AG's ARTIN Design Blog


Post-war graphic design

 Post  – War Graphic Design

The film “Helvetica” directed by Gary Hustwit, was  the starting poit of this lecture.  And as a starting point it represents perfectly the aesthetic mood of Modernism – simple, clean and legible.  And to talk about postmodernism  we need to reveal  first the aspects of Modernis.  Modernism  designates a style and ideology that is not restricted to a specific historical moment or geographical location. Modernist designers from the Bauhaus in Germany, the De Style in Holland, and Constructivism in Russia, share essentially the same Modernist ideology as designers like Paul Rand, Massimo Vignelli. Its primary tenet is that the articulation of form should always be derived from the programmatic dictates of the object being designed –  “form follows function”.

Some of the features of Postmodernism  –  reaction to the established forms of high Modernism, erasing of the boundaries between high culture and pop culture and  “the oretical discourse,” where theory was no longer confined to philosophy, but incorporated history, social theory, political science, and many other areas of study, including design theory. Postmodernism is not a description of a style; it is the term for the era of late capitalism starting after the 1940’s and realized in the 1960’s with neo-colonialism, the green revolution, computerization and electronic information. The postmodern era can best be understood in terms of four major characteristics: the decline of the West, the legitimation crisis, the intellectual marketplace, and the process of deconstruction. Indeed, we can say that these four characteristics define the meaning of postmodernity.



“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”

Paul Rand a great representative of European aesthetics and principles of modernist design.  A man of great conviction to clear communicative graphic design, his visual language conjured some of the best work of the Amercian modernist era. Here are some of Rand’s better known pieces that gives you a brief insight in to the essence of his working principles.

Undoubtedly, the core ideology that drove Rand’s career, and hence his lasting influence, was the modernist philosophy he so revered. He celebrated the works of artists from Paul Cezanne to Jan Tschichold, and constantly attempted to draw the connections between their creative output and significant applications in graphic design. In A Designer’s Art Rand clearly demonstrates his appreciation for the underlying connections

And of course I can not continue without posting one of the most emblematic Rand’s design.  Although his logos may be interpreted as simplistic, Rand was quick to point out in A Designer’s Art that “ideas do not need to be esoteric to be original or exciting.” His American Broadcasting Company trademark, created in 1962, epitomizes that ideal of minimalism while proving Rand’s point that a logo “cannot survive unless it is designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint.”

To discuss about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe i will start with two aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details”. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is  regarded as one of the pioneering masters of Modern architecture. Mies, like many of his post World War I contemporaries, sought to establish a new influential architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces.

“Alan Fletcher is one of the most influential figures in post-war British graphic design. The fusion of the cerebral European tradition with North America’s emerging pop culture in the formulation of his distinct approach made him a pioneer of independent graphic design in Britain during the late 1950s and 1960s. As a founding partner of Pentagram in the 1970s, Fletcher helped to establish a model of combining commercial partnership with creative independence. He also developed some of the most memorable graphic schemes of the era, notably the identities of Reuters and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and made his mark on book design as creative director of Phaidon.”

Chermayeff & Geismar is a prominent New York-based branding and graphic design firm, founded in 1957 by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar. The firm is famous for designing logos for such companies as Pan Am, Mobil Oil, PBS, Chase Bank, Barneys New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Xerox, Smithsonian Institution, NBC, Cornell University, National Geographic, and many others. Ivan Chermayeff and Thomas Geismar were awarded the AIGA Medal in 1979.


Designed in 1986, the six-feathered peacock (representing NBC’s six divisions) has become one of the world’s best-known birds.

Designed in 1981, the type manages to be both contemporary and classic, emphasizing the proud New York heritage by placing the ‘N’ and ‘Y’ in the centre.

Designed in 1961, when few American corporations were identified by abstract symbols, the Chase octagon has survived a series of mergers (quoted from Logo by Michael Evamy).

Designed in 1964, the Mobil logotype has become instantly recognisable across the globe. With this design reliant on colour, the black only version makes use of two concentric circles (for the letter ‘o’) suggesting motion and mobility.

Designed in 1997, this trade association for brokers and dealers uses a logo that appeals to those with an eye for upwardly-moving charts.


1. “Graphic Design History” Edited by Steven Heller and Georgette Balance.

2. “Typographyca” Poynor, Rick, London Laurence King 2001

3. “Paul Rand”, Heller Steven, London, Phaidon, 1999

4. “Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design” Muller – Brockmann, 2000

5.  “A Smile in the Mind: witty thinking in graphic design” McAlhone, Beril  1998

6. Alan Powers lecture




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