Safety in Numbers

There are a few artists I will give the time of day. The works of Ai Weiwei are hard to compare to in their influence and impact. Chris Ware is somebody I hold in extremely high regard. And just to further my point I want to talk about Paul Renner.

Ai Weiwei was heavily influenced by his time in New York, and an amazing cultural scene that was completely different from his upbringing and past. Through his artistic practice he has been popularised in the west, and known well in China. The opinions on Weiwei vary dramatically though.

In China artists will say that controversy is an easy way to attain fame.

Ai Weiwei has been arrested, persecuted, and nearly killed for what he does.


Chris Ware had a safe upbringing and went to art school before becoming one of the most significant story tellers, designers, and graphic artists alive.

That story fails to tell you that he was ridiculed constantly through art school for his works. Comic style illustration is low art, graphic design is looked at quite poorly among those same art circles, and as a story telling medium graphic novels are the realm of children and men who are yet to grow up.

Paul Renner was an influential teacher and practitioner. His work, particularly the font Futura is now used to represent good design years later, and is still used in conservative corporate branding.

That story neglects the fact that Renner was imprisoned and persecuted by the Nazi political party, and he had to escape his homeland for fear of being killed for his contrary attitude and work.


University marks came out today and it wasn’t all good news. The marking system we use adheres to various criteria that do not always reflect works impact in the real world, but at the end of the day they have the ability to reflect something of significance which can influence our own perceptions of our works and practices.

My results were good. But my attitude towards marks is heavily influenced by those aforementioned stories.

You can’t judge an art practice on a mark. The power of a design is not quantifiable based on marks or sales. Work that matters, that impacts, that makes a difference, has nothing to do with a dated, conservative, academic system.

In making work that matters you will fail and be burdened. People will walk away when confronted. People are going to hate you. That’s the price we pay for not jumping on trends.

Put neatly I want to say; fuck safe art and the people who make it.