Izicmo and her classmates at SVA just finished their first year, and have put on a show that I heartily endorse to those interested in graphic design (the thesis show is probably a good bet too). They're about social issues as toylines, in attractive packaging and done with more than occasional wit. Even the weakest ones have one or two items that are contenders for great ideas.
The good, the bad, and the not quite there as general categories are pretty much universal amongst most observers*. But final rankings end up may be exercises in taste, and it’s in the nitpicking that all the interesting talk happens.
My own contributions to such discussions are influenced by one of the quirks in my thinking, my faux-laymanism (what a terrible sounding –ism. I’ll replace it later.) Basically, there are a few exhibits that are middlebrow—as a category, not a pejorative. Meaning, hot topics the way “racism is bad” and “babies are cute” are hot topics. Nothing no one can’t get behind. I don’t mind that, though the thing is, if you present me a topic that don’t think I’m an expert in (as in virtually anything)**, and I think of something I don’t hear/or see commented on or considered, or in this case presented, then I think you didn’t try too hard. I’m pretty accepting of earnestness these days, just not lazy thinking. That’s pretty much what middlebrow is to me…anything I go with “yeah, and?” to. Still, I feel a little guilty when my judgment is more or less a huffy "not as smart as me."
My other tweak, and this is probably obvious, is that I prefer concept over execution, such that marginally different things, like the dim idea crappily executed, I find better than the no idea beautifully rendered. (I gather that the one I took as a dim exhibit may also have been a no idea one. But you got to give the participants authorial intent, or else you’re playing inside baseball—which isn't really part of this exercise and is playing off personality rather than work). So your reach can exceed your grasp, if you’ve got the nerves to talk something interesting. At least it'll be interesting.
I’m purposely not being too specific about the exhibits, because, well, there’s nineteen of them and I’m lazy and if you can you should see for yourselves. And if comic reviews are kinda awkward without pics, then this is an even steeper hill unless I turn it into a Slate shopping guide or I'll have to focus on one. May'be I'll try (oooh, another one for the wishful thinking bucket). Anyway, my criteria doesn't necessarily give you the best of graphic design (communication as creative problem solving?), but I do think my favorite of the exhibition, “Lone”, happens to be the most successful one too. Great execution coupled with subtle concepts. It should be a contender for everybody’s best, if not favorite.
If you folks check it out, look out for "Lone", the vinyl siding costume, the foie gras duck backpack (even if hanging them on the ceiling fan is a misfire), and the slutty virgin mary***, and give “Gloomy” time to grow on you.
* Of the sophisticated crew I was with. The rest of you unless I know you or you agree with me are all philistines.
** Except the Guardians of the Galaxy. I even wrote letters. One even got printed.
*** Bit of a gimme. But then, given the persistence of the Madonna/Whore thing, blunt is probably best.