Monday, February 23, 2009

The Birth of Modern Graphic Design

As signs become increasingly important, minimalism became the norm. Posters communicate propaganda during times of war. Patriotism reflected in service. Futurism embraces the ideas of war and the machine age. Cubism embraces the relationships between forms and representation. This is an exciting time because it is where we begin to see the foundations of graphic design being formed. Many men of this time can be credited with this. Ludwig Hohlwien was a leading master in Plakasil. He was skilled in expressing emotions while reducing naturalism to symbolic messages. Stephane Mallarrre laid the foundation of "orchestral verse". This is when poets begin to consider the arrangement of letter forms as much as the words themselves by arranging the type to enhance it's meaning. There is a huge emphasis on the relationship between form and meaning. Futurism and Cubism come together to form modern graphic design and the Dada movement, started by Tristan Tzara, starts reacting to "a world gone mad". People seek freedom from convention. Duchamp brings into question the values held by people in the arts and challenges them with him work. Heartsfield worked with found images, rearranging them to create something completely different and sometime without meaning at all. Kurt Schwitter, an outsider to the Dada movement, created a movement of his own called Merz where he created extended cubist collages and type experiments that further seperated word from language. And finally, Surrealism challenged the psychie with exercises of freeing the mind and seeking alternate states of reality while modern photographic expression is pioneered by Man Ray.
All of these experiments lead to today's design from photography to type manipulation. It is all directly related to what I myself am currenlty learning in my design and photo classes. The birth of these ideas have formed what I know as graphic design today and it is facinating to see where it has come from and where it has gone. It also inspires a lot of ideas in my own design developments and encourages experimentation on my part to perhaps make my own impact on the direction graphic design is headed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tranforming the System

Art Nouveau was the beginning of the transformation to modernism. Design takes on a system for images and type. Examination of what the purpose of these elements are sparks a change in, what was before, a more sort of chaotic approach to design. This is when ornament becomes structure. Posters are still important to this time of advertisement and the blurring of sexual and provocative lines and limitations. Advertising obsorbs the transformation as most of the works were for product endorsements. Architecture and design merge to birth a new objectivity which distinguishes designers from fine artists. Geometric design begins to emerge which seems to make design more simple yet more complex. Sharp lines appear and linear patterns take shape. Mathematical patterns replace floral gestures. Then begins "new objectivity" where we see design reduced to it's simplest forms once again to create corporate identities and industrial symbols.
The most interesting observation here is how art, in general, keeps being redefined and seems to come full circle. We begin with simple cave drawings to communicate a story to the invention of simple symbols to represent large concepts. In a leap, art opens to new inventions that allow us to communicate on a much larger scale. Once this is established, the experimental stages fuel a disorderly style which is again narrowed back down to it's simplest forms with it's newly added maturity. I wonder if now design has begun to open back up again searching for new discoveries that will then be broken down to another more elegant simplicity. Or if design has plateaued to a more steady steam. In my opinion, with technological advancements, I tend to think it's more likely the former than the latter.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dark Ages of Type and the Revitalization

With the advent of the machine type setting came mass communication. This changed the world dramatically. Various type faces were produced and expressive type became popular. There were "battles in the streets" with poster designs using large type to dominate others. Seeing the possibilities of type bore an almost out of control design style, which was not much of a style at all. It was unruly and without any real design quality. Chromolithography, using lithographic stones to print component colors gave more illustrators jobs and illustrations started to dominate the mass media. Commerce changed the form of type which seemed to strip it of it's historical evolution. Soon advertising agencies emerged and the growth of magazines flourished. Political cartooning was invented as well as the greeting card. While type and design seemed to get out of control, there was finally a period of reflection where William Morris influenced a stepping back to rethink the fundamentals of design.
It seemed to take a lot of bad design to get back to a design structure that is expressive and well thought out. This is indicative of our culture's general tendancy to exploit our resources before realizing it's value. The most interesting part for me was having to go through a really low point in design before the happy turn it takes in really valuing the handmade or what we refer to as 'organic' style today.