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after Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore


No, no, no. Wait. I’ve got it all wrong. It wasn’t God who came along. It was John Ruskin. But If you were to look a picture of an older John Ruskin, you’d see how one might get the two mixed up. Sorry. Where were we. Right. The Earth was void of form and then John Ruskin came along. John was an artist and a writer and a dreamer and a raving socialist. Ruskin believed that industrialization had isolated the artist from the society they were supposed to be serving. He said this “We have much studied and much perfected, of late the great civilized invention of the division of labor; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men: divided into mere segments of men- broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail.” Industrialization had broken apart the craftsmen and resulted in a lack of care for manufactured products. He called for a return to craftmanship. “the painter should grind his own colors, the architect work in the mason’s yard with his men”. others frustrated with the dimminishing quality of manufactured goods answered the call with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Private presses started appearing across England that returned to a focus on craftmanship and artistry. Emery Walker and T.J. Cobden-Sanderson founded the Dove Press that produced an inpecablly designed volumes. This page here is taken from the layout of the Dove Press Bible, though this is not the typeface they used. Sanderson so coveted the Doves Type he created that he didn’t want anyone to use it after his death. So at the age of 72 he made 100 seperate trips by bike and committed it to the Thames.

William Morris took John Ruskin’s ideas and built a house. Disgusted by manufactured industrialized furniture, Morris set out to build a house where each item in the house was made personally by himself. The Red House in Bexleyheath, England was the physical embodiment of John Ruskin’s philosophy. Designed by Morris in 1859 with the help of architecht Phillp Webb. Morris went on to found the Kelmscott Press, a private press focused on craftmanship that influenced generations of designers to come after him.

“William Morris pleaded well for simplicity as the basis of all true art. Let us understand the significance to art of that word SIMPLICITY for it is vital to the Art of the Machine”. Frank Lloyd Wright. 1901

William Morris. 1890

Aubrey Beardsley. 1893

Bruce Rogers. 1915

Eric Gill. 1931

William Morris. 1893

In 1877 Arthur H. Mackmurdo met Wiliam Morris. 26 at the time Mackmurdo was incredibly influend by Morris’s theories about handicraft and applying design to every aspect of life. In 1882 Mackmurdo founded the Century Guild along with likeminded designers Selwyn Image and Herbert Thorne. In 1884 The Century Guild put out the first issue of Hobby Horse, the first magazine focused on design printed with the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Mackmurdo’s organic winding forms laid the foundation for the style of Art Nouveau that would spread through Europe and America in the coming years.

Arthur H. Mackmurdo. 1883

“I see everything in a

grotesque way.

When I go to the theatre, for example, things shape themselves before my eyes just as a I draw them — the people on the stage, the footlights, the queer faces and garb of the audience in the boxes and stalls. They all seem weird and strange to me. Things have always impressed me in this way� Aubrey Beardsley. 1894

Aubrey Beardsley. 1893

Authur H. Mackmurdo and Aubrey Beardsley as well as many other artists in the late 1800s were heavily influenced by Japanese art. The stark contrast between white space and dark areas are quite obvious in both Mackmurdo and Beardsley’s work, as well as the winding organic lines, often exagerated. It is these things that paved the road for Art Nouveau, literally New Art, in France. Artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec learned how to depict things not as they were but as they felt. After two seperate leg accidents that left him deformed, Lautrec took to drawing and later to drinking. He spent most of his adult life hanging around Race Track, Cabarets, and Whorehouses. Always drawing and always drinking, trying to deal with the disease and accidents that left him crippled and four and a half feet tall.

Kitagawa Utamaro. 1788

“I paint things as they are. I don’t comment. I record.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 1893

Jules Cheret is the father of the modern poster. An artist as prolific as he was talented, in the late 1800s his colorfuly seductive posters lined the streets of Paris and left and indelable mark on how we use posters. The son of a typesetter he left his home in Paris to seek success in London, but all he found was a job drawing pictures for the Maple Furniture Company. He returned to Paris to champion Lithographic Posters as a means to replace the old worn out style of strictly type based posters and playbills. Soon the trend caught on and the walls of Paris became inundated with these colorful New Art posters.

Jules Cheret. 1889

By 1889 both Lautrec and Beardsley would be dead. Beardsley taken by the Tuberculosis that loomed over his short adult life, and Lautrec a victim of the bottle. Art Nouveau had made a quick spread throughout the world but was already on the fade by the turn of the century. In Germany where it was known as Jugendstil, named for the magazine that popularized it, it was quickly being replaced by the style of the Vienna Seccession. The new Seezessionstil took the flowing organic forms brought out in art nouveau and combined them with the rigid tradition of German design. The result was a clean but striking look that unmistakably influenced the clean grid based style that pervades modern design.

Cheret and Lautrec

Gustav Klimt. 1902

An Orphan and an Architect, Peter Behrens added upon the rigidity of the Vienna Secession, operating by a strict grid of concentric circles and squares. Behrens made countless designs using grids like this one. Favoring sans serif typefaces and evocative white space, Behren’s design stands as an example of modern design before its time.

Peter Behrens. 1907

F.T. Marinetti. 1909



Elio Luxardo. Portrait of Marinetti. 1935

We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.

We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds. F.T. Marinetti. 1909

There’s a handwritten document in existence where Marinetti claims that nearly every modern movement came from Futurism: Constructivism, Dadism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism. While this is quite presumptuous and pompous of him, it’s not far off. The futurists laid an example on how to break out of the margins and to get a bit weird. The following page is a 1919 poem by Marienetti. About a girl reading a letter from her man in the trenches of World War I, something Marinetti was closely familiar with.

Lucien Bernhard. 1912

Lucian Bernhard, kicked out of his home by his father after a painting spree in which he painted every piece of furniture in their victorian home bright modern colors, went on to initiate a striking new style known as Plakatstil, or Poster Style. Legend has it that Bernhard made this poster in a contest for Priester Matches. After painting a large scene with men smoking cigars and scantily clad broads abound a friend had trouble figuring out what the ad was for. So Bernhard starting painting out all that was unnecissary. The broads, the men, the cigars, until all that was left was the name and the matches.

Lucien Bernhard. 1905

“This then is the scribe’s direct purpose : the making of useful things legibly beautiful.” Edward Johnsoton. Designer of the London Underground Signage

A.M. Cassandre. 1932

“Designing is not a profession but an attitude. Design has many connotations. It is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain func-

tion. It is the intergration of technological, social, and economical requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of materials, shape, color, volume and space. Thinking in relationships.� Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Dessau Bauhaus Building. Walter Gropius. 1926

Bauhaus Manifesto

The ultimate aim of all creative activity is a building! The decoration of buildings was once the noblest function of fine arts, and fine arts were indispensable to great architecture. Today they exist in complacent isolation, and can only be rescued by the conscious co-operation and collaboration of all craftsmen. Architects, painters, and sculptors must once again come to know and comprehend the composite character of a building, both as an entity and in terms of its various parts. Then their work will be filled with that true architectonic spirit which, as “salon art”, it has lost. The old art schools were unable to produce this unity; and how, indeed, should they have done so, since art cannot be taught? Schools must return to the workshop. The world of the pattern-designer and applied artist, consisting only of drawing and painting must become once again a world in which things are built. If the young person who rejoices in creative activity now begins his career as in the older days by learning a craft, then the unproductive “artist” will no longer be condemned to inadequate artistry, for his skills will be preserved for the crafts in which he can achieve great things.


Lazslo Maholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius at the Chicago Bauhaus. 1938

Architects, painters, sculptors, we must all return to crafts! For there is no such thing as “professional art�. There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. By the grace of Heaven and in rare moments of inspiration which transcend the will, art may unconsciously blossom from the labour of his hand, but a base in handicrafts is essential to every artist. It is there that the original source of creativity lies. Let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen without the class-distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together. It will combine architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single form, and will one day rise towards the heavens from the hands of a million workers as the crystalline symbol of a new and coming faith. Walter Gropius. 1919

Lazslo Maholy-Nagy. 1927

Herbert Bayer. 1926

In 1931, Nazi pressure forced the Bauhaus to close. But the teachings of the Bauhaus continued on in the practices of it’s dispersed falculty and students. The ideas of the Bauhaus carried on in the mind of Jan Tschichold. The son of a sign painter, Tschichold applied the ideas he saw at the Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar to what he called the New Typography.

Iwao Yamawaki. 1932

“Perfect typography is certainly the most elusive of all arts. Sculpture in stone alone comes near it in obstinacy.�

Jan Tschichold

Abraham Bosse. 1642

Jan Tschichold. 1927

“Ladislav Sutnar was a progenitor of the current practice of information graphics, the lighter of a torch� Steven Heller

Ladislave Sutnar. 1930

Ladislav Sutnar. 1950

Herbert Bayer. 1953

“There are various reasons for using the grid as an aid in the organization of text and illustration. Economic reasons: a problem can be solved in less time and at lower cost. Rational reasons: both simple and complex problems can be solved in a uniform and characteristic style. Mental attitude: the systematic presentation of facts, of sequences of events, and of solutions to problems should, for social and educational reasons, be a constructive contribution to the cultural state of society and an expression of our sense of responsibility.� Josef Muller-Brockmann

Josef Muller-Brockmann. 1953

“If you have no intuitive sense of design, then call yourself an “information architect” and only use Helvetica.” David Carson

Josef Muller-Brockmann. 1960

The simplicity and cleanliness of swiss design spread with ease throughout the world. It’s use of grid systems and creative utilization of white space made it easy to execute. It caught like wild fire and since it’s inception in the 50s it has maintained a steady and unmoving presence in every decade of design.

Rudolph Deharak. 1961

But for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. I think Newton said that. From the 50s to the 70s the world was on fire with social change and war. Something not reflected in the scientific and structured Swiss design. A need grew for an opposition to the clean corporate design that was so incessantly prevelant at the time. In 1954 Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast founded Push Pin Studios in New York, New York. Push Pin served as a means to represent the counter culture that was crying out for representation in the mainstream.

Quentin Fiore and Marshall McLuhan. 1968

Milton Glaser. 1967

And everybody’s shouting “Which Side Are You On?” Bob Dylan

Wes Wilson. 1967

Josef Muller-Brockmann. 1961

Rudolph Deharak. 1960s

Peter Max. 1970

Paula Scher, a designer heavily influenced by Push Pin Studios and two time wife of Seymour Chwast, put it this way: “Be culturally literate, because if you don’t have any understanding of the world you live in and the culture you live in, you’re not going to express anything to anybody else.”

Seymour Chwast. 1967

Saul Bass, a constant artist, had work that ranged from posters to logos, movie titles to album covers. Bass’s work was modern yet playful. Always clean and never too abstract. His work and his approach to how a designer should work influenced many who walk in his footsteps.

Saul Bass. 1955

“I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares”

Saul Bass Logos

“Design is thinking made visual.� Saul Bass

“Design is Everything. Everything!” Paul Rand

Paul Rand. 1954

With the advent of the common personal computer in the 1980s and visual editing software, came the age of digital design. If not for computers I would not have been able to make this book. Sure John Ruskin and William Morris might not care for it, remember them? But in making things easier it has made experimentation and testing easier which makes for a more refined product. But that’s just my opinion.

“Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking� Milton Glaser

David Carson. 1996

“It’s not about knowing all the gimmicks and photo tricks. If you haven’t got the eye, no program will give it to you.” David Carson

David Carson. 1996

“In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only: making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.� Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Paula Scher. 2001

This is Edward Johnston in 1902. This picture was taken at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where he taught alongside T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, Remember Sanderson? There’s a story about the two of them. Or just a joke, or a rumor. Whether or not it’s true isn’t important, becuase it’s funny. It goes like this. A few days before Christmas the teachers and students decided to have a suarez to celebrate the year passed. Johnston filled a punch bowl up with Coca-Cola. Disgusted upon tasting, Sanderson poured his flask of brandy into the bowl, behind the back of Johnston. Sanderson advised all the students to do the same while he distract Johnston. Keep in mind that up until 1903 Coca-Cola contained 9 milligrams of cocaine. Johnston woke up the next morning with a n aching head and a note demanding he meet with the principal. The principal went on about how untolerable last nights ruction was and how someone pissed out the window. Quick to take responsibility, Johnston said it was him, and the principal said “If it was you, Johnston, then why was it in Eric Gills handwriting?”. Anyhow, whether or not that did or didn’t happen Johnston did say this: “A man who don’t know history. He don’t know anything.” And that is true. Edward Johnston. 1902

Saul Bass. 1955

Design. A History  

A brief history of graphic design from the late 1800s to the late 1900s, highlighting the way art overlaps itself in time and ghosts always...

Design. A History  

A brief history of graphic design from the late 1800s to the late 1900s, highlighting the way art overlaps itself in time and ghosts always...