AW 08 – Graphic Design History

1.1. Why graphic design history is important

TASK: Before starting with the next lessons in the days to come and deep diving into some of the highlights of the modern history of graphic design, it will be beneficial to get a broad overview of the field. Discover the power of imagery with Sean Adams in the LinkedIn Learning Course below. After completion (with some quizzes in between), you’ll receive a LinkedIn Learning Certificate.

Sean Adams managed the AIGA historical archives — the largest collection of graphic design history in the world. In this course, he focuses on the hows and whys of each design movement, detailing the development and evolution of specific styles, techniques, and genres.

Additional task: Before starting the course, get a pencil and a piece of paper ready to draw a horizontal timeline. Make rough notes on the timeline as the course goes on. It does not have to be neat or technically correct in every way! It’s just a way for you to understand how the periods overlapped and influenced each other. Take a picture of your rough timeline just as it is (no need to tidy up) and post it on your blog.

Course: Learning Graphic Design History (2h 16m) by Sean Adams.

Here is timeline

1.2. Suprematism and Constructivism

TASK: Describe the similarities and differences between suprematism and constructivism. There is no prescribed word count; you just need to show that you understand the movements in broad terms.

  • For each of these movements, find examples from their eras and then two contemporary designs you think are influenced by these styles.
  • Explain, in your own words, how you can see the influence of suprematism and constructivism in these modern-day designs.

Similarities between suprematism and constructivism: The similarities between the two styles are that they both use geometric shapes and forms, like circles, squares, lines and rectangles. They are also both abstract.

Differences between suprematism and constructivism: Suprematism is made of shapes and forms by feeling, while constructivism promoted the idea that art had an important social function. 



Contemporary designs influenced by the styles:

You can see the influences of suprematism and constructivism in modern day art, by the usage of geometric forms like, circles, squares, lines and rectangles.

1.3. De Stijl and Bauhaus

TASK: Today we’re taking a break from theory and having some fun with pixel art. Traditionally, pixel art was not seen as art at all; it was merely seen as a way for, particularly video game developers, to use a limited number of pixels to create images.

But it’s really a lot like abstract art: it represents a pictorial element in its simplest, purest form using only squares and flat colours. It forces the creator to focus and isolate only what is most important in an image without providing the finer control you could apply in a more detailed drawing style. Think of it as modern-day Piet Mondrian.

BRIEF: Build a pixel art version of one of the options below as a vector image in Illustrator. The idea is to make something that’s as simple as possible, using a limited number of squares (“pixels”) and flat colours.

Focus only on the most necessary details. Here are two tutorials on how to set up the space in Illustrator and achieve the style:

Option 1: Use any face (your own, a family member’s or even a pet’s), and create a square pixel art avatar. See with what number of limited colours and blocks you can make a recognisable face.

Option 2: Move away from any representational depiction of an image and go completely abstract.

1.4. The international typographic style

TASK: Today you’ll design a simple but striking poster using the Swiss style grid – based on the work of Josef Müller-Brockmann. You can either use InDesign or Illustrator, and the task shouldn’t take longer than an hour – in fact, it should take far less than an hour. You may spend most of your time searching for a perfect photo.

PART 1: Use John McWade’s tutorial below as a guideline.

Video: Swiss style grids, part 2 (6m 54s) by John McWade.

You can use the poster designed during this tutorial in your course assignment leaflet to showcase The International Typographic Style (see your course assignment for more information).

PART 2: Design an A2 poster for a Stavanger Symphony Orchestra concert. The concert consists of two parts. The first is a commission from local composer Ståle Kleiberg who’s known as a composer for grand occasions. The Turangalîla-Symphonie by Messiaen follows the intermission, which according to the composer, is a love song.

Use the Swiss style grid to organise the information and the typeface Helvetica. Place the main focus on the image and heading.

The heading of the poster should be SEASON OPENING.

The rest of the information that needs to feature is the following:

Ståle Kleiberg (born 1958):
Commissioned work for Stavanger anniversary – World Premiere

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992):
The Turangalîla-Symphonie

Andris Poga, conductor
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
Nathalie Forget, ondes martenot

Fartein Valen, Stavanger konserthus

Image: choose a main image to complement the information. You may use a photograph or typography as an image.

Feel free to make more than one poster by simply replacing the image and changing the mood of the design completely.