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Lecture One - Modernity and Modernism - Notes


This article explain Modernist style in depth and detail and is accompanied by imagery. 

is a trend of thought which affirms the power of human beings to make, improve and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation. The term covers a variety of political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Broadly, modernism describes a series of progressive cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged in the decades before 1914. Embracing change and the present, modernism encompasses the works of artists, thinkers, writers and designers who rebelled against late 19th century academic and historicist traditions, and confronted the new economic, social and political aspects of the emerging modern world.

Lessons From Swiss Style Graphic Design

Also known as International Style, theSwiss Style does not simply describe a style of graphic design made in Switzerland. It became famous through the art of very talented Swiss graphic designers, but it emerged in Russia, Germany and Netherlands in the 1920’s. This style in art, architecture and culture became an ‘international’ style after 1950’s and it was produced by artists all around the globe. Despite that, people still refer to it as the Swiss Style or the Swiss Legacy.
This progressive, radical movement in graphic design is not concerned with the graphic design in Switzerland, but rather with the new style that had been proposed, attacked and defended in the 1920s in Switzerland. Keen attention to detail, precision, craft skills, system of education and technical training, a high standard of printing as well as a clear refined and inventive lettering and typoraphy laid out a foundation for a new movement that has been exported worldwide in 1960s to become an international style

Modernism and Graphic Design

From what I know, graphic design has been around since writing has been around. There has always been some kind of organization of image and text. For the most part, historically, text has been organized in a horizontal or vertical manner. 
However, the term “graphic design” has not been around since the invention of writing. It has only been around since 1922….less than a century. So it is a fairly new form. This was something I didn’t know. I just it assumed it had been around since the beginning of civilization.
Graphic design is really a product of Modernism. According to A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs, it was coined in 1922 by William Addison Dwiggins, a book designer, in 1922. He basically used the term to describe his activities. A graphic designer is someone who brings structural order and visual form to printed communications. 
Of course, today it is not just limited to print. Basically where ever one sees text and image, someone or some people have organized the visuals. The internet, television, film, computer graphics, clothing, and of course printed matter can be included in the definition of graphic design.

Graphic design as a product of modernism

 Visually, if you look at visual communication before 1900 and after 1900, there will be a noticeable difference. Modern graphic design’s roots can be found in Modern Art. 
In a sense, Modernism was a reductive movement. Form was simplified as a way to break from pictorial representation. 
Why this break? The beginning of the 20th century was fraught with radical political, social, cultural and economic changes. It was a revolutionary time. It was a time of radical scientific and technological advances. Life was being forever changed by the invention of the automobie, airplane, motion pictures, radio, high tech weapons (tanks, machine guns, chemical and biological warfare). WW1 shook Europe off of its foundations. New ways of thinking were needed. Marxist theory was the basis of some of there political, social and economic changes. There was a rise of radical political revolutions that spawned the rise of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia. The visual artist felt that the traditions of the past did not represent the time they were living in. Pictorial representation could not capture the changes of the times. Something new was needed. This may be too simplistic but it will do for now.
Movements in early 20th century modernism: Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, De Stijl, Suprematism and Constructivism. 
Expressionism and Fauvism didn’t have much influence on graphic design. I suppose it was considered too primal or subjective. The other movements do seem to have some kind of analytical structure even if some of it looked crude or primitive. There was some kind of intellectual basis….a method to the madness.

This book is Great! The Modernist by Gestalten...

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