De Stijl, New Media, and the Lessons of Geometry

In De Stijl, New Media, and the Lessons of Geometry, Jessica Helfand discusses the significance of the values, thoughts, and principles of the De Stijl movement, in context with the field of graphic design, as contemporarily affected by new media. Helfand states that, “To practitioners of de Stijl, the reduction of pure form was considered a symbolic translation of complex cultural ideals” (Helfand).

Jessica Helfand is an author/columnist/critic/lecturer on graphic design, partner of William Drenttel of Winterhouse Studios, Winterhouse Editions and Winterhouse Institute, and earned her M.F.A. in Graphic Design from Yale University.

As it parallels contemporary design, Helfand describes the De Stijl notion of ‘controllable precision’ and how it impossible to practice today within design’s environment of rapid technological change; however, Helfand states that ‘controllable precision’ is achievable when the designer think of himself in a “system of limitations, and to consider the role of the designer as one who articulates that system” (Helfand).

When Helfland states that “the establishment of the template… is not only the principal function of design in online media, but its greatest contribution,” I must wholeheartedly agree. As I think about Helfand’s concept of ‘controllable precision’, I find myself currently designing dynamic parameters of content management system templates, that employ responsive web design and media queries for device optimization, for use by non-designers in the field of higher education… the role of the designer for myself has changed to a systemic perspective, and one that constantly engages me in re-contextualizing my skills.