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Reading Forms
Exhibiting Graphic Design Exhibitions

Reading Forms – is a valuable reference to explore for everybody interested in graphic design, exhibiting and curating. Launched in January 2012, almost in the same period when we started our research project, this website is curated by Yotam Hadar, a young Israeli graphic designer and is meant as a «depository of hyperlinks and images of graphic design exhibitions, and of other situations that are visually, thematically or conceptually related. It tries to examine modes and forms of presentation, observation, curation and interaction in the recontextualized display of graphic design».

We have asked Yotam some questions about this website and project, and his opinion about the involvement of graphic designers in exhibiting and curating.

What is the motivation behind Reading Forms and the reason of your personal interest in graphic design exhibitions? What connections are you trying to draw from this depository?
YH: I think the main reason for starting Reading Forms is the same catalyst behind many websites: I was looking for a resource dealing with the subject of graphic design exhibitions, but I couldn’t find any. So I started one myself.
I was fortunate enough to attend some really great graphic design exhibitions in recent years (Forms of Inquiry at the Architectural Association, London, in 2007, Yale’s amazing GDMFA 2009 show and the 2010 Graphic Design Biennial in Brno). The feeling of being physically surrounded by such great design, thoughtfully curated, is something I thought is worth trying to relive. 
I feel Reading Forms has quite a superficial standpoint. As it is presented, it is simply a «depository of hyperlinks and images of graphic design exhibitions». It is more akin to the Tumblr attitude of decontextualizing images around a specific subject then to a critical or investigative platform. I think that part is left to the viewer. 

Graphic designers seem to show growing interest in participating in exhibitions, or in initiating them. What aims do you read behind these forms, this phenomenon?
YH: I think that the first and most obvious personal motives to initiate or participate in design exhibitions are distribution and exposure. Every designer which is proud of his or her work is always happy for new viewers/readers/users to appreciate it. It is the physical equivalent of being published in a popular design blog. 
Another reason for this need to share one’s work is the rise of what is usually referred to as the “Designer as Author” issue – i.e. designers being responsible for the content of their work, not just the shape of it – and which, for instance, can clearly be seen in the latest major graphic design exhibition held in the USA, Graphic Design: Now In Production.
Beyond these motivations, there can sometimes be a case of cult of personality – the superstar designer, who uses exhibitions as another device for self promotion. 
Lastly, there is the eternal debate of “Design as Art, Design vs. Art”. Is graphic design art? are graphic designers artists? Design exhibitions are fertile grounds for continuing this debate. 

As you say, being on show can be seen as the physical equivalent of being published. Do you see any difference from the designer’s point of view?
YH: A design exhibition is a decontextualized display, where artifacts usually lose their original function. In the design process, the designer usually has a typical viewing/usage scenario for their work, which tend to shift in an exhibition. 

In your answer to the first question you mention the «feeling of being physically surrounded by great design». In fact it seems that phisicality and direct relations with objects and people are one of the main motivation for designers to exhibit. Do you agree?
YH: I agree. Today we mostly experience and interact with design through screens, and that medium-shift into the tactile and physical is exciting. And in addition, as you mention, in an exhibition setting our “social networks” come to life.
Do you have personal experience with exhibiting and curating?
YH: My work has been exhibited several times, usually in exhibitions following design awards or competitions. I don’t see these contexts as a classical art-like exhibition moment, though, because curation is almost non-existant – participation in determined by a jury who judges the work not for the narrative of a future exhibition. In those cases, an exhibition is an inventory of winners, not a body of work that is curated to communicate anything but tracing the current trends in the field of design. 
The key difference may lie in the exhibition trigger – if it is a call for entries with open submission, or it is curated participation. 
Regarding curation, unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to curate, yet, but I’m eagerly looking forward to it.