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Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture [Hardcover]

Jessica Helfand


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Book Description

Nov 2001 1568983204 978-1568983202
Designer and critic Jessica Helfand has emerged as a leading voice of a new generation of designers. Her essays--at once pithy, polemical, and precise--appear in places as diverse as Eye, Print, ID, The New Republic, and the LA Times. The essays collected here decode the technologies, trends, themes, and personalities that define design today, especially "the new media," and provide a road map of things to come. Her first two chapbooks--Paul Rand: American Modernist and Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media--became instant classics. This new compilation brings together essays from the earlier publications along with more than twenty others on a variety of topics including avatars, "the cult of the scratchy," television, sex on the screen, and more. Designers, students, educators, visual literati, and everyone looking for an entertaining and insightful guide to the world of design today will not find a better or more approachable book on the subject.

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Lewis Mumford once wrote that he believed the industrial age was merely a passing phase in which the quality of human life would be sacrificed to further the prowess of technology. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Digital Critic with Challenges and No Solutions 2 Jun 2003
By Jason A. Tselentis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Design on the screen takes the shape of websites, animation, motion graphics, and oh yeah... television. Long before the Mac and Windows boxes on your desk moved points of light, the television was doing it. In Screen, Helfand continues her critical review of all that is visually projected at us through flat screen monitors and television sets. In this collection of essays and critiques, the overall feeling is cynical and embittered. Helfand directly challenges the designers of screen spaces and interfaces to take a stand and make decisions using technology as a secondary objective. Use the pixels, don't let them use you. It's a boastful book, one that'll make you wonder what more can be done.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big thoughts come in small packages 3 Nov 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although the amount of writing about design has grown remarkably over the last several years, only a small bit of it is actually any good. And while I think an increased amount of discourse is generally a positive thing, I think in design's case we've come to the proverbial fork in the road. On one side, there's the swaggering, portfolio-bloated, semi-literate design monographs of the last several years. On the other side, there's truly critical, topical, didactic design writing whose words aren't just there as dummy text. If this latter direction is the one in which our discourse wishes to travel, then we should all take a page out of Jessica Helfand's glorious new book, Screen. For literate designers who've come down with cabin fever over the last few years, Ms. Helfand's book is like taking a spin around the neighborhood, touching on topics from Victorian cultural history to Media Studies and everything in between. Meticulously considered and reconsidered - many of these essays were first published elsewhere - Screen reminds us that writing about a field as simultaneously aesthetic and analytic as design takes time and effort. In turn, our time and effort should be spent on these thoughtful essays, for they are a both a gift and a direction from one of the very best we have.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of touch 16 May 2010
By Ghaida Zahran - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was written in 2001, and it shows. This book was assigned reading in one of my courses in grad school. Lots of "big" ideas are brought forward in this book, and Helfland philosophizes an industry that is saturated with a lot of How-to nuts 'n bolts books and little theory.

The book however is out of touch, rife with buzzwords, and is quickly losing relevancy. I was particularly irked by the essay that compares Television to the Web, arguing that all the qualities - and shortcomings - of the Web were "done first" by Television.

The author displays a kind of starry-eyed wonder at all things "new media" but the relevancy of that to professionals working in "new media" industries is debatable.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things we all were thinking.. only worded much better. 6 Jun 2003
By M. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Chances are you will find yourself saying (or just thinking) "Exactly! I've been saying that for years!" fairly often. Helfand expresses views on the design world that many designers have felt for some time, particularly in regards to new media and digital culture. These essays cover everything from the overflow of badly designed websites to eloquently phrased explanation of why designers are not information architects (unlike architecture, design won't kill you if it falls on your head). This is a must-read for designers of any medium, especially those in the video, web, and new media fields.
6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Burdensome 4 April 2003
By Dr. Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Along with the self-aggrandizement in new media design, one has also to endure the academic collective of critical review for that very topic. After finishing Jessica Helfand's Screen Essays, my thoughts focused on abandoning the semiotic silliness, and just getting on with work. There will always be the ridiculous to rip apart, and the 1990's proved to be filled with perfect targets. However, it was also a wild time for experimentation. Do we really need to hear an opinion while the game is still being played out?
I just about threw the book into the ocean while reading "On Sound, Authenticity and Cultural Amnesia". A few comments from the book on the use of sound with visuals: "It interrupts interpretation. It brainwashes the audience.". I don't know, perhaps those of us with more emotional aspiration, or those that simply can't see visuals would take issue with this critique.
When it comes down to it, the market decides what is good use of form, and what is more or less useless. Try not to let an academician tell you what your customer needs or wants.
On a positive note, the writing is very good. I wonder if editors were in short supply during the late 1990's...
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