Reading Design: An Introduction to Critical Theory

Dave Peacock
Associate Creative Director, LiveAreaLabs
Faculty, Vermont College of Fine Arts

What is theory? How does theory relate to graphic design? In short, theories are frameworks for understanding and making sense of the world. Further, they allow us to ask specific kinds of questions and follow particular lines of reasoning. For designers, theory is a means to move beyond purely aesthetic concerns and address issues such as power, representation, and commodity culture.

This presentation will highlight a handful of theories that have influenced literature, art history and, more recently, design discourse over the last few decades. Examples from art, popular culture and graphic design will help facilitate an introductory understanding of several important ideas, including Marxism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and Feminism. Designers and educators will also gain insight into how to incorporate theory into their writing, research and design work.

Dave Peacock is a designer and educator based in Seattle, Washington. He is an Associate Creative Director at LiveArea (livearealabs.com), a creative, marketing and technology agency with a focus on interaction design and digital retail. Dave also serves as co-chair and faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he teaches in the Graphic Design MFA program. Dave has exhibited nationally and internationally, and his work has been recognized by Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, Graphic Design USA, AIGA, The ADDY Awards, Print Magazine, How Magazine, The Northwest Emmy Awards and The Seattle Show. A Colorado native, Dave holds an MFA in Visual Communication Design from the University of Washington and a BFA from the University of Utah.