Seeking the Right Praise

  • By Victoria Grow

    Published on 24 August 2014

"Something Amazing and Pure" - I am going to start this post off by talking to you about seeking the right Praise. I always tell my students to seek and value the right praise, and ignore the rest (which unfortunately often comes from well meaning boyfriends and relatives:) who think they know, but of course lack the knowledge. 

When I first started OSNS it kind of bothered me that the School was ignored by most mainstream media. I didn't really understand. But now that I am a bit older, and a bit wiser, I have worked it out, and ironically, I now understand this as more of a blessing (please note this is in no way sour grapes). As the School develops its identity, I can see that the mainstream has to play it safe and be marketable, by giving mainstream what it wants. This would probably not attract the right audience who want true depth, which would be frustrating for all. 

Something Amazing and Pure" is how the School was described by Christopher Valenti Gabriel the head of "A Studio" in Holland last week, and this is the right praise. 

Importantly, Gabriel is a graduate of the highly prestigious Rietveld Academy. If any of you do know the Rietveld, it enjoys the reputation of being Amsterdam's premier place for Design learning, with a selective intake which - like OSNS - has a strong focus on developing the individual. Its approach is highly conceptual and experimental aimed at consistently striving to research new areas and push boundaries, with incredible graduates such as Wim Crouwel. 

But this is "The Right Praise" because it is well informed, and also Gabriel is entirely independent of local Australian cliques. I don't take too much stock of most that is reported here in Australia in mainstream design media both online and printed (except Desktop Magazine), because it doesn't take much brain power to see that this reporting scene is a major clique of copiers who don't want to step outside their comfort zone. Which is fine, except it precludes anything new and truly original. In fact, for me, it is almost an ironic and back handed compliment that OSNS and the high calibre work of Old School Press (Belly of the Beast and Typo Truck ) is not featured on "The Design Files", AGDA speaker events, or major Design Conferences. OSNS is not and never will be here for the mainstream. (Another thing Gabriel said was "Australia needs you"). He knows how much Australia needs divergent thinking, not followers. 

We see the same design celebrities, the same names, (all united by their visual trends) trotted out and recycled over and over again on every blog, at every speaker's event, at every conference, and liked on Instagram. (my latest pet hate in visual trends are those horrible hipsterish stiff and lifeless still lives of well lit objects, what is that? leopard print 80's patterns i detest, digital copperplate, pottery - why is everyone now a potter?, poorly made blobby ceramics, and sign painters who blindly rehash the 50's style without trying to creatively reinterpret it). 

It's not overly healthy behaviour. Only rarely can this clique afford to admit someone new to their ranks! And to their own detriment, because there is a lot of really interesting work that they choose to ignore which needs to be shared and aired. They would be doing the world a favour! Members of the clique need to open their minds, and their conversation beyond the bling of fluro and the latest visual trend. Instagram tells all. Who is following and interacting with who tells us how, in true Hollywood style, the glib and superficial certainly belong together. 

So, if you are doing something interesting, and want people to know, remember, the world is a big place, and when you travel the world, you soon realise how inconsequential our small scene in Melbourne and Australia really is. Birds of a feather do flock together. You will attract and work with what you deserve. Go out there and ask for it. Don't try to befriend the "cool" people. Don't be a follower. Open up your mind, start your own show based on what you value, make good work that (thanks to the internet) can now be part of global conversation. If someone local likes you and your work, you want it to be about more than their friend liking your work. Bring interesting ideas and stories into your work, so that you outlast all the visual design trends. Be an interesting person. That which is superficial is too easy, and soon fades. People move on quickly looking for more exciting bling. 

Yes! It's much better (and more realistic) to get praise from an outsider without self interest at heart, which is why I am so happy that someone as creative and knowledgeable as Christopher, from beyond the Australian sphere values the way we are about pure learning, with all the unnecessary frills and artifice stripped away. Thanks so much Christopher.