Is Quality Universal?

Volcom Advertisement

When thinking about Deconstructive and Reconstructive Postmodernism, I agree with French critic Jean-Francois Lyotard, quality cannot be universal. Culturally we appreciate different qualities, so Greenberg’s claim that good art is trans-historical would be appropriate for judging formal qualities, but when contemporary art no longer emphasizes formal qualities this method of evaluation would not apply.

Graphic Designers produce designs to communicate ideas to meet the needs of clients. So essentially, the value is defined by target audiences and how well the design will fare against the competition. Thus the value of a commercial design is determined by factors that dictate what quality is in a specific context and culture. If a Volcom Ad for Surfer Magazine and a Ritz Carlton Ad for Travel and Leisure were compared, the value of each design would be determined by their capacity to reach the intended audience. By comparison, the Volcom ad would most likely not appeal to the readers of Travel and Leisure, and vice-versa, because of the readers conditioned ideas of what advertisements should look like. The value would not be universal and an ad that looks ‘good’ now and reaches the intended audience will not stand the test of time because our conditioning of what looks ‘good’ will change.

When the design communicates the idea intended it is done, however some projects are never done by nature; web design exists in a constantly changing environment that creates the necessity of constant redesigning to remain viable. If we were to judge contemporary art in the same manner, we would have to compare works of similar genres and determine quality by the ability to communicate the message intended by the artists to the viewer.