Exploding the Norm
gehery_prauge McCoy fella earls_new_punch

Deconstruction in Literature

Jacques Derrida: French Proponent of Deconconstruction in Literature
For a semi-comprehensible description go here:

Derrida's work focuses on language. He contends that the traditional, or metaphysical way of reading makes a number of false assumptions about the nature of texts. A traditional reader believes that language is capable of expressing ideas without changing them, that in the hierarchy of language writing is secondary to speech, and that the author of a text is the source of its meaning. Derrida's deconstructive style of reading subverts these assumptions and challenges the idea that a text has an unchanging, unified meaning. Western culture has tended to assume that speech is a clear and direct way to communicate. Drawing on psychoanalysis and linguistics, Derrida questions this assumption. As a result, the author's intentions in speaking cannot be unconditionally accepted. This multiplies the number of legitimate interpretations of a text.

Deconstruction shows the multiple layers of meaning at work in language. By deconstructing the works of previous scholars, Derrida attempts to show that language is constantly shifting. Although Derrida's thought is sometimes portrayed by critics as destructive of philosophy, deconstruction can be better understood as showing the unavoidable tensions between the ideals of clarity and coherence that govern philosophy and the inevitable shortcomings that accompany its production. More...


Deconstructed Typography

The Cranbrook Academy of Art (Michigan), under the direction of Professors Michael and Katherine McCoy, (b. 1945) became a center of Post-Modernist discussion from the mid 1970s. What emerged became know as the 'Cranbrook Discourse' widely publicized intersection of post-structuralism and graphic design.


Designers at Cranbrook had first confronted literary criticism when they designed a special issue of Visible Language on contemporary French literary aesthetics, published in the summer of 1978. Daniel Libeskind, head of the Cranbrook architecture program, provided the graphic designers with a seminar in literary theory, which prepared them to develop their strategy: to systematically disintegrate the the series of essays by expanding the spaces between lines and words and pushing the footnotes into the space normally reserved for the main text. French Currents of the Letter, which outraged designers committed to the established ideologies of problem-solving and direct communication, remains a controversial landmark in experimental graphic design."




Student Ed Fella, came to Cranbrook after over 20 years as a commercial artist. His hand-crafted aesthetic explored a contrast to immaculately finished computer-aided graphic design. Go see his work.

Elliot Earls
The current chair of 2D design at Cranbrook moves the conversation forward.
"Paul Rand is a pygmy walking in the footsteps of giants. In the essay I discuss the idea that Paul Rand is still the archetype for the vast majority of graphic/info/interactive designers, and that he was a pygmy raised by giants. I postulate that he fundamentally misunderstood the work of men like Kurt Schwitters, and that the institutions of design (schools, museums and magazines) are bastions of neo-conservatism that seek to define design solely in terms of a designer/client relationship and a traditional problem solving methodology...There was a period after World War I where some of the greatest artists of the time (the giants of which I speak) were as important to the history of architecture, painting or photography as they were to the history of design. I hear all of the time that what I do is not design. Well, frankly, I see that as a damning indictment of our times, not of my work." More...




Work by Elliot Earls

Go see Cranbrook today
The hybrid of design and art is explained by Earls here.


Jacques Derrida
Deconstruction Philosopher, 2004

From Ellen Lupton
Design Writing Research