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WEB | The History of Visual Communication [Part II]

January 15, 2010

Going on with our previous post The History of Visual Communication [Part I] and as promised, here is the second part:

06. The Masters of Type In the 12th cent. a rediscovery of Greek and Roman literature occurred across Europe that eventually led to the development of the humanist movement in the 14th cent. In addition to emphasizing Greek and Latin scholarship, humanists believed that each individual had significance within society. After that, In 1543 Copernicus wrote De revolutionibus, a work that placed the sun at the center of the universe and the planets in semicorrect orbital order around it; his work was an attempt to revise the earlier writings of Ptolemy. In such times, focused on technical developments and inventions, it was inevitable that the upheval described above would also affect our subject matter. One of the major benefits of this new milieu of learning and enquiry was the spreading of literacy, i.e. the ability of not only to be able to read but also to write.

In the Middle Ages, magnificent illumination was rarely used in the decoration of secular texts. In the Renaissance, though sacred texts continued to receive the most sumptuous decoration, secular texts began to rival them for elegance of script, illumination, and binding. In encyclopedias, maps and scientific researches, scientists illustrated their work and studies with images from early days onwards: Indeed even some of the Egyptian frescoes seem to point at scientific depictions.


07. Breaking the Grid The Industrial Revolution was the major technological, socioeconomic and cultural change in the late 18th and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world. During that time, an economy based on manual labour was replaced by one dominated by industry and the manufacture of machinery.

Printing techniques using movable type had restricted graphic design to an inflexible grid: Anything that was to be mass printed in great volume needed to adhere to a system whereby type was set in consecutive rows of parallel lines. Illustrations, maps and the like were hand drawn and engraved, only allowing for limited, costly editions due to the wearage of the engraving plates. The mass productive milieu of the industrial revolution manifested itself in a unique invention called lithography and this technique was to set type free from the bondage of the compositor.


08. The Avantgarde The term avant-garde in French means front guard, advance guard, or vanguard. People often use the term in French and English to refer to people or works that are experimental or novel, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics. Over time, avant-garde became associated with movements concerned with art for art’s sake, focusing primarily on expanding the frontiers of aesthetic experience, rather than with wider social reform. In our context the avantgarde will cover the avantgarde’ist movements of the early 20th century that specifically focused on visual communication design and/or implemented it as a modus operandi.

Futurist book design and typography

Graphic Design and Typography of the Bauhaus school


09. The Modernist The term “modernism” covers a variety of political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Broadly, modernism describes a series of progressive cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged in the decades before 1914. By 1930, Modernism had entered popular culture. With the increasing urbanization of populations, it was beginning to be looked to as the source for ideas to deal with the challenges of the day.

The paintings of Tamara de Lempicka (1898 – 1980)

Herbert Bayer for Fortune magazine

U&lc, typographic magazine, 1970’s and 1980’s


10. The Computer An important point was reached in graphic design with the publishing of the First things first 1964 Manifesto which was a call to a more radical form of graphic design and criticized the ideas of value-free design. This was massively influential on a generation of new graphic designers and contributed to the founding of publications such as Emigre magazine.

Deconstructivist Typography: Cornell Windlin

In 1950 the British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing published a paper describing what would come to be called the Turing Test. The paper explored the nature and potential development of human and computer intelligence and communication, while the first commercially successful electronic computer, UNIVAC, was also the first general purpose computer – designed to handle both numeric and textual information was also designed the same year. The implementation of this machine marked the real beginning of the computer era.

Although mainstream graphic design applications, print or digital, rely heavily on the presence of interfaced, intuitive, proprietrary software, one of the many exciting manifestations of digital design has been the merging of programming and design environments, creating new hybrid professions and areas of expertise, skills and transdisciplinary collaborations.

Above: Processing by Daniel Rothaug: “digital acoustic cartography”

Motion graphics are graphics that use video and/or animation technology to create the illusion of motion or a transforming appearance. These motion graphics are usually combined with audio for use in multimedia projects.

We highly recommend to see all the slideshows presented along this historical research. Mre info here.


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