Graphic Design History

Designing Graphic Design History by Teal Triggs is an article that explored the history of graphic design due to the increased attention to graphic design as a field of study. The history of graphic design was examined through a prism of looking at a number of pamphlets and magazine covers designed by typographers and graphic designers who greatly contributed to the development of the field. Examples of designs included works of Dot Dot Dot, Emigre, ZED, and Octavo. By drawing parallels between the works of different designers, the author managed to outline peculiarities of each style, for example, “Dot Dot Dot questioned the tensions existing between art and design drawing and a broader context of art practice, music, language, politics” (Triggs 331).

Furthermore, the article found correlations between design history and pop culture theory, which both reflect the social and political events of a specific time.

Graphic Design by Jeremy Aynsley is an article that reflected the emergence of graphic design as a study discipline heavily influenced by mass culture. The author gave a definition of graphic design, a term that drastically changed over time. By studying graphic designs from the early 1930’s to the late 1980’s, Aynsley managed to show the evolution of graphic design as an art and a field of study. It is important to mention that the author paid extra attention to the contrast between mass media marketing and the political environment (Aynsley 30).

An example of a Vogue bath oil advertisement placed next to a photo of East Pakistani refugees taken by the photojournalist Don McCullin was particularly striking. Therefore, the theme of a relationship between mass media and the political environment can be regarded as one of the main topics of the article.

In my opinion, the article is an excellent example of how the history of any phenomenon should be explored. Because art reflects history, by looking at the designs of different pamphlets and magazine covers, I was able to trace how the graphic design evolved throughout time.

For example, Dot Dot Dot’s 90s designs reflected the free and enthusiastic spirit of the decade while the front cover of The National Grid no. 1 (2006) by Valentine and Wood is a clear reflection of the political changes and the emphasis on “international leadership.” Despite the contrast, the production of both National Grid and Dot Dot Dot took a similar approach to referencing the politics, music, art, and societal issues through graphic design.

Aynsley’s article made a strong impression as to the exploration of the mass media in the social environment, as well as the parallels between politics and media. Typographic design and advertisement as types of persuasion art is a topic mostly prevailing in the article. Same correlation between advertising and graphic design is traced to modern times, suggesting that some aspects of graphic design never change and probably will not change.

In my opinion, the author made the right choice to explore graphic design as a notion that never exists in isolation. Graphic design in any form is a kind of ‘storytelling’ in itself, and the article was effective for telling the ‘story within a story’ as to how the graphic design evolved. I would have liked to see more examples from the Second World War to analyze how the graphic design reflected one of the most devastating periods of European history.

Works Cited

Aynsley, Jeremy. “Graphic Design.” Design History: A Student’s Handbook. Ed. Hazel Conway. New York, NY: Harper Collins Academic, 1987. 21-35. Print.

Triggs, Teal. “Designing Graphic Design History.” Journal of Design History 22.4 (2009): 325-340. Print.

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