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Week #2: Research Book #1

The first chapter of the non-fiction book Layout: the design of the printed page by Allen Hurlburt discusses historical influences on modern design. The chapter cites the main influences of modern design (modern as in the “modernist” art movement, not current design) Art Nouveau, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Constructivism, Art Deco, De Stijl and Bauhaus.

layout book

Here is a table explaining each of these artistic movements and their influences on Modern Design:

Art Movement      Example Influence on Modern Design
Art Nouveau  Art Nouveau
  • First purely design movement
  • Started the trend of posters as an art form
  • Used type as a graphic element rather than just words
  • Mix of flat graphics with some rendered and three dimensional illustrations
Cubism  cubism
  • Use of collage and assemblage
  • Broke the traditional idea of representation
Futurism  Futurism
  • Interest in machines
  • Transition from cubism to more simple, graphic shapes
Dadaism  Dada
  • Humor and shock as a way of grabbing attention
  • Used type as a graphic element rather than just words
Surrealism  Surrealism
  • New approach to illustration and photography
Constructivism  Constructivism2
  • Simplified graphics
  • Free typography
  • Bold geometric shapes
Art Deco  Art Deco3
  • Brought intricate decoration back into the applied arts
  • Step away from simplification
De Stijl  De Stijl
  • Asymmetrical layouts
  • Lots of primary colors
  • Union between different types of design
Bauhaus  Bauhaus
  • Design for functional purposes
  • Interest in using technology to make things most efficient

Most art experts separate fine arts (art that does not have a practical application) from design arts (art that does serve a practical purpose in society). According to Hurlburt, Art Nouveau in the late 1800s was the first purely design movement because of its use of posters to advertise messages. The Art Nouveau style is often used in decorative arts because of its intricate ornamentation. Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his Art Nouveau style posters advertising for plays. Later in the century, Cubism redefined how space is represented by showing all sides of a person or object in one plane. Cubism “established design as a principal element in the creative process” whereas before, the composition, or layout of a work was only a secondary concern of artist to the subject matter (Hurlburt 18). Futurism continued with the geometrical shapes that cubists used in their work, but focused more on two dimensional graphics rather than 3 dimensions. Dadaism and Surrealism in the 1920s and 30s gave the world new ideas about what art could be, other than the traditional subjects such as realistic portraits and still lives. Although very different, this concept can be applied to website and package design which, at first glance, many people may not consider art. Dada “… reinforced the Cubist idea of letterforms as a visual experience” instead of just words (Hurlburt 23). Propaganda became important in the 1940s with World War II and and the bold colors and shapes of Constructivism (especially Russian constructivism) gave new simplicity and harshness to communication design. Many of today’s designers stress the importance of simplicity in design that the Constructivists achieved. During this time period, the design world also saw a reintroduction of patterns and ornamentation with the Art Deco schools of design. Finally the De Stijl and Bauhaus movements stressed functionality and the interconnectedness of different types of design.

This concept is very applicable to the work at Veneer because it is important that each clients brand identity is practical and consistent in its website, package design, social media presence and other promotional items. All of these design are interconnected. Functionality is also important for these types of designs. The other day while I was at Veneer I overheard a conversation with Paige and a woman who was in charge of publicity for a client (a cooking school). The publicity woman wanted certain types of staff members of the school to have different shaped icon pictures, but Paige was trying to explain to her that this would not look as good with the design aesthetic. Like the De Stijl and Bauhaus movements, these two professionals had to balance functionality with aesthetically pleasing design. It is interesting to learn about how design has evolved over the past century and how modern design trends have been influenced by past movements. I would like to learn more about art and design movements in the second half of the the 20th century and early 21st century.

This week I went to Veneer twice and, both times, I got to help Kiefer (one of the members of the design firm) edit the back end of one of their clients websites. The back end of a website is where you can edit the interface and content of each page. The front end of a website is what the public sees when they are visiting the web page. The designers at Veneer use WordPress to design all of their clients’ websites. I designed my own website with all of my art work on it using WordPress this summer so I am already familiar with the interface and how to edit pages on WordPress (here is a link to my website: http://www.sophiaspitulnik.com). The only difference is that Veneer uses the paid version of WordPress so there are more options and no advertisements. The page that I helped with is a staff information page for a cooking school. (I can post a link to the food school website after the website is launched). I helped paste in the content (quotes, descriptions and links to articles, videos and books that the staff members had wrote) for each of the staff members. Each of the articles needed a description to go under the link. Some of the articles had short descriptions at the top, but others I had to read the article or watch the video and write a description myself. Again, we had to balance functionality with design because each description had to make sense but also be two lines long (or 290 characters). The articles ranged from articles in the New York Times about businesses that the staff members had started to a TV program about celebrity bucket lists that one of staff members guest started in. This work wasn’t too challenging but it was rewarding because I was able to be helpful. I feel pretty prepared for most of the tasks that I have been asked to do so far because of the organization and comprehension skills that I have learned at Miramonte and because of my prior experience with WordPress.

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