Publishing as the Critical Practice of Graphic Design

Master's Thesis


This paper argues for the importance of historical and contemporary examples of what has come to be called “critical practice” in graphic design. A critical practice is similar to, but distinct from, both traditional fine art and graphic design — especially when graphic design is defined narrowly, as limited to a service industry for organizational and business interests.

Having made a historical argument, and provided contemporary examples, this paper proceeds to describe our own attempt to develop a critical design practice in the form of Are Not Books & Publications, an instance of what has been called “micro-publishing.” The publishing taken up by this critical, small-scale venture is entirely controlled by the designer, along with a small group of collaborators. Writing, editing, design, production, and distribution roles are restricted so as to be minimally influenced by outside concerns. As a result, the form and content of the books and pamphlets published by Are Not Books & Publications can be critically and self-reflexively about the practice of design and publishing.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04162014-155430

Author Matthew J. Smith
Advisor Prof. Robert P. Sedlack Jr.
Contributor Prof. Jean Dibble, Committee Member
Contributor Prof. Dennis P. Doordan, Committee Member
Contributor Prof. Robert P. Sedlack Jr., Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Art, Art History and Design
Degree Name MFA
Defense Date
  • 2014-04-15

Submission Date 2014-04-16
  • United States of America

  • micro-publishing

  • artistic practice

  • publishing

  • critical practice

  • critical graphic design

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Embargo Release Date
  • 2015-06-06

Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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