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Important Movements In Twentieth Century Graphic Design Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1555 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the following work I’ll going to summarize the main important movements in 20th century’s graphic design. Graphic design is divided in a lot of parts like: illustration, typography, calligraphy, motion graphics, stop motion, it also related with photography….

Also sometimes is linked with fashion, video, computer games. In the past it was just divided in drawing and typography, but nowadays, with the boom of computer design, it’s expanding in lot of areas.

Also it depends a lot of in where the graphic design is made. Because we are trying to communicate something. And the target is different depending on the place. All the societies have different ways of thinking, acting, buying, understanding…

I’ll focus in Europe, where the main theories were born.

So, and because of this huge diversification, I’ll resume the main points in graphic design over the last twenty years.

1. Industrialization of graphic arts. 20th century.

The develop of the press changed the view and the way of thinking in graphic arts.

The technology changed from manual to automatic. It made that a lot of artists could found a way to implement their known in a new sector, the graphic design and the graphic arts.

New jobs appeared, like paper fabricants, typography designers, bookbinders…

The population started buying newspapers as a daily thing and the majority of businesses used this way to advertise their companies. It facilitates the evolution of the advertising posters.

A new generation of designers born in the 20th century, they reject the historic styles, this creates a new art, “art noveau”. This tendency includes disciplines from arquitecture, drawing, furniture, ceramics, jewelry, engineering, cinema… Also it created the necessity of new tools for the evolution of graphic design. Some of the invents were: the typewriter, the fountain pen, the weft, the color printing process, the X beams for photography and many others.

And influence that happened between 1916 an 1920 was the Dadaism. A movement in the arts that happened in France, Switzerland, and Germany. And that was based on the principles of deliberate irrationality, anarchy, and cynicism and the rejection of laws of beauty and social organization.

Also the architecture of big buildings and skyscrapers, (Eiffel tower), influenced to the graphic design in a way of understand typography and arts in a cubism way.

2. The Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus, (1919-1933) was a movement that studied and developed the essence or shape of an entity’s complete form. It was created in Berlin in the 1919.

A lot of members from this movement though that the future depended on some universal laws of sense that aren’t linked with the traditional cultures.

They studied the fundamental graphic forms, like point, line, spaces.. And they applied their ideals to typography, colors, volumes…

Some of the main and more influential members of this movement

Kandinsky: looking for the origin of visual language in basic geometry.

The 3 basic forms; square, circle, triangle.

The 3 primary colors.

Paul Klee

Herbert Bayer: Student in Bauhaus. He developed a new typography,(1925), very simple, without serifs. This Typography became so useful and the industry started to use it, and nowadays is so important and used.

Another important movement that goes towards these characteristic ideals of Bauhaus was the Gestalt.

The Gestalt refers to the form-forming capability of our senses; they studied it with the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves.

Nowadays Gestalt’s psychology is a theory studied.

3. Modern and neomodern movement

Switzerland was the main country studying it.

They tried to prioritize the power and the capability of the languages that society use. They put lot of effort in the criteria and the purpose of the ideas and concepts used in the design. As more exact and complete were the designs, as more creative the project was.

They studied the relation of typography with the geometric figures. Also they studied the perception and composition of images. Differing background from images, objects or typography, and the relation that all the elements had.

4. The pop art.

The pop art is an art movement that was born on the 1950s in Britain and then it moved to the United States.

It influences are advertising, comic and objects, or people from the actuality.

It always has a powerful message, the majority of the times using the irony. A lot of people consider it incongruent; they consider it an extension of postmodern art.

Pop Art in Britain:

It is the beginning of pop art, in 1952.

It was a group of young painters, sculptors, architects, writers and critics who were against the modernist approaches to culture, also they were disagree with the traditional views of art. These group discussions centered on popular culture implications like mass advertising, movies, product design, comic strips, science fiction and technology.

Pop Art in The United States:

It started in the late 1950s.

They use a deeper tone and more dramatic that the British one.

Some of the most important artists in Pop art.

Billy Apple

Jim Dine

Robert Dowd

William Eggleston

Marisol Escobar

Red Grooms

Richard Hamilton

Alex Katz

Corita Kent

Nicholas Krushenick

Yayoi Kusama

Roy Lichtenstein

Richard Lindner

George Segal

Colin Self

Andy Warhol

Eduardo Paolozzi

Sir Peter Blake

5. Principal figures and events of design in the 20th century.

1860 – Arts and Crafts Movement – John Ruskin, William Morris, Gustav Stickley.

1903 – Wiener Werkstatle – Viennese group; it was a grouo similar to Arts and Crafts way of thinking.

1901 – Frank Lloyd Wright – ‘The Art and Craft of the Machine’; he create the basic principles for industry design; after, future designers created prototypes for machine production.

1919 – Bauhaus – Walter Gropius, union of art and industry. Other figures: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he revolutioned the architecture

B. Postwar Europe

1947 – Swiss design: Armin Hofmann, Emil Ruder,

1957 – Helvetica: one of the most typographies nowadays, created in the bahuaus.

1960 – Pop art explosion

1960 – Scandinavian designer: Alvar Aalto

1961 – Italian designer: Ettore Sottsass, Memphis group

1968 – Post-Modernism: Wolfgang Weingart, Steff Geissbuhler, Odermatt &Tissi

C. Comtemporary American Graphic Design

1929 – MOMA open its doors.

1960 – The New York School: Paul Rand, Alexey Brodovich, Henry Wolf, Herb Lubalin, George Lois

1970 – Corporate graphics, the corporate image takle importance and the companies start to create logotipes.

some examples are: Olivetti, CBS, CIBA, IBM, Chase, Mobil, Mexico Olympic

1980 – Micro processor (1984 – Apple Computer, MacWrite, MacPaint) New informatics tools for graphic design

1993 – Internet: Mosiac ->Netscape

D. The digital revolution.

1984-macintosh computer

1985- apple laser printer

1990- HTML language for website building

1999- In design: useful tool for graphic edition

6. Graphic design in the 21st century.

There is a new kind of graphic design which starts with the World Wide Web (W.W.W).

With the WebPages, all the communication goes faster, and there is a huge opportunity for companies to show their business. The webpage’s target has to be gained with graphic and emotional impacts. The role of graphic designers changed, the rivalry between companies was bigger. They had to communicate effective messages.

We call this big step in graphic design the digital revolution. All the knowledge acquired with the Gestalt, the Bauhaus and all the others. Nowadays is easier to implement, because we have very powerful tools, the computers.

Also comment that there is a unite link in design which makes present graphic design in fashion, photography, architecture, industry…

7. Graphic examples.










SANTUE, Enric. “El Diseño Gráfico desde sus orígenes hasta nuestros días.”

LUPTON, Ellen y ABBOTT M., J. “El ABC de la Bauhaus y la Teoría del Diseño.”

Enciclopedia SALVAT. Tomos 8 y 12. Salvat Editores. Barcelona. 1978.

“Creativity often consists merely turning up what is already there. Did you know that right and left shoes were thought up only a little more than a century ago?”

Bernice Fitz-Gibbon .


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