Modernism is one of my design cornerstones at Andrew Backhouse Web Design; it influences everything from my designs to my environmental methodologies. And though the movement is often talked about in reference to architecture, art, sculpture and interior design, Modernism also, in fact, had a significant impact on graphic and logo design. So in this blog post, I’ll dive into Modernist graphic design and its effects on visual communications. First, I will write a brief history of Modernism…
Something Is Afoot in Vienna
By the end of the 19th century, heading into the 20th century, artists were growing tired of traditional, conservative art forms. In Vienna, a group of artists led by Gustav Klimt dubbed themselves the Vienna Secession and broke away from the artistic institutions in Austria’s capital at the time. Instead, the group explored uncharted territory in form, composition and expression, sparking similar experimentations in nearby countries such as France and Germany. Rich paint strokes and realism translated into flat colour and stylistic typography, expressions that would pave the way for graphic art.
Global Conflict – I & II
When World War I began, graphic design was already used for commercial, corporate and aesthetic purposes. Its new role would be political, used in posters and propaganda during the war. Advancements in mass colour printing allowed for the efficient production of messages to raise funds, encourage enlistment and boost morale. The turmoil and challenges faced in both World Wars would ultimately inspire the first wave of true Modernism within graphic design.
An Experimental Form
Across Europe and in America, graphic designers took inspiration from broader artistic movements such as Cubism, Futurism, De Stijl and Surrealism. In Germany, the Bauhaus movement also significantly impacted graphic design; thick lines, primary colours and disrupting white space were just as striking in 2D format as in architecture or sculpture.
Eventually, Modernist design was defined by abstract expression, bold type and primary colours and shapes. These designers approached the work objectively, emphasising the rational over the expressive (and emphasising the classic Modernist belief that form follows function).
As the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, Modernist experiments in all practices were denounced, and many artists, architects and designers immigrated to the United States. Although Modernist design was disrupted in its growth, it remains one of the most impactful movements in the history of graphic design.
Even my website has elements of Modernist designs with asymmetry, primary colours and bold typography. Every facet of Modernism inspires what I do, from architecture and sculpture to the graphic arts. So, it is natural I gravitated to the style. If you want to have a look at my portfolio, click HERE.