategy, my work now follows my heart and my interests with the guidance of my ego to create work that is mutually beneficial to myself and a client."

Marion Bantjes has earned the right to allow her ego to take control, with vast design experience and and a body of outstanding work that fills a client with the confidence to afford the designer a free reign.  Perhaps therefore, one must cut one's design teeth,  take financial risks and trust in our creativity when authoring our own passions.






2. Imagine and communicate a series of outputs you could make as an author

My interests & passions that could inspire outputs:

Victorian Dress Costume

Art Deco Architecture

Scandi Noir Film & Literature

Textile Embellishment/Manipulation

Re-using/re-cycling materials

Weaving Process

Mental Wellbeing

Food Science

Food styling

Macro photography in flora & fauna.

Skins, scales & shells - intricate details, patterns, textures of animal/insect/fish bodies





























































































































































Workshop Challenge


Falmouth University Lecture:  Guest Lecture, Craig Oldham,

Marian Bantjes TED Talk, Intricate Beauty (2010), [Online Video] Available at:

New Ancestors, Interview Nadine Goepfert (c. 2021) Available at:

Creative Voyage Podcasts, How to Make a Living as a Textile Designer, Nadine Goepfert, Episode 11 (c2020), Available at:

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