PARALLEL The Mid-Century Modern Issue
PARALLEL The Mid-Century Modern Issue
INTRODUCTION Mid-Century modern design has recently had a strong resurgence in popularity. Excitement over the Mid-Century trends can be seen most clearly in interior design, fashion, and the hit TV series Mad Men. The clean lines, sharp dress, simple form, and dramatic architecture of the era have an undeniable aesthetic appeal, but there is much more to Mid-Century modernism than sexy suits and wire chairs. This magazine breaks down Mid-Century modern design into eight categories and explains why they are more than just aesthetic trends; they are part of a living ideal that still touches every aspect of the modern Americanâ€™s life.
QUICK BACKGROUND Because of the fighting and persecution that covered Europe during WWII, many talented modernist designers fled from Europe to find refuge in America. After the war, these minds played a huge role in rebuilding America out of the dust of the depression into a new era of optimism, efficiency, and good design. If good design is a balance of aesthetics and utility, then the craft peaked during these post-war years between 1945 and 1970. In order to find harmony between the natural and the man made, artists and craftsmen created objects that served their purpose with organic grace. The Mid-Century modern movement became both a historical milestone and a living ideal that is still reflected in todayâ€™s furniture, architecture, and design.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
Publication Advertising Fashion Interior
CHARLES & RAY EAMES
Interior Architecture Film/TV Publishing
Music Advertising Fashion
Publication Advertising Fashion Typography
Typography Advertising Publication Architecture Interior
Film/TV Music Advertising Fashion
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FASHION INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE MUSIC PUBLICATION TYPOGRAPHY ADVERTISING FILM/TV
The years leading up to the mid 1900s were filled with economic and political unrest. The American people were downtrodden from WWII and were eager to embrace a new lifestyle. Fashion designers responded to this calling by creating unique designs that emphasized the ideas of femininity, sophistication, and lightheartedness that Mid-Century modern fashion is known for.
ELEGANCE Mid-Century womenâ€™s fashion was the perfect blend of allure and elegance, a completely different look from the traditional fashions of the 1930s. During this time designers excited the fashion world by creating garments that highlighted the feminine form. The image featured to the right is a 1955 Edith Small ad. The tiny waists, fitted tops, full skirts, and lower necklines shown here exhibit the fashion trends of this era. Women found an independence in clothing that made them feel desirable and empowered while still being modest and ladylike. The picture above, taken by F.C. Gundlach in 1965, is super model Simone D. Aillencourt. She embodies the ideal Mid-Century woman: beautiful, confident, and dignified.
SWAGGER Mid-Century menâ€™s fashion focused on showing men as dapper and sophisticated individuals. Men were living a bachelor lifestyle, free of responsibility, which directly correlated with the way they dressed. Major fashion trends included sharp looking tailored suits paired with interesting hats. The picture on the left displays 1950s street fashion trends. These trends showcased an attention to individuality and personal style that was unseen in menâ€™s fashion before this era. The image below of Sean Connery was taken on the set of Goldfinger in 1963. He is shown casually relaxing on his Aston Martin DB5, wearing a fresh new suit and clean cut hairstyle, thus summing up the indulgent lifestyle of the Mid-Century modern man.
BRIGHT COLORS One of the most remarkable characteristics of the Mid-Century modern fashion was color. There were virtually no rules when it came to color; it was perfectly fine to pair bright unexpected colors together as seen in the image to the right. This is the April of 1949 cover of Vogue magazine. It was perfectly acceptable to wear outfits that were entirely one color, as seen in the image directly below. This image from a 1966 Spiegel catalog shows this trend of bold colored clothing lasted throughout the entire era. Rich, saturated, colors served as a way for people to express their personal style and gave Mid-Century modern fashion the warmth and happiness it is so wellknown for.
PRINTS Another major trend of Mid-Century modern fashion was prints. Eye catching patterns and prints were a hit, especially in womenâ€™s fashion. The image above is from a 1959 Jonathan Logan clothing ad, while the image to the left is from the January 1942 edition of Harperâ€™s Bazaar magazine. The women in both photos are sporting very feminine, brightly colored, printed dresses that perfectly define the style of the Mid-Century modern woman.
CHRISTIAN DIOR Dior helped to restore a beleaguered postwar Paris as the capital of fashion. Each of his collections throughout this period had a clear theme. Spring 1947 was “Carolle” or “figure 8,” a name that suggested the silhouette of the new look with its prominent shoulders, accentuated hips, and small waist. The spring 1953 collection, dubbed “Tulip,” featured an abundance of floaty and flowery prints. Spring 1955’s “A-line,” with its undefined waist and smooth silhouette that widened over the hips and legs, resembled an “A.” Some of Dior’s designs simulated Second Empire and other historical styles, but he was also creating menswear, trompe-l’oeil detailing, and soft-to-hard juxtapositions, making them part of the modern wardrobe. By his final collections, Dior, feeling the need for a more limber silhouette and lifestyle, was designing chemises, narrow tunics, and sari-like wraps.
Together with his partner Jacques Rouet, Dior pioneered license agreements in the fashion business. By 1948, they had arranged licensing deals for stockings, perfumes and fur which not only generated revenue but also made him a household name.
“We were emerging from the period of war, of uniforms, of womensoldiers built like boxers. I drew women-flowers, soft shoulders, fine waists like liana and wide skirts like corolla.”
THEN & NOW Throughout the mid-1900s, fashion exploded into a new realm. As people began to move out of the mundane lifestyle created by the economic and political hardship in the early 1900s, they found freedom and happiness through fashion. The growing focus on an independent lifestyle brought about changes in the way women perceived themselves. As their roles in society changed, so did their fashion. Women felt more free to wear clothing that expressed their personal styles and personified a life where they were in charge. Around this time fashion magazines began showing strong independent women like the woman on the right in the black wool dress from Ligne Aileeâ€™s 1948-49 winter collection. The woman in this image has a strong air of dignity about her that shows she is confident and poised.
In the recent years there has been a resurgence of Mid-Century modern fashion trends in America. Attitudes of Americans recovering from the 2007 recession reflect the attitudes of post-depression Americans. Fashion designers such as Bogetta Venetta (whoâ€™s mid century chic dress from their 2013 line can be seen in the image below) have been looking back to the mid-1900s for design inspiration. They understand that the clean, uncluttered aesthetic and forward thinking lifestyle that Mid-Century modern fashion embraced are ideas that can be embraced in our society today.
The main idea of Mid-Century modern interior design was to highlight the architectural focus of unifying the outdoors and indoors. Some key interior elements included: brick fireplaces with colonial-style molding, bright pastel colors, maple stained furniture, patterned wallpaper, and wood paneling. These elements combined to create an optimistic home ideal for starting a new life.
APPLIANCES 1950s era appliances had a unique style of simple, organic shapes, and bold pastel colors. Like much of the anti-decoration, Mid-Century modern style, appliance design contained only the essentials. The simplicity of the appliances both opened the room and complemented the architecture of the surrounding building. The kitchen above shows off this style with the bright blue pastel colors. The image on the right is a Delonghi Vintage Icona toaster that showcases sleek design with chrome, pastel, and wood.
CHAIRS Out of all Mid-Century modern furniture, chairs are the most iconic. The Eames chair on the left is extremely simple. Designers were able to make chairs using only the essentials. This made production easier and faster, and the design of the chair timeless. The recliner chair (below) is a example of using simple organic shapes to compliment the open, spacious room.
DECOR Mid-Century modern decor encompassed everything from wall clocks to light fixtures. This uncluttered style was intended to feel warm and inviting while still reflecting the clean lines and open rooms of the era. House plants, abstract expressionist paintings, and brand new TVs are a few new items that filled the rooms of the average American home. The image to the right shows a Mid-Century modern clock made up of smooth geometric shapes and a chrome face. Although the clock is sculptural and artistically made, its function is still key. The image below shows a living room filled with simple decorations, maple furniture, an open staircase, and a hanging light fixture. The room is full, but not crowded.
PATTERNS Bright geometric patterns covered many aspects of Mid-Century design including book covers, clothing, and interiors. Drapery, wallpaper, rugs, and upholstery utilized these patterns and gave rooms a graphic quality. The wallpaper in the image above illustrates the bold graphic patterns of the period. Patterns also brought natural elements inside the home using florals and organic shapes. The wallpaper ad on the left shows swatches of vibrant natural patterns.
CHARLES & RAY EAMES Charles Eames and Ray Eames gave shape to America’s twentieth century. Their lives and work represented the nation’s defining movements such as the West Coast’s comingof-age, the economy’s shift from making goods to producing information, and the global expansion of American culture. The Eameses embraced the era’s visionary concept of design as an agent of social change, elevating it to a national agenda. Evolving from furniture designers to cultural ambassadors they demonstrated their boundless talents and the overlap of their interests with those of their country. In a rare era of shared objectives, the Eameses partnered with the federal government and the country’s top businesses to lead the movement of modernizing postwar America.
and manufacturers, anticipating his lifelong interest in mechanics and the complex working of things. Ray Kaiser, born in Sacramento, California, demonstrated her fascination with the abstract qualities of ordinary objects early on. She spent her developmental years in the orbit of New York’s modern art movements and participated in the first wave of Americanborn abstract artists.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America’s industrial heartland. As a young man he worked for engineers
“What works is better than what looks good...The looks good can change, but what works, works.”
THEN & NOW On the left is the living room in Charles and Ray Eamesâ€™ custom built home. This room is open and flows seamlessly into the exterior. It is warm and inviting. Everything from the furniture to the decorations is purely functional and uncomplicated. It is an ideal example of a Mid-Century modern interior. Below is a contemporary living room. Rooms like these that draw on Mid-Century modernism are common today. Much like Eamesâ€™ home it is open with large windows that let in natural light. The furniture is very simple and minimalistic in design. Various patterns and materials give the room added texture and weight. The space is also highly decorated, but not cluttered. The main difference in this room and the Eameses is that this one has a cooler color palette and more contemporary decorations.
One of the most recognizable elements of the Mid-Century modern movement is itâ€™s architecture. The goal of Mid-Century architecture was to bring modernism into the suburbs and target the needs of the average American family. Form and function were equally important to Mid-Century modern designs. Architects opened up floor plans and installed large glass walls. Spaces encouraged a seamless transition of indoor and outdoor living. Many Midcentury designers sought to improve life through sleek, sophisticated, forward thinking architecture.
LARGE WINDOWS During the Mid-Century, architectural structures had multiple outdoor views and accesses. Many architects utilized large windows or sliding glass doors to evoke an appreciation for nature. The image above is the â€œStahl Houseâ€? built in 1960 by Pierre Koenig. It is constructed of large glass walls and further emphasizes natural setting around the house. To the right is the Eames House, built in 1945 by Charles and Ray Eames. It utilizes the same architectural techniques. Many architects of the time sought to fuse the interior space with the exterior to promote healthy living. Natural light illuminated the space and brought a sense of optimism into the homes of American families.
CLEAN LINES In the time after WWII, America was moving forward into a new era. Mid-Century modern architecture was an important part of the rebirth of the nation. Architects utilized new materials such as steel, glass and concrete. The work was clearly defined by clean lines and simple shapes that can be seen in the image on the left of the 1959 Marina City building complex in Chicago designed by Bertrand Goldberg. The undulating forms, patterns and curved features defined MidCentury modern architecture. The image below of the TWA Flight Center in New York designed by Eero Saarinen exemplifies this new age architectural style.
FLAT PLANES Many Mid-Century modern homes consisted of various wall heights and juxtapositions as well as changes in elevation. The image below of the 1946 Kaufman Desert House by Richard Neutra employs elevational changes. These changes suggested that the construction relied solely on the interaction between these horizontal and vertical planes. The image on the right of the 1948 Robinson House by Marcel Breuer illustrates this interaction. Architects focused on the design and layout of the house, rather than decorative characteristics, hoping to better the lives of Americans.
LOW/SLOPED ROOFS In areas such as Palm Springs California, Mid-century modern homes were designed asymmetrically with either sloped gable or butterfly roofs. The figure to the left is the Hugh Kaptur House built in 1956. It is an example of a sloped gable roof. This new roofing technique directly relates to the modern way of living. Modern landscaping techniques (see house above built by William Krisel) helped to accent these new structures while emphasizing nature and healthy living.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT Frank Lloyd Wright was a modern architect who developed an organic and distinctly American style. Wright is most significantly known for bringing modern architecture to America during the Mid-Century. It was after his apprenticeship with the father of skyscrapers Louis Sullivan in 1988 that Wright was fully established. He carried out Sullivan’s dream of defining a unique American style of architecture that set the stage for American modernist architecture. Wright designed the Winslow House in River Forest, that serves as the first example of his revolutionary style,“organic architecture”.
sociological philosophies. He disliked the urban environment; therefore his buildings developed a style quite different from other architects of the time. Wright also utilized natural materials, skylights and walls of windows embracing the natural environment. He built skyscrapers that mimicked trees, with a central trunk and many branches. Wright proclaimed that shapes found in the environment should not only be integrated, but should become the basis of architecture.
His most notable architectural landmark was the Guggenheim Museum which depicted the exact aesthetics of modernism. During his time redesigning the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Wright began to develop and refine both his architectural and
“The mother art is architecture. Without architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
THEN & NOW Mid-Century modern architecture brought about the utilization of new materials and aesthetics, and is also hugely influential for contemporary design. Mid-Century architecture epitomized the exploration and optimistic views that were developing in America after WWII. These developments pushed architects and designers to think outside of traditional structure design. Designers Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van der Rohe’s iconic structures served as the foundations for the new age of modern design that contemporary artists draw inspiration from. The image below of the
Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, built in 1990, features Mid-century design with it’s large windows, clean lines and asymmetry. Mid-Century modern architecture fulfilled it’s purpose by reviving the lives of the American people. The clean design reflected the healthy, stable nation that the United States hoped to become.
Before album cover design, records were packaged in brown paper wrappings with no suggestion of an artist or genre. Through the inventive concepts and unique language of Alex Steinweiss, a new way of representing music was born: album art. After itâ€™s debut, album design reached millions of people and created a global impact. This form of art gave designers the opportunity to express their creativity and originality to the world. With the explosion of advertising, album cover art became yet another marketing tool. Designers persuaded the public to purchase albums based on the artwork, rather than just the music itself. Jazz covers were among the first true pieces of album cover design which expanded to other genres of music.
ILLUSTRATIONS The development of the album cover created a new field of illustrative cover art. In the early stages, artists like Steinweiss created iconic covers with eye catching graphics, vivid colors, and original typography. Much of the subject matter consisted of playful illustrative forms and geometric shapes which created interesting juxtapositions in the designs. The liveliness of these covers relates to the optimistic atmosphere of the Mid-Century. The figure above is Billie Holidayâ€™s Music For Torching produced by Verve Records in 1955. It is an example of original typography and vivid colors. The figure to the right is Louis Armstrongâ€™s album Hot 5 produced by Jim Flora in 1947. This cover is an example of playful illustrations and geometric forms.
PATTERNS Album covers also incorporated illustrative patterns and geometric shapes. This is a direct reflection of the vibrant and enthusiastic of the Mid-Century era. The patterns and shapes became iconic features for the time period and were purposefully designed to capture the attention of the consumers. The patterns and shapes were intended to interact and create beautiful visuals with the musical atmosphere that albums provided in the American homes. The figure to left is Dave Brubeck Quartetâ€™s Time Out produced by Neil Fujita in 1959. The interactive, geometric, and enthusiastic patterns help to create a strong visual activation of space. The image below is Sonny Clark Trio by Reid Miles produced in 1958. It utilizes vibrant colors and striking geometric patterns.
COLOR PHOTOS Mid-century modernism focused on improving life for the American people, and what better way is there to celebrate better living than through music? During this â€œcool jazzâ€? craze, designers incorporated artist photographs into their designs. These photographs served as a marketing tactic to not only popularize the designerâ€™s work but to also give consumers an idea of the musicians behind the album cover. The figure to the right is Lee Morgan: Vol. 3 produced in 1957. The figure below is Kenny Burrell: Blue Midnight produced by Reid Miles in 1963.
BOLD TYPE Designers utilized bold typography on the covers to echo the thriving nature of jazz music. For albums like Red Hot and Cool by the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1955), the visual hierarchy of the typography called attention to certain words and concepts like â€œJazzâ€?, related to the albums of the Mid-Century musicians. During a time that revolved around tactful marketing techniques and economic growth, designers utilized type to grab the attention of consumers and enticed them to buy albums. The figure on left is The Jazz Messengers: At the Cafe Bohemia by John Hermansader (1955). It has a dramatic use of space and type.
ALEX STEINWEISS Alex Steinweiss has a massive body of design work that spans several different media. Some of his clients have included the U.S. Navy, Print, Fortune and Columbia Records. However, he is most recognized for inventing the modern album cover and much of his work lies in the poster-like images that he created while he was an art director at Columbia records. Before Steinweiss the only album covers that existed were brown paper wrappers that served to protect the album you had just purchased. His idea to create artwork to entice the buyer to purchase the album was an instant success. From 1939 to 1945 he designed record covers for Columbia, during which time he turned out hundreds of distinct designs. After 1945 he began working for other clients including several other record companies and in 1974 he retired to Florida to paint and work on occasional commissioned pieces.
â€œWhen I was a kid, I was already thinking of designing covers for music. It was in my soul. I loved music, and I wanted to spread the beauty of music and make sure that people got a good slice of it.â€?
THEN & NOW The initial designs of Alex Steinweiss are the reason that consumers today can buy an album that creates a visual connection with the sound. Designers that followed Steinweiss, such as Reid Miles paved the way for current album design, utilizing tactics to visually promote musicians. Designers today use album cover art to express the nature of the musicians and visually embody the conceptual meaning for albums in every genre. The Radiohead album In Rainbows released in 2007 would not have been around without Steinweissâ€™
passion for design. Although these album covers were designed 40 years apart there is still a visual connection that can be made. In addition to the aesthetics, designers today have utilized Mid-Century principles for contemporary design. The celebratory nature of Mid-Century modernism still resonates throughout todayâ€™s music culture.
LINE & SHAPE
As companies in the mid 1900s began to push new products onto the market there became a greater need for publications to inform the populace. The creation of new commercial printing methods also caused the use of publication design to skyrocket. Publication design during this era covers everything from simple childrenâ€™s books and annual reports to magazines and catalogs.
ILLUSTRATION One of the most popular visual elements of publication design was the use of illustration. The positive and upbeat vibes that illustrations conveyed were widely accepted by the public. The image to the right is from the cover of the September 1958 edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Illustrations in this design playfully show the ideal home and lifestyle of the Mid-Century modern family. The image above is from a Mid-Century childrenâ€™s book by Abner Graboff. It also uses illustration to show a spirited and joyous family lifestyle that was pursued as Americans overcame the hardships of WWII.
GRAPHIC TYPE During this time, graphic designers were still looking to grab peoples attention in a way that was not overpowering like the designs of the industrial revolution and wartime propaganda. Designers accomplished this through the use graphic, intentional, and illustrative type. The image below is a cover design by Ladislav Sutnar made for a 1944 issue of Multi-Measure Metal Enclosures. The design is simple, elegant, and uses modern geometric type in a strikingly bold way. The image to the left is the cover from a 1945 Knoll showroom catalog designed by Herbert Matter. The typography is bold, much like the Sutnarâ€™s design below, but unlike Sutnarâ€™s it interacts with a modern illustration of curving and bending 3D lines.
BRIGHT COLORS Just as in popular fashion design trends of the Mid-Century era, bright colors were also a part of publication design. They served as a way to grab attention and bring energy into a piece. The brightness and warmth of the bold colors were widely accepted, as people looked to move into an era of positivity. The image on the right is a cover design by Erik Nitsche for the General Dynamics annual report in 1959. The image below is a spread from a the 1950 publication of Westvaco II: Inspiration for Printers. Both Nitsche and Bradbury were Mid-Century designers that utilized vivid contrasting colors in their designs and inspired other designers of this time to do the same.
LINE & SHAPE Another way in which publication designers created interest was through the use of line and shape as illustration. Many of the designs of Mid-Century publication have both geometric, irregular shapes and thin lines all of which add visual interest. Together, these elements depict the simple sophistication of modernism. The image above is the cover of the 1946 book The Man Who Died by DH Lawrence. This cover uses abstract line and shape together as an illustration of modern and simplistic charm. The image on the left is from the cover of the June 1952 edition of Craft Horizons. Energetic, straight lines and geometric shapes create a modern and functional aesthetic that embodies Mid-Century design.
LADISLAV SUTNAR Ladislav Sutnar, a Czech designer born in 1897, was one of the first designers to actively practice the field of information design. His work was rooted in rationality and the process of displaying massive amounts of information in a clear and organized manner for easy consumption by the general viewer. He placed a heavy emphasis on typography and primarily used a limited color palette. While he often used punctuation symbols to help organize information one of his signature creations was the idea to place parentheses around the area codes in telephone books.
of Modernism, and his work was so well structured that he had no problems communicating information clearly to an American audience, even though English was not his primary language.
For nearly 20 years he served as the art director for Sweet’s catalog services where he created information graphics and catalog layouts for a range of manufactured items. Before working for Sweet’s he taught at the Prague State School of Graphic Arts. He was heavily influenced by the ideas
“To inspire improvement and progress demands that the designer perform to the fullest limits of his ability. The designer must think first, work later.”
ERIK NITSCHE Erik Nitsche left an unmistakable mark on the world of design in his approximately 60 year career. Leaving almost no field untouched, he worked as an art director, book designer, illustrator, typographer, graphic designer, photographer, advertiser, and packaging designer. His graphic design work included magazine covers, signage, film, exhibitions, posters and many other advertising mediums. Before emigrating to the United States in 1934 Nitsche studied at the Collège Classique in Switzerland and the Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich.
the NYC Transit Authority. Nitsche greatly influenced the young generation of designers in America in the mid-20th century including the legendary designers Walter Bernard and Seymour Chwast.
His work has a distinctly modernist aesthetic and although he never had the opportunity to attend the Bauhaus Laszlo Moholy-Nagy has been quoted as saying, “Who is this guy that is doing the Bauhaus in New York?” He designed promotional campaigns for a host of different clients including department stores, feature films, record companies and
“I loved the beauty of it. There is so much logic in all that stuff. Its so very Swiss.”
THEN & NOW When Mid-Century modernism began in the mid 1900s designers started showing life with an new element of playfulness. Publication design became more organic and spontaneous as a result. The image on the right is the cover of the September 1965 edition of Metalworking Monthly. This design shows machinery that would naturally be considered as cold and distant in a way that is lively and charming. This helped not only bring life and a human quality to the artwork but also distract from preconceived notions that machinery was harmful.
designed by Mike Lemansky. Much like the example of the Mid-Century magazine cover to the left, this cover also portrays machines as whimsical and fun. The designer is intentionally trying to destroy the negative associations Americans have with finance since the recession and instead associate it with fun and excitement.
American publication design today can be compared to much of the Mid-Century era. Designers today also look to subliminally influence the viewing experience. An example of this is the cover of the January/February 2012 edition of Financial Management (below)
Visual forms dominant during any epoch have a pronounced influence on the development of that era of typefaces. Geometric typefaces designed in the 1920s and 1930s were based on elemental forms such as the circle, square, and triangle. This paralleled similar forms in fine art as well as architecture, product, and graphic design of this period. In the same way, typography of the 1950s and 60s shows a push for clean lines, functional beauty, and organic grace like the architecture, interiors and publication design of the time. Mid-Century modern type has the smooth geometric look of 20s and 30s type, the objectivity of Swiss type, and the humanist feel of type designed with organic form in mind.
UNIVERS This typeface was created by Adrian Frutiger in 1957. Itâ€™s consistent clean lines and slight square geometric appearance compliment this era of design. Because Univers has such a large family it pairs well with a variety of faces. It is a versatile face that is part of the Mid-Century modern obsession with highly functional, multipurpose design. Typographische Monatsblatter, 1961 No. 12 (right) shows Univers in many sizes. The image above is an illustration by Frutiger designed to advertise Univers when it was first created.
Robert Beasley 1845 Graphics Advertising Packaging
The term Clarendon represents an entire subcategory of square serifed typefaces, not just a single face. Robert Beasley designed the first Clarendon in 1845. In the 1950s Clarendon enjoyed a revival in popularity. Important new versions of the face released during that decade included Hass Clarendon, Craw Clarendon, and Fortuna. Clarendons boldly assertive designs work well with broadcast graphics, advertising and packaging. As these three fields grew with the popularization of the TV and the increase of 1950s advertising, Clarendon found its niche in Mid-Century modern design. These Denbro brand, Clarendon type playing cards, seen below, were produced in the 1970s.
EGYPTIENNE Egyptienne was designed in 1956 by Adrian Frutiger. It is an Egyptian or slab serif face. It was the first new text face created for the process of phototypesetting. Some of itâ€™s lowercase characters, especially a and e, bear comparison with other Frutiger typefaces, particularly Serifa. Egyptienne also shows historical influence of the Clarendon faces.
Univers with serifs Adrian Frutiger Display face Text face 1967
Serifa was designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1967. Frutiger himself describes Serifa as Univers with serifs. With nine members in its font family Serifa has the versatility and geometry of Univers, but itâ€™s added serifs allow it to be used in both display text and body copy.
ADRIAN FRUTIGER Adrian Frutiger has created some of the most used typefaces of the 20th and 21st centuries. Although he was interested in many fields including woodcut and paper silhouettes, Frutiger has been passionate about type for his entire life. Spending most of his career working for Deberny & Peignot updating typefaces and preparing them for phototypesetting, as well as designing typefaces of his own accord, Frutiger has created almost 30 typefaces. Some of his most famous typefaces include Univers, Frutiger (created for the Charles de Gaulle airport), Egyptienne, Serifa, and Avenir. Frutiger is one of only a few typographers whose career spans across hot metal, photographic and digital typesetting. He has also been instrumental in refining his own typefaces to include more weights and true italics, some examples are Frutiger Next and Avenir Next.
â€œWhen it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.â€?
BRADBURY THOMPSON Bradbury Thompson was truly a master of almost every aspect of the design profession. He studied printing production, was an art director for Mademoiselle magazine, designed books, pushed the boundaries of conventional typography and taught design at Yale University. He designed 60+ issues of Westvaco Inspirations for the Westvaco Paper Corporation. His designs reached thousands of designers, printers and typographers. Born in 1911 in Topeka, Kansas and educated at Washburn University Thompson stayed in touch with the university throughout his career. From 1969-1979 Thompson worked together with Washburn to create the Washburn Bible. The book was the most significant development in Bible typography since Gutenberg first published his printed masterpiece in 1455.
Another significant point in his career, in the field of typography, was his publication of Alphabet 26, which was labeled as a mono alphabet. It contained only 26 unique characters, case was established by size only instead of entirely new characters (i.e. r/R, e/E, a/A). Thompson’s work garnered him the highest award of every major design organization including AIGA, the Art Directors Club and the Type Directors Club. He died in 1995.
“...type can be a tool, a toy and a teacher; it can provide a means of livelihood, a hobby for relaxation, an intellectual stimulant, and a spiritual satisfaction. I believe an avid interest in type necessarily includes a zest for everyday life.”
THEN & NOW In addition to the creation of typefaces being important during this time, the use of typography was pushed to new heights. Bradbury Thompson was able to utilize the combination of color, typography, and images in new ways. His designs for Westvaco Inspirations are some of his most memorable work. In his illustration to the left he used type to form a face as part of a spread featuring African tribal masks. Thompson was the first to use type in this playful manner. He is famous for his use of type as an illustrative feature. He would repeat, layer, blow up, and change the color of his typography in order to make a bold statement. Thompson helped to preeminently break the barriers between type and image for all design to come.
Now, Thompson’s free use of typography can be seen in the work of designers like Paula Scher, whose eclectic approach to typography has become highly influential in contemporary design. Scher’s poster below for The Public Theatre’s showing of Jenifer Lewis’ solo show The Diva is Dismissed rejects a restrained aesthetic and nods to Russian Constructivism and well as the bold color and playful photo/type interaction of MidCentury modernism.
An increase in production and industry during the mid 1900s resulted in an increasing need for advertising. Although TV was a growing medium of communication the means of advertising during this era was still posters and magazine ads. These conveyed a strong concise message through illustration, photography, and text.
POLITICAL Campaign posters have been an effective way of getting political messages across to society. The 1953 Ike and Dick campaign poster (above) utilizes minimal imagery and a strong message. With the use of an illustration and a short bold statement these posters call the viewer to action. In The Woman Who Votes poster (right) the call is for women to stand up for their rights and make a difference with their votes.
WOMEN The end of WWII brought about changes in every aspect of American life, including family. Men returned from war eager to marry, start a family, and provide them with everything that a new American family should have. Women left the jobs they had taken on during the war and returned to the home. These new roles for both genders combined with the countryâ€™s newfound disposable income, created an interesting opportunity for advertisers. Advertisers used their ads for everyday items to mold the public to their image of the ideal American home. Women were placed in the kitchen or on the arm of a man. They were shown as helpless, frail, and incapable, like in the Shlitz beer ad below. They also encouraged men to have a patronizing and domineering attitude. Men speak to their wives like empty headed children in both of these advertisements. Ads, like the Kellogs Pep vitamin ad to the left, aimed to manipulate women into believing that their value was based on how they looked and how well they could cook and clean.
Automotives During this era everything was becoming more affordable for all classes. Cars as this time became very popular. Many of these posters, catalogs, and advertisements would have pictures of the car, like the one seen on the right, in scene and then a quick phrase as to why the car was the best choice. The colors of the cars were usually bright pastel, like the one seen in the image at the bottom, which caught the viewerâ€™s eye immediately.
TOBACCO Tobacco companies were popular at the time. For men, smoking made them seem masculine, cool, and, attractive. For women, it made them look rebellious and sexy, as seen in the top image. Many times these companies used images and taglines to make people think smoking was good. The taglines would say something about how good it tastes, or how it makes you feel if you smoke their brand such as in the Marlboro ad on the right.
LESTER BEALL A man with a very technology-oriented background, Beall grew up playing with Ham radios and creating his own wireless sets. He graduated with a Ph.D in the History of Fine Art and the years following his graduation found him expressing an interest in modern art movements such as Surrealism, Constructivism and Dadaism. His work as an advertiser and graphic designer quickly gained international recognition and the most productive years of his career, during the 1930s and 40s, saw many successes in both fields. His clear and concise use of typography was highly praised both in the United States and abroad. Throughout his career he used bold primary colors and illustrative arrows and lines in a graphic style that became easily recognizable as his own. He eventually moved to rural New York and set up an office, and home, at a premises that he and his family called “Dumbarton Farm”. He remained at the farm until his death in 1969.
“...[a designer] must work with one goal in mind: to integrate the elements in such a manner that they will combine to produce a result that will convey not merely a static commercial message, but an emotional reaction as well.”
Then & NOW Lester Beallâ€™s advertising design was groundbreaking during this era. His design shows that he found lines and arrows to be the most effective way to lead the viewers eye from one part of the design to another. Both of these elements help create movement and flow throughout a piece. Beall also used minimal copy with short and strong messages like his headline â€œRunning Waterâ€? in the ad poster to the left designed for the Rural Electrification Administration. This two word message is strong and concise. Many designers today use these techniques in advertising. A good example of this is this Delta Airlines campaign poster show below. Here Delta uses a strong headline to state their message. The Delta logo also utilizes a Beall-like arrow which points to the top right and activates the space.
REBELLION & SEX
Motion pictures offer a unique insight into Mid-Century modern design that no other medium can. The films of this era provide a way to view how popular taste challenged and reinforced the norms of a culture struggling with Cold War anxiety and rapid social change. Themes of science, technology, the single lifestyle, youth, rebellion, and open sexuality have been permanently associated with the simple decoration, open architecture, and sharp dress of Mid-Century modernism in the minds of Americans because of these films.
TITLE DESIGN The title sequences of Robert Brownjohn for Goldfinger (top) and Maurice Binder for Dr. No (right) are some of the first and best examples of title design from this era. These titles were used to produce an essential film component, rather than just a necessary afterthought. Both of these sequences are a step towards the modernist idea of purely functional design.
SINGLE LIFESTYLE Dozens of films from the 1950s and 60s feature independent men and women living in modern homes and apartments. This era of design is almost exclusively associated with singles. One key feature of male independence in these films is the bachelor pad; a space that offered men an escape. In the 1960’s film Ocean Eleven, pictured above, almost all of the set locations are bachelor pads. For female characters the theme of freedom or the lack thereof, is also ever-present in the set design. In the same films that show men living and working in modern style, most women are portrayed as wives living in ruffle-curtained suburbia, or singles women sharing a shabby flat. Female performers and artists are shown in modern style though. Barbara Bel Geddes’ cheery artist’s studio in Vertigo from 1958 (pictured left) is all Eames-ian artistic clutter and comfort.
SCIENCE FICTION The development of Cold War missile programs, a renewed interest in science from the atomic bomb, and excitement about satellites all contributed to the advent of science fiction films/TV during this time. Films such as Jules Verneâ€™s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (shown in color above) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (shown in black and white right) are notable films from this golden age of science fiction.
REBELLION AND SEX In a new era of the stylish, single bachelor and the working woman, a tilt away from the traditional family led to a lighter treatment of sexuality in film. The 1953 film The Moon is Blue was criticized for it’s inappropriate content, specifically the use of forbidden words like “mistress” and “virgin.” Later films like the 1960 work Oceans Eleven (below) and the 1959 work Pillow Talk would have scandalized 1953 critics with their frank sexuality looseness. At the same time a younger generation of rebellious teenagers was rising. Leading this rebellion through film was James Dean the ‘First American Teenager’ and Marlon Brando (left) an ideal symbol of adolescent rebellion. These two represented the freedom and tension young people felt growing up in a post-war time of rapid growth and change.
ROBERT BROWNJOHN Brownjohn was born to British parents in New Jersey and had a successful career in both America and Great Britain during the 1950s and 60s. He immediately showed promise as a young design student at the Institute of Design in Chicago, which was previously The New Bauhaus, where he studied closely with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. His career ramped up to an early start when he formed the design firm BCG with Ivan Chermayeff and Thomas Geismar. However, that career came to an early end in 1959 with Brownjohn heading to London, the firm became Chermayeff & Geismar.
A 240 page catalogue by Emily King that was produced for an exhibition detailing Brownjohn’s career entitled Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography held at the Design Museum in London was also published as a book of the same name. Sex and Typography details the adventures of Brownjohn through detailed information provided by friends and family as well as chronicling his career and the work that he produced.
His career in London proved as successful as his early career in the United States with his most notable contributions coming from the film industry. He also worked within several other industries, creating moving graphics for Pirelli and Midland bank and created the Rolling Stones Let It Bleed album cover.
“I think the revolution in typography has been in terms of image. The picture and the word have become one thing.”
THEN & NOW Science fiction saw its true beginnings during this time. An interest in space exploration, the invention of the atom bomb and anxiety about the cold war led directly to an explosive interest in creepy and tense films/TV shows about mysterious monsters, unseen worlds, and radioactive disasters. 50s and 60s era work like The Twilight Zone, HG Wells War of the Worlds, The Thing, Creature from the Black Lagoon (left) and many other films started a craze for Sci-fi that still hasnâ€™t stopped.
Although Sci-fi films usually have an eerie and frightening feeling that seems contrary to Mid-Century modernism optimism, they have an optimism all their own. The newfound ability to explore the universe is an exciting aspect of the Mid-Century Modern era. Even if these Sci-fi films often explore the worst possible outcome of exploration, the technology and curiosity of this time is thrilling and positive.
Without this era to start Sci-fi films many of the stories that define modern pop culture would not exist. Films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Inception, ET, Terminator, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Ridley Scottâ€™s Alien (below), Planet of the Apes, Ghost Busters, Back to the Future, and all superhero and zombie movies are children of films popularized by this era.
CREDITS Josie Maszk
Intro/background Spread Typography Spreads Adrian Frutiger Collage Bradbury Thompson Collage Film/TV Spreads Robert Brownjohn Collage Typesetting Copywriting
Table of Contents Spread Interior Spreads Charles Eames Collage Advertising Spreads Lester Beall Collage Copywriting
Sarah Grace Kivett
Credits Layout Architecture Spreads Frank Lloyd Wright Collage Music Spreads Alex Steinweiss Collage Typesetting Copywriting
Artist Overview Spread Fashion Spreads Christian Dior Collage Publication Spreads Ladislav Sutnar Collage Eric Nitsche Collage Typesetting Copywriting
Cover Design Layout Organization
Copy Reference: The Mid-Century Modernist // midcenturymodernist.com
Artist Focus Copy: Designishistory.com
Artist Bio: Christian Dior (1905â€“1957) //metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dior/hd_dior.html Copy Reference: How the Mid-Century Look Went Mainstream //fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/ TMG10460109/How-the-mid-century-lookwent-mainstream.html
Interior Copy: The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention //loc.gov/exhibits/eames/bio.html
Architecture Copy Reference: All About Mid-Century Modern Architecture //modernhomesblog.com/2014/06/18/midcentury-modern-architecture/>. Copy Reference: Clean Lines, Open Spaces: A View of Mid-Century Modern Architecture //aetn.org/programs/cleanlinesopenspaces
Typography Copy Reference: Egyptienne in Use //ontsinuse.com/typefaces/4027/egyptienne Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces
Film/TV Copy: Greatest Films of the 1940s //filmsite.org
Digging deeper into the Mid-Century modernist style and how it effects designs of today.