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WE’RE WE’RE THROUGH BEING COOL A Look at the Design of American New Wave El Paso Museum of Art / April 2014


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The Swiss Poster 1900-1983. World-format (red version), film layering, 1983. Wolfgang Weingart. Zoetrope #7. 1981. Xeno/April Greiman. i-D, no 28. The Art Issue, August 1985. Styled by William Faulkner, design by Terry Jones, photograph by Nick Knight, featuring Lizzy Tear. Museum no. NAL. Best of Jazz Poster. 1979. Paula Scher.

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Kunstkredit Basel. 1980. Wolfgang Weingart. Space. 1976. Dan Friedman. California Institute of the Arts Poster/Mailer, 1978. April Greiman. Cover of WET magazine. 1979. April Greiman and Jayme Odgers

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Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. 1995. Paula Scher. The Diva is Dismissed. 1994. Paula Scher Blade to the Heat by Oliver Mayer, 1994 . Paula Scher Some People. 1994. Paula Scher.

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Does it make sense? 1989. Design Quarterly #133. April Greiman.

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Buzzcock’s Orgasm Addict single, designed by Malcolm Garrett, with artwork by Linda Mulvey/Sterling aka Linder. 1977. The Damned, Music For Pleasure. 1977. Barney Bubbles. Emigre type Specimen Series Booklet No. 4, 2002. Jeffrey Keedy. AIGA NY Fresh dialogue poster from 1996. Stefan Sagmeister.

Unknown pleasures, Joy Division album. 1979. Peter Saville. Power, Corruption & Lies. New Order. 1983. Peter Saville. Total, Joy Division & New Order. Rhino, 2011. Peter Saville. Movement, New Order, Factory Records, 1981. Peter Saville.

This catalogue was designed for the El Paso Museum of Art exhibition, “We’re Through Being Cool: A Look at the Design of American New Wave.” Gathering various elements from the New Wave style, the catalogue was inspired by the movement with a modern approach. The exhibit will be open throughout the month of April 2014. New Wave design was the birth of electronic design, and experimental design. The title of the exhibit was taken from a song by the new wave band, Devo.


Designed by Lesly Limon. 2014. Fonts: Helvetica, 7pt and 9pt, body. Polentical Neon, 16pt titles/headers. Orator STD, 11pt Table of contents. Right Image: April Greiman.Poster for Warner Records, 1982




History of New Wave Design


Graphic Designers of the Postmodern Era


New Wave Design: The Digital Legacy



Introduction Postmodernism, a movement also known as American New Wave, began as a response to clean Swiss design. Graphic Designers were tired of following a strict structure that looked visually appealing, however at the same time, boring and predictable. The postmodern era of graphic design was all about experimenting and breaking the rules of the design grid, it was a reaction to Swiss Design, and it was revolutionary. During this movement, computers became accessible to more individuals and therefore changing type and design, as we know it. While some might argue that the postmodern movement of design was unnecessary or “bad

taste� not even considered design at all, the truth is, that it is a movement that has helped shape design today. The El Paso Museum of Art presents We’re Through Being Cool: A Look at the Design of American New Wave. This exhibit features over 100 works of art by graphic designers of the postmodern era. The American New Wave movement was essentially the birth of combining computers with design and the beginning of experimental design. This exhibit explores the fundamentals of postmodern graphic design, as well as the impact that the movement has had on graphic designers in the United States.



History of New Wave Design Wolfgang Weingart, a Swedish typesetter turned graphic designer, became an important figure in the New Wave design movement, in fact; many designers consider him as the father of the postmodern movement. Weingart played with type in terms of weight size, slant and the limits of readability. His graphic design work also influenced graphic designers in America.

graphic design was popular. This new postmodern style pushed the limits of graphic design being seen as an art, instead of just something used to sell a product or made for a client. In turn, what separates the New Wave movement from the graphic design movements before it, is the technological advances that the postmodern designers had available to them.

Two other designers who were prominent in the postmodern movement, April Greiman and Dan Friedman, studied alongside Weingart. The artist worked together and collaborated on projects.

With computers and the Internet becoming popular, designers of the postmodern era were the first to use Macintosh computers, scanners, video, and digital type. This era of design is unique in a number of ways, it is also heavily influenced by art and music: particularly the punk, alternative and synth music genres.

During the beginning of the New Wave movement, the clean Corporate Style of



Graphic Designers of the Postmodern Era:

Paula Scher Paula Scher started her career as an art director in the 70’s, she attended the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia where she was trained as an illustrator. After working on various projects and at different locations, Scher found a passion for graphic design and she later on became an influential postmodern designer. Scher created a new identity for The Public Theatre in the early 90’s, which gained her major recognition in the design world.

graphic design work involved vibrant colors and a playful use of typography. She played with type in ways that brought her work to a completely different level. Since the beginning of her career, Scher has moved on to creating identities for major companies, including Microsoft and MoMa. Paula Scher was also inducted to the art directors Club hall of fame in 2000.

Her new identity for the Public Theatre was edgy, and had a street art feel to it, which completely changed the face of the program and attracted a larger audience. Scher’s


April Greiman April Greiman is considered to be one of the most influential graphic designers that helped establish the New Wave movement. She was considered by many as one of the first graphic designers to work with computer technology, taking advantage and embracing new technology instead of shunning it. Greiman is also considered the first artist to bring the New Wave movement to the United States. She attended graduate school in Switzerland and learned under Wolfgang Weingart, it was in Switzerland that she learned about what


would later be known as the New Wave Style. Greiman continued to produce influential designs driven with new technology, she also became the director of the graphic design program at the California Institute of the Arts. She has worked on various magazine covers, and projects throughout her career. She later became the director for the graphic design program at Cal Arts and has received numerous awards throughout her profession.


Peter Saville Probably most noted for his record and album cover designs for Factory Records, Peter Saville’s work included album covers for several bands on the Factory Records label, but the ones that achieved the highest level of fame were for New Order and Joy Division. Saville helped establish what record design should look like in the Postmodern era. To this day, he still influences artists and graphic designers.


Although Saville is an artist from the United Kingdom, he had a huge presence in America in regards to the New Wave Movement; especially after the success of Joy Division and New Order. Saville took the graphic design aspect of vinyl design to a new level, proving that artistic covers that were appealing to the eye would sell. To this day, his album covers are still recognized and reproduced. His cover for Unknown Pleasures is probably the most popular, and is a pop culture symbol worldwide.



New Wave Design: The Digital Legacy To this day, the term ‘postmodern’ is thrown around to describe literature, film, design, architecture and more. In graphic design, the influence of the New Wave design has impacted generations of young and old designers alike. Embracing the computer as a vital part of graphic design, while choosing to experiment and take risks really describes the essence of postmodern graphic design. Although short lived, one can see the influence postmodernists had on contemporary design and art today. It is because of this experimental era of design, that graphic designers aren’t afraid to mix media and play around with their work. Not everything has to be clean and neat and adhere to a grid for it to be good design. As a matter of fact, a design can adhere to a grid and still look terrible.

The New Wave movement challenges how art and design relate to each other, it challenges every rule of design and what is correct and incorrect. While some might argue that postmodern design was just a cluttered mess and far from design, it actually challenges individuals to work outside of their comfort zone and to see things differently. It essentially challenges what is art and what is design, and their relation. Type during the postmodern era also changed significantly. During the New Wave movement, it was common to use fonts that were hardly legible or to work with handwritten text. We see this and other influences from the postmodern era of graphic design in contemporary art and design today.



American New Wave Design  

A catalog created for a fictional exhibition at the El Paso museum of Art, featuring designers of the Postmodern era.

American New Wave Design  

A catalog created for a fictional exhibition at the El Paso museum of Art, featuring designers of the Postmodern era.