American Graphic Design, 1956
The Penrose Annual of 1956 has a feature article entitled “American Graphic Design” by Peter Selz & Robert Kosta. It is quite a comprehensive story of the history of American graphic design from the early 20th century until when it was written for the 1956 publication.
The article outlines the strong influence on graphic design of painting, architecture and the Bauhaus in earlier part of the 20th Century. It also outlines the possible dangers emerging such as:
“One danger felt by many designers stems for an approach to graphic design in terms of visual form in themselves, without regards for their meaning. This leads easily to cut and dried formula layouts with the substitution of a new set of cliches”
The whole article is a fascinating read, as are all of these in-depth articles in the Penrose Annuals. The articles are well worth studying for those interesting in the history and development of graphic design, emerging technologies of this time, and the development of our overall visual language during the 20th Century.
There is also an interesting discussion about the role photography played in graphic design, being a relatively new type of media (for use in graphic design) at this time…..starting with a quote from Morton Godsholl:
“There is a trend toward objective realism in photography in advertising, capturing the instant moment and away from the heavy, retouched, and “parboiled” photos of before”
A quote from Paul Rand however, cautions this new use of photography as a graphic designers tool by stating:
“The extensive use of photography has tended to decrease the recognition value of advertisements. This I believe, may have a tendency to bring back more illustration unless designers are ingenious enough to create new approaches or at least more original solutions”
And further, from Martin Rosenzweig about the use of photography
“A tendency to use strength, however brutal or upsetting to communicate editorial feeling. This takes place in very large, strong photos……strong design work everywhere is sought and used. Thus we seek impact rather than good design alone”
Interestingly, only 2 out of the 20 illustrations in the article use a photograph as part of the design.
This article closes with the quote:
Alvin Lusting feels that “the trend that is most important to me…is the increased formal maturity of the best graphic design. In the hands of a really enlightened practitioner it takes on a creative rigour that starts to leave behind the rather cliche ridded polite modernism of the earlier years. The best work is no longer derivative of the more obvious aspects of painting, but solves its problems in an idiom more integral to itself.