Advisor: Doug Scott
In graphic design, we think of margins as the white space between text blocks and the edges of a document. Setting the margins is often one of the first few steps a designer takes in creating an overarching system to organize text, images, and information, and to ultimately communicate ideas to readers.
In his essay “Radical Modernism,” Dan Friedman writes with urgency about the importance of questioning the typical frameworks that make up graphic design practice. He writes, “My goal in working in the “margins” has been to find a fresher view into the center of things.”
In this book, alongside Friedman’s design and words are images from Superstudio, an Italian architectural firm creating utopian images in the 1960s. The Superstudio collages feature massive, infinite-seeming structures, often textured with marble grids that drape over landscapes, penetrate through cities, and support large numbers of cut-out figures that we perceive as a vast public. In all their images, Superstudio crops one edge of their massive forms, leaving viewers with only the ability to speculate where the structures end and begin.
Although created in different eras and under unique artistic contexts, Superstudio and Friedman share a clear appreciation for working in the edges of design spaces. They both direct our attention to the outskirts of the composition and raise fundamental questions about the way we think about marginal space and page construction. What information belongs in the “margins”? What happens when “margins” are extended, shrunk, or eliminated entirely?
From the works of Friedman and Superstudio, it is clear that even and especially in 2021, a “radical reconception” demands a rigorous investigation into our typical design methodology. We must look, thoughtfully and carefully, at the relationship between content that is traditionally emphasized and that which is normally crammed into the page gutters, and at what overarching design systems perpetuate this dynamic. We must look, work, and re-work, thoughtfully and carefully, inside “margins.”