Word It: Blah visual blog post, 2005


Location: Brooklyn, New York
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Founded in 2002, as blogs were emerging as a potent, independent mode of communication, SpeakUp is the brainchild of Armin Vit, a graphic designer who saw an opportunity to build a new mode of design criticism. Taking root in the emerging blogosphere, SpeakUp quickly became an influential forum for graphic designers, known not only for its constantly changing, sharply opinionated content, but also for its refined and accessible visual format.

Since its inception, SpeakUp has explored the social and technical possibilities of the medium, keeping its interface alive, its typography crisp, and its content constantly refreshed. Among SpeakUp’s distinctive features is WordIt, a visual archive edited by Vit’s wife and SpeakUp author and comanager Byrony Gomez-Palacio, which invites designers to submit visual comments on a particular word each month. Contributions are constrained in size and resolution—and self-promotion and blatant hatefulness are strictly prohibited—otherwise, WordIt is uncensored.

While WordIt contributions can come from anyone, SpeakUp’s articles are published via invitation only. These writers are paid nothing for their contributions; blogging is an act of love, narcissicism, and public service. (Not surprisingly, Vit and Gomez-Palacio both have day jobs as graphic designers; Vit works for Pentagram, and Gomez-Palacio is a freelancer.) Both were born in Mexico City, Mexico, where they studied design before coming to the United States to study, teach, and practice design—and to change its discourse through their vibrant work as independent publishers.

SpeakUp has a voice in print as well: Stop Being Sheep is a series of small-format booklets featuring snippets from the Web site, selected from both the authored articles and the spontaneous threads of comments spinning out from them. In 2005, Vit and Gomez-Palacio launched a new project, the online Design Encyclopedia (www.thedesignencyclopedia. org), employing “wiki” technology— software that allows users to freely create and edit the site’s content from their own browsers. Such projects are expanding a design community that, just a few years ago, was dominated by a handful of magazines and a “senior class” of professional commentators. That era has come to a close.