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A Philosophy of Graphic Design: Moving So Fast

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3582 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Every new movement in graphic design played a major historical role and contributed to the latest of today’s digital revolution. From pictographs and the innovation of the alphabetic system to photomontage, it seems that time “flew” by. Appreciate the artists and designers that have made possible the field of graphic design.

What is Graphic Design?

Go beyond the perception of an image into a field of art and design. When I look at art I interpret the image the way I want to, but when I see graphic design I automatically assume propaganda and decipher the message of its designer. My view of graphic design is the different elements selected and certain guidelines followed to display a specific message to its audience. It sets off an emblematic communication in a visual form.

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Modernism in Design

In the 20th century, graphic designers pursued complete freedom for their visual communications and graphic language of form. Contributors in the modern movement of design declared to be anti-art and they developed adverse fundamentals. Their designs reflected a distasted view as a reaction of deficient ethical codes and the world war. Modernism brought the inspirations of cubism, dada (the style and techniques of a group of artists and writers of the early 20th c. who exploited accidental and incongruous effects in their work and who programmatically challenged established canons of art, thought, and morality, ch.13 pg. 2), surrealism, expressionism, and futurism (a revolutionary movement in which all the arts were to test their ideas and forms against the new realities of scientific and industrial society, ch.13 pg. 1) in reference to be relieved of traditional guidelines and phonetic characters of typographic design.

The modernism movement was influenced by Fortunato Depero’s (1892-1960, was among the artists who applied futurist philosophy to graphic and advertising design, he produced a dynamic body of work in poster, typographic, and advertising design, ch.13 pg. 4) work. As a young painter he shifted his designs towards futurism and in 1927 he published Depero futurista.

Calligrammes (poems in which the letterforms are arranged to form a visual design, figure, or pictograph, Ch.13 pg. 2) was a book published in 1918 by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918, French poet who was closely associated with the cubists and was involved in a rivalry with Filippo Marinetti, ch.13 pg. 4) who introduced the concept of different views in the same work.

John Heartfield (1891-1968, was a Berlin Dadaist who held vigorous revolutionary political beliefs and oriented many of their artistic activities toward visual communications to raise public consciousness and promote social change, ch.13 pg. 4) fashioned visual communications to stimulate community attentiveness and improvement. Heartfield used photomontage (the technique of manipulating found photographic images to create jarring juxtapositions and chance associations, ch. 13 pg. 2) as an active propaganda deterrent.

Futurism was a responsive type of poetry that indicated modernism. Futurism also strained poets and graphic designers to reconsider the disposition of the typographic word and its significance.

Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935, founded a painting style of basic forms and pure color that he called suprematism, Ch. 15, 9g. 2) approached futurism and cubism but then created an unintentional style in the belief that the spirit of the art skill was the effect of color and form that it had on a person’s perception.

Suprematism/ Constructivism

The modern-art movements and the interaction requirements of the world war distressed the attitude toward poster design. Futurism’s belligerent and progressive methods were embraced by the Dadaists, de stijl, and constructivists (criticized abstract painters for their inability to break the umbilical cord connecting them to traditional art and boasted that constructivism had moved from laboratory work to practical application, ch.15 pg. 1).

Lucien Bernhard (1883-1972, repainted the proper 19th c. décor of his family’s home while his father was away on a three-day business trip, ch.14 pg. 2) attended Munich Glaspalast Exhibition of Interior Decoration at age fifteen and he also encouraged Plakatstil (the reductive, flat-color design school that emerged in Germany early in the 20th century, ch.14 pg. 1). His captivating perception of colors motivated his paintings. When he ran away from home he became an unsuccessful poet and entered a poster contest; his poster became the first-prize winner after Ernst Growald convinced the jury members that it was brilliant although it was originally vetoed. “This self-taught young artist probably did not realize it at the time, but he had moved graphic communications one step further in the simplification and reduction of naturalism into a visual language of shape and sign.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 14/pg. 270) Bernhard also designed trademarks and typefaces.

The posters of Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949, a leading Plakatstil designer of Munich, ch.14 pg. 3) initiated his career as a graphic illustrator. His initial inspiration was the Beggarstaffs, but unlike the Beggarstaffs and Bernhard, he applied texture and decorative pattern to the shapes of his images and incorporated bold, sans-serif type, which sometimes became part of the image. Later, he introduced gradation and tone to his simple, powerful shapes making them more naturalistic.

After World War I, cubist ideas inspired a new direction in pictorial images called art deco. The influences included cubism, the Bauhaus, and Suprematism (a painting style of basic forms and pure color founded by Kasimir Malevich, ch.15 pg. 1). The modern era’s streamlining, zigzag, and ornamental geometry still fulfilled the desires of art nouveau. Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954, an American graphic designer who worked in London incorporating cubism directly into his work, ch.14 pg. 3) and A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968, a Ukrainian immigrant who played major role in defining the approach of incorporating cubism directly into his work, ch.14 pg. 3) contributed an immense part in defining this new method. Kauffer showed how cubism could be used as a robust communicative impact for graphic design. Cassandre had achieved an integrated structure and brief implication of graphic design.

Other important graphic designers and illustrators of this era offered an unbiased breakdown of the arousing importance of visual fundamentals that was formed during World War II.

Russia held the origins of suprematism and constructivism, although Holland was lured more into the movement of de Stijl. El Lissitzky (influenced by Kasimir Malevich and applied suprematist theory to constructivism in which he transformed suprematist design elements into political symbolism for communication purposes, Ch. 15, pg. 3) brought the ideas of suprematism and constructivism into Western Europe.

De Stijl

Art was not the drive for designers’ everyday goal. The De Stijl (this movement was launched in the Netherlands in the late summer of 1917, ch.15 pg. 2) movement more of considered the everyday goal to be in the essence of art.

“Working in an abstract geometric style the leaders of this movement sought universal laws of equilibrium and harmony for art, which could then be a prototype for a new social order described by Theo van Doesburg (the founder and guiding spirit of the De Stijl movement who had also applied De Stijl principals to architecture, sculpture, and typography, ch.15 pg. 3). The leaders advocated the absorption of pre art by applied art. The spirit of art could then permeate society through architectural, product, and graphic design.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 15/pg. 299) Theo van Doesburg preferred to use sans-serif typefaces in his designs.

“Although influenced by cubism and constructivism, poster designers were conscious of the need to maintain a pictorial reference if their posters were to communicate persuasively with the general public; they walked a tightrope between the creation of expressive and symbolic images on the one hand and concern for the total visual organization of the picture plane on the other.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 14 pg. 269) The impact of modern art presented a type of momentum for graphics and also exposed an unrestrained correlation between design and imagery.

The Bauhaus School of Design

Pursuing a different consensus of art and technology, the Bauhaus School of Design was developed. By 1923 the Bauhaus school accentuated towards rationalism and design for the machine. Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925 because of unresolved issues with the local government.

Under pre-meditated accusations of “un-German” typography and refusing a teaching job, Jan Tschichold (the son of a designer and sign painter in Leipzig, Germany, who applied the new design approaches to a wide audience of printers, typesetters, and designers through his book Die Neue Typographie, ch.16 pg. 3) was arrested by Nazis in 1933. He was known for producing a new style of typography that reflected traditional typography.

“The accomplishments and influences of the Bauhaus school created a viable, modern design movement spanning architecture, product design, and visual communications. A modernist approach to visual education was developed, and the faculty’s class preparation and teaching methods made a major contribution to visual theory. In dissolving the boundaries between fine and applied arts, the school tried to bring art into a close relationship with life by way of design, which was seen as a vehicle for social change and cultural revitalization. The Nazi Party were followers of Adolf Hitler, who wore brown shirts with red armbands bearing a black swastika in a white circle, dominated the Dessau city council, and cancelled Bauhaus faculty contracts in 1932 and the faculty voted to dissolve the school, and on August 10,1932 it closed.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 16/pg. 318)

Piet Zwart (was an architect who had become a typographic designer, as well as a teacher, ch.16 pg. 3) fashioned a mixture of the Dada movement’s joyful essence and de Stijl’s simplicity. Zwart, created the word typotekt, which expressed the working process of the new typography as designs were fabricated from resources in the typecase. In 1933 Zwart was classified among the contemporary geniuses of the graphic design profession.

The New York School

“Many of the pioneers of the New York School were either guest lecturers or served on the faculty of Yale University’s graphic design program. This program contributed to the advancement of graphic design and design education throughout the world, as many of its alumni have become prominent designers and educators.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 19/pg. 382)

Milton Glaser (b. 1929, he created images using flat shapes formed by thin, black-ink contour lines, adding color by applying adhesive color films, Ch. 21 pg. 4) taught design at the school of visual arts in new york. He became highly famous because of his “I Love NY” logo.

Paul Rand (1914-1996, his magazine covers broke with the traditions of American publication design, manipulated visual form and skillful analysis of communications content, reducing it to a symbolic essence without making it sterile or dull, Ch. 19, pg. 2) understood the modern movement completely and began the American advance to modern design. Many artistic individuals were attracted to New York City and brought the driving of creativity during the 20th century. Paul Rand scrutinized a message by communicating it through dynamic visual form, and his incorporation of photography, drawing, and logo. From his success, Rand became an independent designer, especially in trademark and corporate design. His work inspired a generation of designers.

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New York City had been responsive to new ideas and images and in the 1950s-1960s new advances in graphic design were generated from typographic trends. Figurative typography (a playful direction taken by New York graphic designers, letterforms became objects; objects became letterforms, Ch. 19 pg. 1) surfaced among New York graphic designers. Gene Federico (1919-1999, was one of the first graphic designers to delight in using letterforms as images, Ch. 19 pg. 4) directed figurative typography and was one of the first graphic designers who used letterforms as images.

Herb Lubalin (a total generalist whose achievements include advertising and editorial design, trademark and typeface design, posters, and packaging, Ch. 19 pg. 4) expressed the artistic capacity of phototypography, exposing negatives of alphabet characters to photographic papers, and therefore was known as the typographic genius of his time. He looked at characters of the alphabet as a way of giving visual form to a concept or message. Lubalin experimented with the elastic and dynamic qualities of phototypography which strengthened the printed image. Through his work and the founding of International Typeface Corporation (ITC), as well as U&Ic journal, his design styles impacted typographic design greatly in the 1970s.

Corporate Identity

During the 1950s, visual identification systems went further than Trademarks (any name or symbol registered and used by a manufacturer to identify its goods, Ch. 20 pg. 1). The regularity of how a trademark was used showed an efficiency of quality for its identity. “Good design is good business” was the call of supporters in the graphic design society. Some corporate leaders understood that companies needed a desirable design that specifically identified their company to ensure an independent reputation.

American designers integrated corporate identity as a major design movement. The CBS trademark was the most successful trademark of the 20th c. due to the aptitude of art and design in corporate affairs that was understood perfectly by William Golden (1911-1959, CBS art director for almost two decades, Ch. 20 pg. 2) and CBS’s president.

Because they were considered the most legible type family, Unimark’s (an international design firm founded in Chicago, Ch. 20 pg. 4) visual identity systems used Helvetica font and established design programs for many large clients. Unimark rejected personal design and pursued independence through the use of the grid.

To overcome the technical limitations of early television, George Olden (1920-1975, established a graphics department to design on-air visuals for its new television division, he designed the United States postage stamp commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Ch. 20 pg. 3) designed on-air graphics using simple symbolic imagery with an emphasis on concepts that quickly captured the essence of each program.

In order to appeal to the viewer every time, a trademark should contain metaphoric and indistinct components as well as be comprehensible. On the picture to the left you can see an example of a corporate identity manual (a firm’s book of guidelines and standards for implementing its corporate identity program, Ch. 20 pg. 1) for International Paper created by Lester Beall. The distorted letters of I and P, to make a tree symbol, created controversy but continued to be used as a trademark for International Paper.

Postmodern Design

Designers shifted from modern design to a more biased design method of postmodernism (a climate of cultural change that challenged the order and clarity of modern design, Ch. 23, pg. 1). Postmodern designers, dissuaded of the International Typographic Style to pursue an extensive period of design opportunities, found motivation from historical references, decoration, and the vernacular.

There were five key routes that postmodern design took; Swiss postmodern design, new-wave typography (this movement was characterized by a typographic revolt, as practitioners and teachers schooled in the International Typographic Style sought to reinvent typographic design, Ch. 23. Pg. 2), mannerism (stylish art of the 1500s that took liberties with the classical vocabulary of form, Ch. 23, Pg. 1), retro design (this movement was characterized by an uninhibited, eclectic interest in modernist European design, particularly in the decades between the world wars; a flagrant disregard for the rules of proper typography; and a fascination with eccentric typefaces designed and widely used during the 1920s and 1930s, Ch. 23, pg. 2) and vernacular design, and the electronic revolution of the late 1980s.

Experts and teachers that went to the International Typographic Style School sought to reinvent typographic design. Wolfgang Weingart inspired the new direction by his experimental work and teaching which led to the invention of new-wave typography. As a playful geometry character with references to earlier cultures, the Memphis (a new movement in postmodern design of the 1980s; function became secondary to surface pattern and texture, color, and fantastic forms in the lamps, sofas, and cabinets of this movements designers, Ch. 23. Pg. 4) movement was born and stationed San Francisco as a creative center. Retro design first emerged in New York but had spread quickly throughout the world. Vernacular design and artistic and technical expression broadly characteristic of a particular historical period goes hand in hand with retro.

Retro designer Neville Brody (English designer, his typographic configurations project an emblematic authority that evokes heraldry and military emblems, Ch. 23. Pg. 5) reemerged styles of the past. He drew inspiration from the geometric forms of the Russian constructivist artists, as well as the Dada experimental attitudes. Brody emerged as one of the more original graphic designers of the 1980s as he sought to discover an intuitive and logical approach to design. He also designed a series of geometric sans-serif typefaces and emblematic logo designs and his work was widely imitated.

Designers in these movements were allotted to completely join language and historic methods into their work. Postmodernism indicated an essence of freedom and because of the magnifying possibilities; designers became inspired to further experiment.

Digital Revolution

Émigré Magazine

Rudy VanderLans (Dutch graphic designer, 1955- ),

Zuzana Licko (Cz …1986 (creation)

Digital technology obtained widespread recognition from designers however, it was rejected at first. This modern technology generated a process allowing designers to direct color, form, imagery, and space of design.

The editor of Émigré (1984 magazine designed, edited, and published by R. VanderLans, Ch. 24 pg. 2) magazine Rudy VanderLans (b. 1955, Émigré magazine designer/editor, Ch. 24 pg. 5) and typeface designer Zuzana Licko (b. 1961, typeface designer, Ch. 24 pg. 5) adopted digital technology and assessed its artistic potential. Together they emerged successfully and founded Émigré Fonts because of their exploration of the new technology.

“During the 1990s accelerating progress in computers, software, and output devices enabled graphic designers to achieve results virtually identical to those of conventional working methods, for the promise of seamless on-screen color graphics had been fulfilled. Designers explored the unprecedented possibilities of computers and graphics software while at the same interest in handmade and expressionist lettering and images are renewed.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 24/ pg. 495)

David Carson (shunned grid formats and a consistent approach to typographic layout, Ch. 24 pg. 6) transferred his career towards editorial design in the 1980s. He inspired young designers yet was condemned by others because of his vague work. Constant developments in digital technology will continue to change the communications industry. “A process of redefining the very nature of communications, work, authorship, display media, and graphic design is underway.” (Meggs and Purvis, Ch. 24/pg. 530)

Intertwined with Graphic Design

Each movement contributed to the development and progression of graphic design. Graphic design is a more defined process than art and is considered a commercial implication that focuses on visual communication and arrangement. Each new era increased the literacy of designers and improvised modern changes to establish a broader communication with the audience in a more innovative state. All the previous movements before the digital revolution made me realize that graphic design is more than art and is widely used. The metaphor that each graphic design imitates is fun an element that is not always expected or even appreciated by most people. I think that corporate identity, trademarks, and logos are probably the most common and easily found types of graphic design. As for the future, it will only get more creative and graphic design has the capability to ensure new innovation and complexity that will “blow us away”.


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