What was Brody on about on Newsnight?

I found the exchange between design writer David McCandless and graphic designer Neville Brody on the BBC’s Newsnight on 9 August infuriating (www.designweek.co.uk, 10 August).

Is Brody (pictured right) seriously arguing that presenting information in an attractive, easy-to-understand format is a bad thing? He repeatedly stated that it didn’t have enough content (clearly untrue), and that while the graphics were beguiling, they didn’t engage politically. I couldn’t disagree more.

The Iraq War cost example is a perfect instance of information design as a weapon against the obfuscatory presentation of data our governments use to conceal the truth. I particularly love the detail of the projected cost of the war at the outset – tiny square, bottom right – compared to its eventual outcome.

Most infuriating of all, neither Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark nor McCandless (pictured middle) challenged him to spell out what an alternative, grassroots, politically engaged information design might look like.

I’m guessing McCandless was maybe a bit shocked to be sitting there getting slated on live television by a designer that most of our generation look up to. Even so, if I were in his shoes I’d have defended my integrity a bit more, especially when presented with such a straw-man argument.

Paul McCarthy, by e-mail

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