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9 771473 I s s u e 01

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New ViSual Language Fo r m Fo l l o ws Fu n ct i o n


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what is modernism? Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped Modernism was the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief. Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, and activities of daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. A notable characteristic of Modernism is selfconsciousness, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realismand makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody. Some commentators define Modernism as a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. From this perspective, Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was ‘holding back’ progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end. Others focus on Modernism as an aesthetic introspection. This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and antitechnological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche to Samuel Beckett.

This piece of design work falls under the Modernist category, because of the obvious structure that follows rules created by the Bauhaus and Modernism Movement. “Modernism was a commitment against greed, commercialization, exploitation, vulgarization, cheapness” - Massimo Vingelli. You can see that the entire image has been designed to line up to invisible guides, giving it a clean and easily legible structure. I think it’s a really successful example of Modernist Graphic Design work, especially for the period, as you can easily follow and understand the image created by the designer and it has been created with function in mind before form. I really like the poster design, because of how well it has stuck to the design rules set in the period of time, and in my opinion the aesthetics of the piece compliment the function. This poster design is quite obviously an example of Modernist Design work. Firstly, it quite obviously follows the principle

proclaimed by Adolf Loos “Form Follows Function’, because

of the lines that have been added into the design to prove the

use of guides and rulers - the weight of the lines are the same as the typeface weight, so they line up really nicely with the letter U in FUTURA, which makes it legible. I think that this

poster is extremely successful as it is really easy to read and understand. I’m not quite sure what the random geometric shapes are used for, however they compliment the design

and make it more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I like this poster, however I don’t really like how the A seems to have

fallen onto it’s side, as I think this might have been a bit too experimental for the design era. I would say that this poster design suits the modernist period, mainly because of the simple and legible

type used for the information in the poster. The large

decorative design itself isn’t very legible, and I wouldn’t associate this with Modernism straight off, however

after looking at the poster for quite some time, you can see particular similarities between this and the work of the Bauhaus. For instance, the constantly joined typeface looks like it has derived from the curved

Bauhaus font and the colours are all quite recognisable and similar to that of the poster at the top of my

research. I think that it's a really successful poster

design and attracts the audience’s attention with the decorative, bold colours on the cream background.

This design by Josef Muller-Brockmann is quite obviously a

modernist example of design work. due to the simplicity of the

layout and colours within the design, as well as the use of sans serif typeface. I like how the poster has been stripped down so much that it is literally just a small bit of important information

to read and the title of the exhibition, yet Muller-Brockmann has

decided to play with legibility of the the title Der Film so that you can still fully understand the poster, yet it is still attractive to the

eye and not just simply some type on a blank canvas. The design differs from the other designs above a lot - the use of the colours are the same, but have been used to make the colour black

more prominent than the cream, red or green unlike the Bauhaus design at the top where the background is cream.

art nouveau A

rt Nouveau was an artistic movement which peaked in popularity between 1890 and 1905 which was practiced in the fields of art, architecture and applied art. It is a French term meaning “new art� and is characterized by organic and plant motifs as well as other highly stylized forms. The organic forms often took the form of sudden violent curves which were often referenced by the term whiplash. Its short success was a reaction against the late 19th century academic art and was replaced by the development of 20th century modernist styles. Relative to graphic design it was popular in book production and poster printing, although it was used by artists for a variety of other types of work including advertisements, magazines, labels and typography. The typography was so heavily ornate that it was not desirable for text faces but great for display work.

futurism Futurism was not only an art movement but also a social movement that developed in Italy in the early 20th century. Futurists were well versed and practiced in nearly every field of art including painting, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, theater, film, literature, music and architecture. It was a movement that particularly despised not just certain aspects of classical antiquity, but everything that was not totally new. The painters of Futurism were particularly successful but much of the ideas of the movement were generated through writing and several manifestos of futurism were published. They often broke light and color down into a series of dots or geometric forms through a process called divisionism. Futurism influenced many modern art movements of the 20th century which in turn influenced the development of graphic design. The writings, philosophies and aesthetic characteristics of futurism have been particularly influential to designers.



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DADA Dada was a cultural movement that was concentrated on anti-war politics which then made its way to the art world through art theory, art manifestoes, literature, poetry and eventually graphic design and the visual arts. The movement, although Dadaists would not have been happy calling it a movement, originated in Switzerland and spread across Europe and into the United States, which was a safe haven for many writers during World War I. An anti-art movement, Dadaists attempted to break away from the styles of traditional art aesthetics as well as rationality, of any kind. They produced a great many publications as a home for their writings and protest materials which were handed out at gatherings and protests. The visual aesthetics associate with the movement often include found objects and materials combined through collage.

surrealism Surrealism was a movement established by Poet Andre Breton who referred to himself as the head by publishing the Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924 Paris. Modernism has been subdivided into multiple divisions, either by art historians looking back or by the artists themselves who gathered under umbrellas of particular philosophies.

Surrealism was much influenced by Freudian theories of the subconscious and free-association. Visual artists worked to overcome their conscious imagery through techniques such as automatic drawing, free association, and a type of community composition called the Exquisite Corpse (cadavre exquis) in which different artists added to the piece in what quilters would call a Round Robin. Surrealism often featured strange combinations of images, such as Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined tea cup. They could be humorous or unsettling, ironic or confusing---often in combination. Dreams and hallucinations inspired surrealist imagery, which often featured machine-age contraptions that could be impish and threatening at the same time. Like minimalism, surrealism had a lot of rules. In New York in 1941 Breton fired Robert Motherwell from a surrealist publication because he’d sent hand-etched Christmas cards. “Breton said he’d been fighting the bourgeoisie all his life and we were vipers in his bosom,” recalled another artist who was “just thrown out.” Other artists hated being labeled as surrealists, but then most people dislike being labeled in any way. Whether the artists sought the label or rejected it, their view of the world and consciousness left a lasting legacy.







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uprematism found its base in the application of the fundamental geometric forms., particularly the square and the circle. It originated in 1915 in Russia and was established by Kazimir Malevich. The movement also expressed an interest in concepts that related to noneuclidean geometry, which imagined forms moving through space. A non-objective style of art its simplification of form and use of geometry influenced, among many other things, the development of Constructivism and the Bauhaus.



Lissitzky was a Russian bo r n


de s i g n e r ,

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p h o t o g r a p h e r a n d a r c h i t e c t w h o de s ig ned m any exhi bi t i o n s a n d p r o p a g a n da f o r t h e So v i e t Uni o n i n the ea r l y 2 0 t h c e n t u r y . H i s de v e l o p m e n t o f t h e i deas b ehi nd the S upr em a t i s t a r t m o v e m e n t w e r e v e r y i n f l u e n t i a l i n the develo p m ent of the B a uh a u s a n d t h e C o n s t r u c t i v i s t a r t m o vem ents . Hi s s tyli s ti c cha r a cter istic s a n d e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n w i t h p r o du c t i o n tec hni q ues develo p ed in the 19 20s a n d 3 0 s h a v e be e n a n i n f l u e n c e o n gr ap hi c des i g ner s s i nc e. In his early years he developed a style of painting in which he used abstract geometric sha pes, w hich he r e f e r r e d t o a s “p r o u n s �, t o de f i n e the s p ati al r elati o ns hi p s o f his compositions . Th e s h a p e s w e r e de v e l o p e d i n a 3 - di m ens i o nal s p ac e, that o ften contained varying perspectives, which was a direct contrast to the ideas of suprematist t heor ies w hich st r e s s e d t h e s i m p l i f i c a t i o n o f s h a p e s a nd the us e o f 2 D s p ac e o nly. H e mov ed a r oun d i n t h e 1 9 2 0 s a n d s p e n t t i m e i n bo th G er m any as a c ultur al r epr esenta tiv e o f R u s s i a a n d, a f t e r h e w a s di a gno s ed wi th p ulm o nar y tub er cul osis, Sw i t z e r l a n d i n a Sw i s s s a n a t o r i u m . B ut thi s never s to p p ed him fr om w o r k i n g a s h e c o n t i n u e d t o p r o du c e p r o p ag anda p o s ter s , b ook s, b u i l di n g s a n d e x h i bi t i o n s f o r t h e So v i e t Uni o n. i n 1 932 Stali n d em a n de d t h a t a r t i s t s c o n f o r m t o m u c h s t r i c ter g ui deli nes or be bl a c k l i s t e d, L i s s i t z k y m a n a g e d to r etai n hi s p o s i t i o n a s h e a d o f e x h i bi t i o n s . I n 1 941 hi s t u be r c u l o s i s



c a u s e d h i s de a t h .



dolph Frederick Reinhardt (“Ad” Reinhardt) was an Abstract painter active in New York beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s. He was a member of the American Abstract Artists and was a part of the movement centered on the Betty Parsons Gallery that became known as Abstract Expressionism. He was also a founding member of the Artist’s Club. He wrote and lectured extensively on art and was a major influence on conceptual art, minimal art and monochrome painting. Most famous for his “black” or “ultimate” paintings, he claimed to be painting the “last paintings” that anyone can paint. He believed in a philosophy of art he called Art-as-Art and used his writing and satirical cartoons to advocate for abstract art and against what he described as “the disreputable practices of artists-as-artists”.



rmin Hofmann is a Swiss graphic designer. He began his career in 1947 as a teacher at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel School of Art and Crafts at the age of twenty-six. Hofmann followed Emil Ruder as head of the graphic design department at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel and was instrumental in developing the graphic design style known as the Swiss Style. His teaching methods were unorthodox and broad based, setting new standards that became widely known in design education institutions throughout the world. His independent insights as an educator, married with his rich and innovative powers of visual expression, created a body of work enormously varied - books, exhibitions, stage sets, logotypes, symbols, typography, posters, sign systems, and environmental graphics. His work is recognized for its reliance on the fundamental elements of graphic form - point, line, and shape - while subtly conveying simplicity, complexity, representation, and abstraction. Originating in Russia, Germany and The Netherlands in the 1920’s, stimulated by the artistic avant-garde and alongside the International Style in architecture. He is well known for his posters, which emphasized economical use of colour and fonts, in reaction to what Hofmann regarded as the “trivialization of colour.” His posters have been widely exhibited as works of art in major galleries, such as the New York Museum of Modern Art. He was also an influential educator, retiring in 1987. In 1965 he wrote the Graphic Design Manual, a popular textbook in the field.


9 771473 I s s u e 01


A pr i l / M ay ‘ 1 4

£3. 95

New ViSual Language Fo r m Fo l l o ws Fu n ct i o n

Modernism Research by Francesca Critchley

New Visual Language: Modernism Research Document