The question poised my Mr. Naimark is one that goes beyond the World of Art. In fact, I’ve found the parallel question in design is, more often than not, answered with a bias towards the Last Word. Famously, Paul Rand said: “Don’t try to be original. Just try to be good.” 

While new paradigms and designs that buck traditional patterns (Apple 3D Touch, Rap Music in the 80s, The Yale Graphic Style, etc.) are very often scrutinized (even maybe unfairly so) I do not personally believe there’s a choice to be made between the First and Last Word. As Naimark mentions, the latter can not exist without the former. That said, I think it would be honest to speak truthfully about the generally poor craft and quality of First Word items while also being critical of the wrote-ness and lack of innovation present in Last Word works.

It’s a convention in many places where critique is practiced (I’ve experienced it here at the School of Design and working in industry) that the question is first asked What type of feedback is desired? [and will be delivered] — though I don’t believe permission should have to be granted for critique to be given, I do think it’s an astute question to ask oneself before giving the feedback. Because if we can master our consciousness and context awareness, we may just be able to see the value the First Word can bring while appreciating the level of mastery the Last Word has achieved.

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