Eli Schiff - Dystopic Pipes(elischiff.com)

6 years ago from Marco Scannadinari, Web developer

  • Cory DymondCory Dymond, 6 years ago

    Heads up: I really went in on it here and it's not necessarily directed at you, just the general vibe I get from people who are mad when others complain about Eli's articles. It got long. Anyway, you asked for it! And awaaaayyy we go...

    The problem isn't with design criticism or that design shouldn't be criticized. It's in his particular brand of criticism. It's a shrill, drum-thumping sort of criticism. It's humorless and cold and it seeks out particularly easy targets to bash over the head until the words being used barely make any sense. "Hey! Look over here at how offensive this totally innocuous design is!"

    As far as I'm concerned, there is very little actual design critique on elischiff.com. He's mostly critiquing the culture that surrounds the creation of the design work. He uses these examples not as a way to critique the specifics of the actual work (you know... actual design critique), he uses them as a vehicle to express his opinion that the design community isn't doing what he thinks it should be doing.

    Facebook M, Instagram's redesign, racism in emojis. Here is how he decides to write articles as far as I can tell. Did some dickhead designer at a tech company make it? Is it a subject that no one really cares that much about? Is it a subject so pointless that it will sap anyone's will to write a rebuttal if they start to attempt one?

    Yes? Yes? Yes? Cool, let's write a three parter on the subject of how shitty gradients are, while the site I'm posting it on looks like it hasn't been updated since 2005.

    Does this particular design from Facebook suck? I mean, sure, it certainly looks like a lot of insular back-patting went on here, but is your critique any more valid when you spend the first half making it seem like a historical examination, only to completely switch gears in the middle of nowhere and turn it into to hit piece on what amounts to a fucking 404 page (the squiggle emoji) ending with a pathetic attempt at an insult that reads like too-cool-for-this, technorati word vomit?

    For how else could it be the dystopian future envisioned by Facebook without the intentional inclusion of meaningless postmodern cliché?

    What does that even mean? It looks like a word cloud of things you'd think you were most likely to overhear walking around Embarcadero if you were some type of bigot, except towards developers. It might be grammatically correct, but it's certainly confusing in structure and when you really get down to it, it basically means nothing. The hot take here, as far as I can tell, is that the way this got approved was through a Slack message that read: "suhh duuu like idk wtf this shit means just ship it bruh lol" except you gotta figure out how to add in evil dystopian undertones because I don't know how to make something intentionally meaningless and tyrannical at the same time. If that poorly constructed insult is how you're going to end your piece, you probably shouldn't have written it in the first place.

    Besides, he misses the point so widely on this one that Leo and Kate could captain the Titanic through the space between his critique and what is so clearly the connection to those old screensavers. It's so easy to see that I have to keep reading the piece to make sure I didn't miss him getting it. How the hell does he miss it?

    Nostalgia. D'doi.

    AI was the utopian ideal of computers in the 90s. 90s computers = tube screensavers or the moving starfield or the bouncing words. Nostalgia is a pretty easy connection to make if you are a person who has experienced the world of fashion or design or music or... anything really, but he dances around it without ever actually landing there. It's almost like he is a sentient AI trying to establish why humans act the way they do and he's just now learning what nostalgia is. He finds that THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE. (If you need any more evidence that he is actually a sentient AI learning to traverse the dystopian hellscape of modern design, look no further than the obvious shade he's throwing at M for being a loser AI who can't even explain her own emoji: "The team was quite successful in their misdirection – even for M itself, the emoji is devoid of meaning." He's totally negging M right there. I think he might have a robot crush on her.)

    But that's just my opinion and it's not why this article and a lot of his stuff is nearly universally derided here. It's his stuck-up, elitist attitude. It's his inability to see his own bias in looking at the world. It's his complete inability to recognize the human aspect of what he's talking about. It's his inability to disconnect his extreme perspective with reality. Look at his update to the racist emoji article. He insists that blue isn't a good alternative to yellow emoji because a supposedly black character from Doug on Nickelodeon was blue. I mean, where does your perspective and reality actually meet? Are we now living in a world where the artists from Doug decided what our conversations about race would look like 25 years later? How is that even remotely relevant? Why would that even be a consideration?

    In this very article, he lists off a ton of people who fucked up by approving this emoji/design direction, but never even stops to consider why they would do such a crazy, dumb, shitty, horrible thing. For him, the answer is because of these hipster designers and their deep desire to infect the world with postmodern whatever culture. He never actually considers that, you know, there are real humans with real human motivations making decisions that they think will appeal to other real humans. Do these people fuck up and miss the plot sometimes? Yup. Do they stupidly follow trends they probably shouldn't? Yup. But the answer is just that: people fuck up and make stupid decisions. It's not some evil conspiracy to turn the world into a flattened, long-shadowed hellscape of gradients, neon colors and line icons. Designers suck at designing sometimes. Even good ones. To Eli though, it's always that the design world is attempting a fucking revolution or just generally shitting on society.

    And look at this:


    This is how people think of themselves when they make postmodern design. I certainly did when I drew it.

    Dude, fuck you. You don't know what you're actually doing and you certainly don't know what people think of themselves when they make any kind of design and when you do assume that with your shitty, humorless attitude, you're being a fucking bully. You are literally engaging in the exact same type of behavior you confusingly rant about on a regular basis. How anyone so lacking in self-awareness can be so self-important is beyond me.

    And his actual writing is just plain garbage. Take a look at his racist emoji article. Ignore your personal opinion on the subject and look at the totally masturbatory way he writes. It's like if The Mars Volta decided they were going to write about design.

    If you actually want good critique, take a look at Under Consideration's Brand New. It provides a constructive conversation about brand identity. Even when they are harsh, I've never found it to be off-base. They focus on the actual work. They don't create imaginary demons. I mostly disagree with their piece on Merck's re-brand last year, but it focused on the actual execution of that design, not some motivation the author dreamt up in his head. That shit is just not interesting to me. It provides no valuable criticism that I can use to better my own work and it creates a sense of discord in the design community. He's just bloviating needlessly about these goddamn kids and their crazy whatever it is these days.

    Get off my fucking lawn, postmodernists!

    6 points
    • Winzie Howard, 6 years ago

      Yes? Yes? Yes? Cool, let's write a three parter on the subject of how shitty gradients are...

      When you say this, do you genuinely believe Eli was shunning all gradients, or even that he wrote his three-parter primarily about gradients?

      ... while the site I'm posting it on looks like it hasn't been updated since 2005.

      Finally, do you believe no site is good unless it visually conforms to "2016 looks"? For someone who claims scepticism of trend-following, you seem to regard trends highly. You also berate Eli for attacking others based on supposedly irrelevant information, and then you do the same in criticizing his site. I mean no ill will to you, but your comment does seem hypocritical and unjustifiably bitter.

      0 points
      • Cory DymondCory Dymond, 6 years ago

        When you say this, do you genuinely believe Eli was shunning all gradients, or even that he wrote his three-parter primarily about gradients?

        Alright. Let's focus on an off-the-cuff remark that was clearly a joke. No, I don't believe that his three-parter was about gradients, dude and that's pretty clear from my lengthy response. If you want to traffic in pedantry, please don't bother responding.

        Finally, do you believe no site is good unless it visually conforms to "2016 looks"?

        Ugh. The further I get into this response, the less I want to respond and we are barely getting started.

        He is incessantly complaining about the direction of new trends in design while his own personal site looks like it hasn't been updated in a decade. If you're not actually doing anything new and you are complaining about other people trying new things, you look like a hypocrite.

        I'm not a great designer and I don't claim to be one, but I'm also not writing scathing reviews of people who are actually trying to push design forward in their own way and using their design work as the vehicle to attack them.

        I don't think anything about "2016 looks" or anything about trends. I try to look at the work and judge it as it fits within the context of what they are trying to accomplish and who they are aiming to target.

        For someone who claims scepticism of trend-following, you seem to regard trends highly.

        I'm assuming you're responding to this part, which is the only part where I am "skeptical" of trend-following:

        Do they stupidly follow trends they probably shouldn't? Yup.

        I said neither of the things you just claimed. As a very exaggerated example of what I actually meant, if I use the design trend of art deco for a piece on 90s hacker culture, am I not using that trend stupidly?

        I hold a pretty egalitarian view in regards to design. I think everything has a use in design. Following trends is sometimes necessary. I try to look at what suits the directive in the best way and using a popular trend might be absolutely necessary. If I'm doing design work for Snapchat, I'm sure as hell going to do something trendy because the market it's aiming for responds well to that. If it's something totally out there, I'm going to try to push boundaries. If it's for something classic, I'm going to do something referencing design trends that are well established.

        You also berate Eli for attacking others based on supposedly irrelevant information, and then you do the same in criticizing his site.

        First off, my problem is that he goes after others based on dubious assumptions, not irrelevant information. Secondly, I didn't criticize his writing using irrelevant information. I attacked the reasoning he has laid out across the three articles I've read thoroughly. That is highly relevant.

        I mean no ill will to you, but your comment does seem hypocritical and unjustifiably bitter.

        Maybe you missed the comment I was replying to. Here it is:

        I enjoy Eli's articles immensely every time they pop up. I'd love for the designers who don't to share some of the design critique sites/blogs they read and prefer, because if there are better ones out there, they must be very good indeed.

        Or if it's just that they think designs shouldn't be criticized at all, but that design criticism blogs should, I'd love for a few of them to explain why.

        That snarky response attempts to minimize valid complaints about Eli's writing. As if Eli is some unimpeachable voice on design. His design critique is apparently just so good that anyone criticizing him is some kind of loser who can't recognize the genius of his work. My response was a requested takedown of that attitude.

        0 points
        • Andrew Simchik, 6 years ago

          I didn't intend my response to come off as snarky; I was genuinely puzzled, and I appreciate the lengthy reply on your part. I certainly don't think Eli is an unimpeachable voice on design -- just an entertaining one who makes some good points but (like any critic) isn't right about everything. Criticizing and disagreeing with him is totally reasonable and worthwhile; it's just that most of the responses I see to his pieces don't engage with them at all, just express the belief that "nobody cares" about the stuff he's criticizing, which seems patently false.

          0 points
    • Andrew Simchik, 6 years ago (edited 6 years ago )

      Hey, thanks for this -- I feel terrible that I didn't think to look for Designer News notifications until now, so I didn't realize it was here.

      I'm guessing by now you probably don't have a strong interest in a point-by-point discussion, so some general responses. First of all I appreciate the breakdown of what rubs you the wrong way about these pieces, and the example of "good criticism." I think there are some tone aspects on which we disagree -- e.g. I don't find Eli's articles humorless -- but that's subjective. And I think you're underestimating how much people care about the things he's writing about; at the very least I think designers do, or should, and I can't take seriously the claim that Instagram's app icon is insignificant.

      However, I do think we agree that there are at least two important problems that undermine Eli's arguments. One is that he clearly has a larger historical claim he's trying to make that underlies most of the articles I've read, about what he perceives as minimalism and post/modernism and the detrimental effect of the design trends he ascribes to those philosophies, and while I personally find it entertaining to watch him hammer each peg into that hole, I'm not sure he is always completely successful in making that connection, and more to the point I'm not sure the trend as he defines it actually exists (or if so, if it is indeed replacing something better). The other of the two problems is that his own logo is shall we say extremely vulnerable to criticism itself, and it presents a distractingly easy target.

      0 points
    • Andrew Simchik, 6 years ago

      Oh, and I appreciate you citing Brand New as a positive example. I enjoy their reviews, and while I don't always agree with them either, I'd concur that they seem less driven by an overriding thesis and more inclined to take each piece on its own merits.

      0 points