The graphic design of settler colonialism: Deirdre Pretorius, ‘Graphic Design in South Africa: A Post-Colonial Perspective’, Journal of Design History, 2015
Abstract: This article offers a broad historical overview of the development of graphic design in South Africa and an analysis of a sample of recent South African graphic design informed by post-colonial theory, imperial studies and settler colonialism theory. The historical overview indicates how closely the development of graphic design in South Africa was implicated in settler colonialism in particular. Yet, graphic design in South Africa was also used to resist colonialism and following the 1994 democratic election there was optimism about its role in South Africa’s transformation. However, numerous challenges faced post-apartheid graphic design and to assess how it responded to these challenges this article analyses a number of categories of the 2013 Loerie Awards, which position themselves as the authority with regards to determining standards of excellence in brand communication in the region. In interrogating the representation in and the discourse created by the award-winning work the article concludes that graphic design in South Africa, as represented in this award scheme, does not reflect a substantial engagement with post-apartheid transformation challenges, which include the elimination of stereotypes, establishing gender equality and grappling with language and culture issues. Instead, the award scheme perpetuates narratives steeped in colonial and imperialist discourses.
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