Not to be confused with Design Generator (design innovation firm).
Dgenerator is a provisional design studio based in Chicago, IL, formed in early 2015. Following its inception, Dgenerator has periodically stumbled into a few minor currents of publicity. The group's name continues to be tugged along towards some form of reputation, while studio’s CV, if one were compiled, continues to accumulate tokens of social and cultural legitimacy. "Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success," as Christopher Lasch once said.
Dgenerator claims to be a self-reflexive, embedded critique of the design world, but it is doomed to hypocrisy. Dgenerator organizes discussions, gives design talks, and publishes work in design magazines. In general, Dgenerator is interested in how, where, and why design connects to the social, the political, and the economic.
Degenerate Design Advice
In early 2015 graphic designer *Benjamin Koditschek was suggested as a backup speaker to give a talk to UIC design students in place of Emily Haasch, a younger, more successful designer with business to take care in another city. Koditschek asked graphic designer and dancer, Alexander Hayashi, who had graduated from UIC’s undergraduate design program the previous year, to create a series of Degenerate Design Advice posters with him, and make a surprise appearance at the talk.
While still a student, Hayashi, had organized a design book club with Emily Haasch (Hayashi had made the original suggestion to have Haasch speak).
Simultaneously, Koditschek began working on an essay about poster’s aggressive social psychology, which was later given as a talk at a small conference organized by dissident psychoanalysts in New York City. (in midsummer Koditschek would submit the essay to Jacobin Magazine but would be rejected without comment).
In preparation for the talk, Koditschek and Hayashi made ten posters, which they printed out for the students to take, and made the PDF’s freely available online for download.
ConfrontationsJack Henrie Fisher, who suggested that they both start a design firm and read Johnathan Crary’s 24/7. (Just a month or so earlier, Crary’s book had also been recommended to Koditschek on a failed tinder date with artist Maxim George.) Thus, Dgenerator was founded in early summer 2015. As a first project, Dgenerator organized a discussion group called Confrontations. Confrontations pits short, freely available design texts with conflicting viewpoints against each other to provoke dialogue.
In preparation, Koditschek and Hayashi invited design journalist Jessica Barrett Sattell to read and discuss 24/7 (Koditschek had met Sattell a few months earlier at an artist talk given by Emily Haasch at Dorkbot Chicago).
Sattell suggested proposing an interview with Dgenerator for the upcoming Debate issue of architecture journal Mas Context. Before Confrontations had started (after Koditschek and Hayashi had given only a single talk), Sattell’s proposal was accepted, and the interview occurred. In the interview, Koditschek and Hayashi used the word ‘critical’ a lot, and charged the Chicago Design community with being hypocritical and uncritical.
Towards the end of the summer of 2015, Sattell suggested a collaboration to Koditschek and Hayashi for the Graham Foundation architectural research grant application. Under the name Dgenerator, they proposed a project on the use of history as ideological ornament in the newly renovated 1KFulton Building. This marked Sattell's official addition to Dgenerator. (The grant did not make it past the initial round of reviews, and was rejected without comment).
In 2015 Jack Henrie Fisher invited Dgenerator to contribute a studio profile to design journal Counter-Signals. For their submission, "Dgenerator" described their latest projects and what they have planned to come. There are also some pretty badass photographs of Dgenerator members doing what they do best — strategizing a better tomorrow for their clients and the world at large. Publication is forthcoming.
In the late Fall of 2015, after a period of inactivity, Dgenerator applied to applied to the juried Typeforce7, Billed as: The “Annual Showcase of Chicago’s Typographic All-Stars.” with a curatorial project called Typefarce1 — “A Show-Within-A-Show for Typographic One-Stars”. As Dgenerator wrote in it’s proposal to Typeforce7:
Our approach here is fundamentally skeptical of majority-held beliefs in the design community, such as the idea that individual entrepreneurship and technological advancement can solve the most important global issues. In response, we intend to guide discussion towards a consideration of broader social, cultural, political, and economic contexts.
Somehow, it was accepted.
Dgenerator continues to clarify itself, and to sharpen its internal contradictions. It straddles the fence between neo-ludditism and accelerationism; between working hard and hardly working; between earnestness and irony.
People Associated with Dgenerator in Some Way or Another
An incomplete list of people who have had something to do with Dgenerator:
Here are some things that Dgenerator this are worth looking at:
- Alberro, Alexander, and Blake Stimson. Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists' Writings. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009.
- Lafargue, Paul, Harriet E. Lothrop, and International Publishing Co. (N.Y.). The Right to Be Lazy: Being a Refutation of the "Right to Work" of 1848. New York: International Pub. Co., 1898.
- Foster, Hal. Design and Crime: And Other Diatribes. London: Verso, 2002.
- Hebdige, Dick. Subculture, the Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979.
- Goldsmith, Kenneth. Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.
- Groys, Boris, Going Public (E-Flux Journal). Berling, Sternberg Press, 2010.
Dgenerator can be sent praise / criticism / cookies / tips / presents / venture capital funding / help at: firstname.lastname@example.org