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A Real Ax to Grind

A few weeks ago, I received an automated e-mail from the feedback form on my beta site home page. It wasn’t from someone I know, nor was it a feedback on my beta site, either. It was from a Mr. Stephen Eskilson. Based on the content of his comment and a little Googling research, I found out that this Mr. Stephen Eskilson was the author of Graphic Design: A New History. It turns out that he had read my Christmas wish list on Flush, where I had crossed off his book from my list because I read in a guest review on Design Observer that the book wasn’t that good.

Mr. Eskilson suggested that I check it out from a library and give it a real look myself. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and trying to be fair with everyone’s work, I immediately looked up his book on my local library’s website. There was one available at the library near my work, so I decided to go to work early and check out the book before starting my shift. But after about twenty minutes of looking around the library, including with the help of a library staff, it turns out that the book was missing. Frustrated at my search and at Mr. Eskilson’s comment, I gave up and went to work.

That was seven weeks ago. I haven’t done anything about it since, but I don’t see a real urgency to do so. A little more research revealed that Mr. Eskilson is an associate professor in the Art Department at Eastern Illinois University, specializing in Art History, according to the school’s website. And with a reread of the review, I’ve come to a temporary conclusion that Mr. Eskilson sees graphic design from an art history perspective and may not fully understand the mind and the essence of graphic design.

Now, I may not be as educated in art history and in life as Mr. Eskilson, nor do I know how much graphic design experience Mr. Eskilson has had, but I am more inclined to take the word of a graphic designer than that of an art historian when it comes to the subject of graphic design. Still, Mr. Eskilson deserves a fair review from me before I make my final decision on whether I should have this book in my design library. After all, Mr. Eskilson approached me in a relatively polite manner and closed his letter with “best, Stephen.” And I just discovered yesterday that his book is available again at the library, so I will most likely check it out in the next few weeks or so.

I won’t post what was said in Mr. Eskilson’s comments, although he mentioned that I might find one of the reviewers “had a real ax to grind.” I might risk looking stupid, but I honestly don’t know what that really means. I know it’s not something good, but other than that I’m stumped (semi-pun semi-intended).


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