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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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Information Is Style

Information Is Style

(p.195) Chapter 6 Information Is Style
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

If information cool is a form of “deco-technology,” then another way to say that its content is useless is to identify “uselessness” with the conversion of all the workaday techniques, procedures, routines, protocols, and standards of information into an experience of pure style, which in the producer culture of knowledge work is translated as “design.” Formalism is a necessary approach to information cool. Formalism, above all other twentieth-century artistic and critical movements, suborned the technological rationality of modernity by remolding its functionalist assumptions so profoundly as to imprint them with the distinctive style of “modernism.” Clarity of design in the modernist style molded itself to the new information technology. One of the most powerful aesthetic phenomena of recent decades has been the consolidation of graphic design and information display into a common “spectrum of tropes, icons, and graphic conventions that collectively convey the notion of information to the eye of the beholder.” The consolidation became even more pronounced in the flourishing sub-branch of graphic design known as “information design” or “information architecture.”

Keywords:   cool, design, formalism, modernism, information technology, graphic design, information design, information architecture, knowledge work

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