Multihyphenation is a compound term referring to alternate modes of creative production: “Collab” culture; “brand X brand” projects; and multiple, or even opaque styles of attribution and ownership among the individuals, studios, and practices that engage in such work. For them, the “body of work” they produce matters more than maintaining a singular creative identity as an individual designer, architect, artist, and so on. As Virgil Abloh – the consummate multihyphenate – remarked in a recent interview, “it’s explicitly the fact that I split my time among many things that gives me the point of view to know that what I’m doing is relevant.” Which is to say, one way of navigating a world dominated by multinational corporate firms and global brands is simply to become a multiplicity: architect-hyphen-curator-hyphen-art director-hyphen-furniture designer-hyphen-theorist-hyphen-fashion designer, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
The 51st issue of Harvard Design Magazine, “Multihyphenate,” is edited by Sean Canty, Assistant Professor of Architecture, and John May, Associate Professor of Architecture, both from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Zeina Koreitem, design faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc). The guest editors have invited an international group of architects, curators, fashion designers, scholars, and artists to question the issue’s theme from different vantagepoints. Is multihyphenation actually new? SUPERSTUDIO, Rem Koolhaas, Denise Scott Brown, the Eameses, Eileen Gray, even Le Corbusier (the list is endless) – weren’t they all, in some way or another, multihyphenates? Or is something different happening today? Is multihyphenation a legitimate political response to present conditions, or must it always devolve into a cynical branding strategy? And crucially, is this model of practice allowing marginalized voices in the design fields to have more presence? Were there multihyphenates in the past who were overlooked in their own time, precisely for their marginal status?
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A highlight of the issue is a visual folio featuring more than 40 multihyphenated works that exemplify complex strategies for navigating creative practice today. The folio is a conceptual anchor of the print publication, designed by Copenhagen-based cross-disciplinary office Alexis Mark. “Multihyphenate” employs AM Explorer, an issue-specific typeface developed by Alexis Mark as an homage to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, which was retired in 2022.