On Steven Heller’s “When It’s Cool to Say Cool”
Language, Design, and Pop Culture are each ambiguous, subjective, and contextual. They also reflect one another just as much as they inform each other.
Steven Heller’s book Pop; How Graphic Design Shapes Popular Culture opens with an essay titled When It’s Cool to Say Cool that rockets matters of ambiguous opinion to the front of the discussion.
- When is it cool to say cool?
- What does it take for slang to stay slangy?
Reading this, I immediately start wondering where this is going. When do we get to the graphic design? When do we get to the pop culture? But this is design, it is pop culture. Heller nails it: “Slang is to language as handwriting is to type; its unofficial.”
And so are cool design and cool culture – they’re unofficial. So then what’s official? Heller says “if you don’t want to sound immature stick to the King’s English.” Well that’s easy enough, that’s what we went to school for, that’s what our textbooks are filled with. So we can go about our business speaking or designing “officially” but we’d probably turn out some pretty stale results, some pretty un-cool projects and concepts.
Heller’s argument isn’t about whether or not to use slang, it’s about when. It’s about time and place. It’s about instinct. It’s about emotion. We shouldn’t resort to slang when greater detail is necessary but in other circumstances slang can reveal our culture, our roots, and our passions that make us valuable individuals. These are things that aren’t taught. They’re learned, but not taught. These are the things that will separate the cool from the un-cool.
- Don’t be a textbook designer.
- Don’t be afraid to follow your gut.
- Be cool… but only when it’s cool.
Disclaimer: These are simply the ramblings of an impassioned but inarticulate youth of the design world. The above is an exercise to get myself thinking more than anything else but if you enjoy it, well that’s OK too.
Oh, and thank you for the follow apra87