tHe grOWth of GrapHIC deSIGN

The Growth of Graphic Design Feb, 9th 2011

Today’s lecture was a journey into the graphic design practice during the years that saw the shift between modernism and post-modernism, with focus on designer and works amid 1960 and 1990 – this long was the time needed for the actual change from the extravagant but not very relevant hippies’ works to the cutting edge works of designer such as David Carson and Nouville. Although an initial briefing about the post-modernism reactionary movement the lecture has progressed with a focus on the practices of four notoriously modernism oriented designers such as Brockmann, Fletcher, Rand and Chermayeff – it will now follow a brief description of their thoughts and beliefs as well as examples of work of each of them.

Josef Muller Brockmann was a Swiss born designer that led the graphic design community throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s being one of the founders of the concrete movement in Swiss as well as the more international and broadly known modernism. His works have been influenced initially by the Russian constructivism (intensively exploiting the 45 degree concept) as well as having continuous relations with the major exponent of the Bauhaus school in Weimer, Germany. During the 30s he has also been exploring the technique of photomontage with great results and different campaigns (the most famous is the one related to the “Road Safety” with the creation of extremely effective poster), many followed his style. Simplicity and mathematical thinking were his prerogative with carefully balanced works that transmit and reflect a thoughtful process behind the design. Lots to learn from this artist.

Paul Rand was an American born graphic designer, one of the five most influential designers of the 20th century. After studying at Pratt in New York and a series of other courses he moved on in the working environment with a career built from scratches with lots of minor assignment that strengthened his talent, among this the art direction of the “Direction” helped him growing incredibly. The biggest leap forward for his career has been the widely known collaboration and realization of the corporate identity for IBM that made him famous worldwide, one of his primary strength was his ability as a salesman to explain the needs his identity would address for the corporation. At a certain point in the 70s IBM was blindly entrusting every design decision to him, without his consent nothing would have gone through. Among others he has collaborated with ABC and UPS. He undoubtedly professed and fostered the principles and philosophy of modernism with the belief for “functional-aesthetic perfection”, with Heller calling him “an enemy of mediocrity, a radical modernist”.

Alan Fletcher is considered amongst the most influential post-war British graphic designer, with his ever witty and creative approach to creative solution of real tangible visual matters. Originally from Kenya where he actually born in 1931, he then moved at young age to London where he undertook many different schools of art; a major twist to his professional career was the decision to move to the US where from the 1956 he deeply devolve himself to the fostering of graphic design practice absorbing as much as he could of the cutting edge US graphic design. During this time he meet the most influential artist practising and pushing boundaries of modernism and graphic communication such as Paul Rand, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar; while studying he also won different competition. Back in Europe he settled back in London where in partnership with Bob Gill he founded the `Fletcher/Forbes/Gill`, the design studio grew incredibly in the sixties with many important client such as BP and Penguin expanding both in notoriety and consequentially member till the 1971 when the agency changed his name to Pentagram representing the 5  main figures of the studio.  He created iconic branding identity throughout his career with the common witty  touch of personal creativity that made him stand out through the crowd for over 3 decades. I personally consider him neither a modernism nor a post-modernism; since he bridged the two main eras of graphic design. You can easily find modernist influences in his work with a precise typography following severe grids although his work are often twisted by hand made incursion and stylistic intervention that wouldn’t ever be allowed by the strict modernist lobby. His lateral thinking is always been innovative and out of restrictive and limiting convention, constantly taking risk in order to get to a better, freer understanding of graphic design.

Chermayeff and Geismar firm is a consolidated agency working with big corporates in order to create representative identities that “communicates the client’s message clearly, imaginatively and effectively, using the entire visual arsenal to create striking expression”.  With client such as Mobil, Guggehaim museum, Knoll, NationalGeographic just to cite some, you have to have an awareness of all the possible cultural involvement and problem as well as creative and cutting edge solution to actively engage and satisfy a demanding client. Having artistically grown in the sixties a deep and profound modernist root can be detected in their work although a decisive shift in beliefs and practices have taken place throughout the end of the century with works that fits just perfectly in the nowadays design landscape made of an outstanding variety of creative solution with the exploitation of different medium to grab the attention of an always more accustomed and bored audience.

http://www.designishistory.com/1940/joseph-mueller-brockmann/

http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature.php?id=51&fid=163

Josef Mu¨ller-Brockmann : pioneer of Swiss graphic design / edited by Lars M

Geometry of design : studies in proportion and composition / Kimberly Elam

Grids : the structure of graphic design / André Jute

The art of looking sideways  Alan Fletcher

http://www.alanfletcher.net/

http://www.cgstudionyc.com/

http://www.designishistory.com/1960/chermayeff–geismar/

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