Notes For Graphic Design History Class

Notes taken from Graphic Design: A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson

Introduction: The Origins of Type and Typography

Around 1455, Gutenburg published his famous Bible, which was set in a typeset of gothic script called Textura, a name that refers to the dense web of spiky letterforms that fill the completed page, giving it a “textured” look. Textura was an example of blackletter type, meaning that the letters strongly resembled the calligraphic writing of medieval scribes. (p.15)

One of the finest early books printed in Venice using roman type was Eusebius’s treatise De Praeparatione Evangelica, published by a French expatriate, Nicolas Jenson (1420–1480). He proved to have an excellent eye for forms that are both highly legible and beautiful.(p.17)

Around 1500, Aldus Manutius (1449–1515), a Venetian humanist and printer, published the first work in roman italic type. (p.17)

Manutius also produced a number of roman forms, and the one he used in his 1495 volume of De Aetna, by Pietro Bembo, proved highly influential. Along with Jenson-Eusebius, Bembo is the basis for the group of roman type called Old Style, which together are distinguished by their understated contrast, bracketed serifs, and oblique stress. Old Style, followed by Transitional, and then Modern. (p.17)

Another important contribution to Renaissance typography was made by the French printer and publisher Claude Garamond (1480–1561). One of Garamond’s key contributions was an adaptation of Manutius’s Bembo that is perhaps more refined than the original. (p.17)

Philippe Grandjean de Fouchy (1666–1714) was appointed to cut the new type called Romain du Roi, “roman of the king.” The invention of the Romain du Roi probably represents the first time that a horizontal and vertical grid became the basic tool for structuring a typeface. (p.19)

What made the original Caslon so popular was not any dynamic, stylish flair, but rather its solid functionality.(p.20)

The Transitional types created by John Baskerville (1706–1775) were almost universally condemned for what was perceived as their stark, abstract qualities and extreme contrast in stroke widths. A desire to print his typeface accurately had led Baskerville to a number of innovations in the printing process. First, he had invented new inks in order to make the slender, delicate shapes of his letters stand out on the page. He experimented with different paper types, finally settling on wove paper that had a smooth, glossy finish. Baskerville also used a technique called “hot pressing,” whereby he would heat newly printed pages between copper plates, a process that smoothed the sheet while also setting the ink more effectively.(p.21)

Around 1783, Firmin Didot refined his family’s roman face to help create the new Modern style. Didot would soon become the most influential Modern face, because it set the standard for contrast, stress, and geometric structure. (p.21–p.23)

In Italy, Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) of Parma introduced the Modern style in the late 18th century. Influenced by the work of the Didot foundry, Bodoni created a beautiful roman that further defined the Modern style. (p.23)

Chapter 1: The 19th Century

Industrial Revolution: The invention of the steam engine and the rise of inexpensive, mass-produced printed materials contributed to life in the new urban setting.

Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), one of the most celebrated, or notorious—depending on one’s perspective—caricaturists employed by Philipon, created literally thousands of lithographs for the three newspaper [La Silhouette, La Caricature, and Le Charivari]. (p.28)

The German inventors Friedrich Koenig (1774–1833) and Andreas Bauer (1783–1860) sold their new power press to The Times newspaper of London in 1814. It could produce over one thousand pages per hour. (p.29)

Lithography had been invented late in the eighteenth century by Alois Sanefelder (1771–1834), a German playwright who had sought an inexpensive way of reproducing theatrical scripts. The chemical process he devised allowed for an image to be drawn directly onto a block of limestone and then reproduced in large quantities at low cost. (p.29) [oil and water do not mix. Break boundary of locked metal type printing press]

Chromolithography: the invention of process color printing made the accurate photographic transfer of color images more feasible, if not yet commonplace, by the turn of the [19th] century.(p.29)

The pictorial newspaper was one of the most influential types of nineteenth-century publication. (p.30)

Photography was an important technological development during the nineteenth century that would later prove crucial to the evolution of graphic design. The ability to make “drawing with light,” which is the literal meaning of the word “photography,” was discovered simultaneously in the 1830s by a Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), and an Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877). (p.30)

Yellow-back novels became one of the most exciting new products to appear in Victorian England around mid century. [Yellow-back features eye-catchy typography]. (p.38)

The Great West (1879), is a fine example of (black and white lithography and then hand colored), its bright color and epic vista matched with an uncertain grasp of perspective space. (p.38-39)

Hoardings: Where posters could be be legally hung by their distributors. (p.40)

One significant contrast with the European market was the American use of bright, expressive color in advertisements (p.41)

The nineteenth century also witnessed the advent of the color political poster (p.41)

The Victorian age indeed witnessed many examples of the mixing of a multitude of confusing styles in the design of periodicals. (p.45)

One class of type invented in the nineteenth century that has remained influential through to the present day is the sans serif. The first commercial sans serif was released in 1816 by William Caslon IV (1780–1869). (p.46)

Linotype (1886) and Monotype (1887). Monotype helped women got into the workplace.

The first advertising agency, N.W. Ayer & Sons, was established in Philadelphia in 1869. (p.50)

William Morris (1834–1896) embraced the arts and crafts movement. Morris indicated his belief that the design of arts has an important role to play in improving the lives of everyday working people. (p.50)

Chapter 2: Art Noveau: a New Style for a New Culture

After establishing his firm in 1866 through which to pursue lithographic printing, Jules Chéret (1836–1932) worked out a process that would allowed him to create brightly colorful posters with a wide range of hue, value, and intensity. (pg.59)

Chéret’s Les Girard (1879; pg.60) has Japanese influence with text and image integrated.

Ukiyo-e, or “floating world,” caught the attention of the French art world. (p.62)

Leonetto Cappiello’s mature style mixed his own gift for caricature, Japonisme and a dash of Chéret’s kinetic colorism into a striking new synthesis. For example, his 1906 lithograph of Maurin Quina features a dynamically moving green devil, which serves as a complement to, or even sardonic commentary on, the ubiquitous, luscious young women posing as allegorical fairies that dominated the market for aperitif posters. (p.63)

Alphonese Mucha (1860–1939), moved to Paris from Czechoslovakia, built his career in posters because of a bit of luck that tied him to the actress Sarah Bernhardt (“The Devine Sarah”) (p.63-64).

An advertisement for an alcoholic drink, the poster Absinthe Robette (1896), by the Belgian artist Privat Livemont (1861–2936), displays the expressive organic form, curvilinear rhythm, and sensual atmosphere that are synonymous with Art Nouveau. (p.65)

The posters of Théophile Steinlen (1859–1923) contrast sharply with the dense, decorative elegance of Livemont or Mucha. Instead, Steinlen’s posters, such as Cabaret du Chat Noir (1896), feature the bold simplicity of the Japanese print. (p.67)

Steinlen’s La Rue (1896) provides an excellent example of how some artists and critics hoped that the art of the poster would enliven the often grim streets of urban Paris.(p.67)

Auriol (1901), the typeface by George Auriol (1863—1939), combines elements derived from Asian calligraphic scripts, such as the gestural flourishes and the variable thickness of each line, with the languid elegance of the Art Nouveau. (p.68)

Each night at the Moulin Rouge, a frisson of sexual excitement was provided by the entertaining spectacles as well as the members of demimonde, young women who supported themselves by becoming the lovers of wealthy men. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) captured this atmosphere in posters such as La Goulue. (p.68)

Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters for the singer Aristade Bruant who delighted with his rough, outlaw reputation portray his aggressive personality and stage-dominating charisma. (p.70)

A key moment in the history of American graphic design came in 1889, when the widely read periodical Harper’s Magazine first published a poster for its holiday issued designed by the Swiss-born French artist Eugène Grasset (1841–1917). He created works that used the dense ornament emblematic of the Art Nouveau style, as seen in the example for Harper’s from 1892 (p.71)

Edward Penfield (1866–1925) created a poster for Harper’s in 1897 shows how far American design had come in embracing the most fashionable European trends. Penfield depicts a group of well-dressed Americans on intercity bus engrossed in a copy of Harper’s edition. (p.71)

Will H. Bradley’s Thanksgiving poster advertising a literary magazine called The Chap Book (1895) displays flat planes of colors and the repetition of curvilinear form that integrates Japanese style with the expressive line of Art Nouveau. (p.74)

Aubrey Beardsley’s (1857–1926) cover for the first issue of The Studio displays how much he had been influenced by the styles of Japanese prints. The scene of a forest is essentially two-dimensional, a series of overlapping flat forms set apart by different types of cross-hatched strokes of the pen. (p.77)

The Beggarstaff brothers’s 1895 poster for Harper’s displays some of the most aggressive simplification of any work produced in this area. Clearly indebted to Japanese prints, the silhouetted figure is more radically abstract than comparable images of the time; its contour line disappears in several places so that the figure blends into the background. (p.80)

Another Beggarstaff design, offered for a performance of Don Quixote at the Lyceum Theatre (1895), shows the unusual cropping—note the horse’s missing hoofs and the partial view of a windmill—typical of the Japanese style. (p.81)

Four artists—Margaret Macdonald (1864–1933), Frances Macdonald (1873—1921), Herbert MacNair (1868—1955), and Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1925)—together they formed the larger part of the Art Nouveau moment in Scotland. (p.82)

At GSA (Glasgow School of Art), a group of progressive students published The Magazine. Frances Macdonald created A Pond. The image combines sinuous, organically shaped figures and water plants with a symmetrical organization.

The first poster by the Macdonald sisters in collaboration with Herbert MacNair displays many of the stylistic devices seen in A Pond, albeit in a more staunchly vertical format. (p.83)

Gustav Klimt, president of Vienna Succession, produced a poster for the show that set the tone for much of the art that would follow. In term of style, Klimt adopted the vertical format, asymmetrical design, and empty spaces that had been a key part of Audrey Beardsley’s designs in England.

A striking example of innovative design produced for Ver Sacrum is Koloman Moser’s cover for February 1899, volume 2, issue 4, for which he threw an allegorical female figure emerging from lush tendrils that create powerful abstract forms. (p.88)

Another poster that bridges the curvilinear style of the early Secession with the post-1900 concern with geometry was made by Alfred Roller in 1903 for the sixteenth Secession exhibition. At the top of the lithograph, the three “S”s in the word “Secession” display short, blunt curves that descend into long sinuous spines, elongated and stylized like the traditional allegorical figure. (p.89)

In 1900, Otto Eckmann collaborated with the foundry owner Karl Klingspore to create Eckmann, an elegant typeface whose styling borrows elements from both the blackletter and Art Nouveau traditions. (p97)

In 1898, Henry van de Velde produced an advertisement for the Tropon food company. Here, the familiar plant forms of Art Nouveau actually represent the cracked shells of eggs, the key ingredient in Tropon’s signature product, powered egg whites. While the eggs are still recognizable, the poster comes daringly close to pure graphic abstraction. (p.100)

During his time in Weimar, van de Velde produced one of his most esteemed graphic works, an edition of Also Sprach Zarathustra (1909) by the Germna philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). The dense patterns on the cover surely must have been influenced by William Morris’s designs for the Kelmscott Press. (p.102)

In 1910, Peter Behrens designed a poster advertising AEG’s newest product, a technologically advanced lamp. the orthogonal design is overlaid with an equilateral triangle that contains the lamp and an abstract pattern representing its brilliant output. (p.104)

Behrens-Schrift, his first typeface, is a composite of blackletter script modified by roman type’s greater clarity. It features calligraphic strokes that have been rationalized in order to create better legibility and readability.

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