Art School Cliche Spotting

design school cliche

I just stumbled upon this iphone app that contains a checklist you can bring to senior year critiques / design degree shows. I have to admit it’s a little cruel, but hopefully you’ll get a good chuckle along the way.

act school cliche

art school cliche

(via Johnson Banks: Thought for the Week)


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Awesome! Glad someone is pointing these out ;)

love it when people get all aloof about this stuff. Negative shite.

I’ve always thought the poster holder was super cheese.

Ha, I love how all the prominent text is set Bold Condensed, cause thats not cliche at all… And infographics are cliche!? Thats just pure asshattery. Cool idea though…

I’m a student at Gray’s and really, attending the degree shows isn’t the best way to spend your time. ;)

The problem is, that the students here still find these (and other) cliches new and in addition are supported by tutors (which I find really odd).

In some cases you might want to take it with the grain of salt, in other not so much.

they missed the biggest of them all – using a dictionary definition in part of the typography to pad out a piece

[Full disclosure: I helped creating this] I admit it’s a little bit mean in some respects. But it’s meant to be satire. The whole thing is not taking itself too seriously and we didn’t expect anyone else to take it very seriously either. This is why there are wonky bits of paper, condensed block caps, pastel colours, polaroids and even the poster pose used in the site itself!

I don’t think anyone is immune to clichés, I’m guilty of plenty of these (where do you think some of the photos came from?). It’s all just a light-hearted way of poking some fun at a social phenomenon. Most students and graduates seem to get it. In fact we even had requests from some art schools to be added to the list! And besides, since we’re students we’re actually just mocking ourselves! It’s non-students who seem to be most ‘offended’ by it.

We don’t want to offend anyone or belittle students’ hard work. I think most people like it because they can laugh about themselves. The others are probably just the wrong audience. We’re enjoying the debate though!

Making fun of student design work is the new making fun of hipsters.

Definitely way to cynical/cruel. Learning design is more about CONSTRUCTIVE criticism rather than harsh criticism. I agree, design as a lot of negative trends but also a lot of positive trends. To be honest, applications/projects like these tend to shy more students away from design.

Patrick Jenkins |

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@Patrick Fair enough. But again, this from students for students, about students. I don’t know how familiar you are with current formal design education but I can confirm what John said above, the ‘constructive’ criticism of some tutors at some schools simply leads to exactly these clichés. It’s ironic. This experience is where the idea for the website/app came from. Just don’t take it too seriously, curiously none of the affected students/graduates who commented and sent feedback (and they are many) did take it as seriously as the non-students who feel offended. It’s just a little bit of light hearted fun!

Wow…The sarcasm and cynisism actually feels even less inspired than any of the mentioned trends in the degree shows.
What could be more cliché than that?

Sarcasm and cynicism actually feels even less inspired than any of the mentioned trends. Pretty ironic really…
Being a cynic isn’t really that creative and it doesn’t really take an effort. Sarcasm is the real cliché.

@Simon Haha I agree! Social commentary IS a cliché … you wouldn’t believe how much our tutors love this :D

I thought of another cliche to add to the list – making charts like the ones here. I’M SEEING THEM EVERYWHERE! LOL!!!!


Additional cliche:

Make an iPhone app for stuff like this.

As one of those ‘cliche-perpetuating’ tutors – I find the underlying message of these responses from the student here rather insulting. It appears the reasons for designing this app are less to do with mocking students than the institutions/courses to which they belong. It’s interesting to see you are not being highlighted here for a portfolio of creative, interesting or ground-breaking work, rather an App that here & elsewhere has overwhelmingly been perceived as being ‘cruel’…

HoHum |

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WOW guys.. what to have a freaking sense of humor. I really thought that the commentors of this site would find this entertaining and silly.. i was quite annoyed when I got to the comments section to see people actually taking offense to this.

Lets put this in lame men terms, think of it like the “you might be a redneck if” jokes.. They’re funny cause they’re kinda true but also kinda over exaggerated.

Get a grip. Stop taking yourselves so seriously.

yeah, so i like hand-rendered type. and wood blocks. and helvetica. and perhaps you made fun of me. i’m totally not heartbroken about it. in a way, it’s funny. and true. and surely this could apply to professional designers’ work as well. but in the end, if the piece is all style and not genuine, it fails no matter if it is implementing cliches or being totally innovative. don’t we all live in a post-modern world anyway where nothing is genuine and everything is a subject of mockery? or are we finally approaching the end of that era, and perhaps that is what is provoking reactions? is it the end of irony?

thank you lindsay and Lisa. Exactly my thoughts!

@HoHumI don’t understand … if you’re a ‘cliche-perpetuating’ tutor, do you think that’s a good thing? And yes, the app has been described as “cruel” but never without adding “… but funny” or “… but true”. As lindsay said: it’s just a joke, sorry if you feel offended because we touched a nerve.

Also, 98% of statistics in a graphical piece are made up, especially when some artist try to make a generalized statement about something without actually knowing the actual numbers.

Sometimes British humor slides into nastiness. A few of these techniques are good if you know what you’re doing with them. I love woodblock, but if you’re making something lame that looks like woodblock for no reason.. that sucks. They’re right about infographics, btw. They look easy, but design students are quick to forget either the information or the numbers once they get going with them.

I can appreciate the humor here. Unfortunately I love Helvetica and don’t appreciate the Helvetica Bold joke one bit;)

This would be funnier if these all were cliches. Some of these are good techniques. You want to hate on students for not being able to hand-render well enough? That’s cheap.

Peter |

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@Peter yep I think there must be an element of cultural difference here. This was originally aimed at a British audience of students (who reacted overwhelmingly positive). Interestingly those who took it the wrong way all appear to be American non-students.

I totally agree with what you and Peter said about these clichés being good techniques if they’re used appropriately. We wouldn’t seriously suggest that all use of hand-rendered images, Helvetica or embossing is per se bad. It just amuses us how our tutors ask us to draw with our left hand or holding the pencil with our mouth just to achieve a wiggly child-like drawing style which is then made into a poster and put up in a show as “graphic design” that has a certain “hand-rendered/bad drawing” look instead of actually using drawing skills to deliberately communicate a specific message. Most of this stems from our own experience as students and from the boxes we ticked in our own work.

Admitted, if anything it’s criticising the quality of teaching in design schools where these clichés are perpetuated just to tick some boxes. But isn’t it a good thing to point these out and challenge art and design education to revisit their teaching style?

On the other hand, as said before, it’s all just fun and banter. No need to get all philosophical about it.

Interesting debate, so, what is ‘allowed’ then?

I study at a design school in Southeast Asia; we had a good laugh about this site, though MANY of us have used precisely these techniques. I’m surprised Grain Edit readers are so offended by it!

This is one of the fun, strange things about the design industry, isn’t it? We all slip into trends, get hooked on something quirky or cool, get bored, move on to the next thing… Or, we grasp at things like scribbles and dictionary definitions and puffed-up manifestos to give our projects more depth, and cross our fingers that our tutors will be impressed. Having this site call us on our occasional bulls**t made me lol!

Thumbs up to the creators. :)

I would love it if Lisa’s point rang true and we saw more accountability, less irony and the ability to commit to worthwhile design without being marked as po-faced. This debate might lead some to seem humourless, but all debate is good and even a cursory scan through reads far more interestingly than much of the “i like it, the colours are nice” comments. I think Lindsey’s point about the redneck jokes is the best way of dealing with something like this; IF you take offence, realise that to warrant humour, much of this has to be exaggerated to the point of farce.

There is obviously some truth in it all, but as someone who committed many of these clichés before graduating, the humour comes from the fact that designing whilst in education is a proving ground, a place to try things out, and you do often lack justification for adopting a technique; infographics with made-up data, trees lining up to (magically!) make the letter ‘K’, under-tracked Helvetica Bold, and the obligatory manifesto (baaad memories!). Once you’re in the design industry, you might create a beautiful spread of information graphics, the difference being that you were commissioned, supplied the data and it serves a client’s purpose. And a student might see it, and want to try it out. That’s how it works, and it’s lovely.

Remember that it’s ‘Art School’ cliché-spotting, not cliché-spotting in general. Overall my reaction was to laugh, then stop and realise I did nine-tenths of these things… and then laugh again.

Well I think this is genius! It’s very perceptive, well done!
…Do (uk) students still have the obligatory stamp project too?

Haha the obligatory stamp project, genius! I have to say I saw some good outcomes of the stamp competition last year. I love this one: (although the description is clearly for a different project)

very well put Ash…

post modernist attidue: find something everyone knows and tell it like a design

what you need is

1. editorial capabililty
2. windows / word to write
3. add some check boxes

sorry this is nice for school newspaper but it is not design yet


sorry it may be modern art?

I love these observations on trends. I think that it is this kind of awareness that helps keep graphic designers in check. Every cliche started out as a brilliant idea. So brilliant in fact that everyone borrows, does spin-offs and works it from every angle. And it continues uncharted until someone makes the official announcement that the horse has been beaten nearly to death and it’s time to put him in the stable for a while. Social awareness is key in creating truly fresh and creative work and commenting on cliches is a necessary part of that. I find it truly ironic that graphic designers have to be thick skinned and well seasoned in the area of criticism, and yet obviously a number of you out there can’t resist showcasing your bruised egos…and it’s not even your work! I think I may be beating the dead horse now, but in the words of some others on this page, “lighten up!”

B.DeHart |

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I find it truly ironic that graphic designers have to be thick skinned and well seasoned in the area of criticism,

A lot of the negative comments here sound very much like they came from some of my shite tutors at Bath Spa Uni! And most of the cliches were evident at this year’s degree show too.

Multiplex |

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