This is the fifth and final post in a series of short interviews with renowned writers about the field of Writing & Commentary, a new category in the Core77 Design Awards. In this installment we speak to Ralph Caplan, author and former editor-in-chief of I.D. Magazine, columnist for Print and AIGA's VOICE, a contributor to a multitude of publications, both design and general, and the 2010 recipient of the "Design Mind" National Design Award.
How important or valuable is it to honor design writing and criticism with an awards program?
Probably no more or less important than to honor similar activities. Anything that draws attention to design criticism is valuable. I suspect that the field of design already has too many awards. I feel hypocritical saying that, never having declined one; also I've served on a number of design juries. But it seems to me to be a valid observation now. However, the excellence of your current jury promises to make this one different.
Which qualities do you most appreciate in writing about design and architecture and what kinds of writing do you hope will surface from this call for entries?
I hope to be surprised by a kind of writing I hadn't anticipated. The writing most needed would broaden and enlarge the concept of design both by identifying problems that designers have not yet addressed and by examining work by designers in areas—such as material sustainability and universal access—that previously neglected but are now becoming almost routine in professed design practice.
Name two writers, perhaps one historical and one contemporary, that you are influenced or challenged by.
In terms of influence: Paul Jacques Grillo, a brilliant design theorist, author of What is Design (1960), one of the first books on design I ever read. I was lucky to have found it early on. In terms of challenge: Many contemporary writers challenge me. Akiko Busch is the gentlest of design writers. Reading her always makes me feel that my own writing is needlessly harsh.
Tell us about a publication that features writing about visual culture, design, or architecture, that you're enjoying reading right now.
Design Observer is the online magazine I regularly find most useful. The New York Review of Books although not primarily about design as such, covers the kind of issues design magazines and design writers ought to be concerned with. And when it does concentrate on design, someone like the admirable Martin Filler does it.
From the archives, check out our Editor-in-Chief Allan Chochinov's review of Ralph Caplan's collection of essays "Cracking the Whip: Essays on Design and its Side Effects."
Visit the Writing & Commentary on the C77DA site to learn more about the category and jury. Entries for the Core77 Design Awards close April 10. Core77 recognizes that many design writers work freelance and if you feel you qualify for special consideration pricing for your entry, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.