The peculiarities of the graphic design in the 20th and the 21st centuries
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The art of the 20th century rejected the main principles proclaimed by the artists earlier and reduced the significance of Realism with making the accents on Modernism and later on Postmodernism.
The processes in the development of the graphic design reflected the major ideas of the art at the beginning of the 20th century, and then the tendencies in the graphic design were closely connected with the progress of the art and cultural visions. The art and graphic design became progressive and even revolutionary. The artists and designers concentrated on the idea to emphasize the inner meaning of their works and also astonish the public with creating a kind of the art provocation.
The main trends in the graphic design of the period before World War II are based on rising the industry of advertising with the help of different types of images, using the contrasting colors to accentuate the elements of the work, presenting the images and texts within mathematically developed areas. The first part of the 20th century is characterized by the progress of International Typographic Style which developed not only in the European countries but also in the United States1.
The area for the presentation of the designers’ work was posters, advertisements, the covers of books where designers used different styles of scripts, various techniques in combination images, colors, and prints. However, the main accents were made on the perfect combination of the arithmetic exactness of the proportions, vivid scripts and meaningful images presented as symbols.
It is important to note that during different periods of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the variation of using strict lines and proportions or abstract and modernistic images can be observed. The ideals of Modernism were developed during the post-war period and reflected in Postmodernism which influenced the shift in the graphic design to accentuating vivid illustrations and the scripts connected with them.
Letters also became significant as the independent objects during the progress of the corporate design and creating the attractive visual logos for the famous companies. The most remarkable figures of the graphic design during the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century are Siegfried Odermatt, Rudolf de Harak, and Paul Rand2.
The impact of the illuminated manuscripts and chromolithography on the culture, society, and imagery of the 20th and the 21st centuries from the historical perspective
In spite of the fact it can seem that there are few similarities between the illuminated manuscripts and contemporary books or between chromolithographs and modern illustrations in the magazines or on the posters, the tradition of the illuminated manuscripts and chromolithography influenced greatly the development of the present-day graphic design from the point of the historical process. The development of the idea to decorate the books with definite ornaments and symbols is closely associated with the phenomenon of the illuminated manuscripts. To emphasize the significance of the written text and make the manuscript luxurious, the decorators developed the technique of illuminating the letters and designing the pages of manuscripts.
The cultural meaning of the illuminated manuscripts for the modern graphic design and the tradition of imagery is in the fact that these manuscripts were the first decorated texts in the history of the humanity. Moreover, the tradition to produce the illuminated texts was developed during several centuries till the beginning of the era of Renaissance3.
Thus, the modern practice to decorate the books in the 20th and the 21st centuries with a lot of different illustrations has its origins in the tradition to provide the illuminated images with the help of colorful ornaments and with using gold and silver to create the specific effect of the illumination.
The impact of chromolithography for the development of the modern graphic design can be observed with references to the progress of such techniques as photography and phototypography. The necessity to produce a lot of similar pictures which are the copies of each other is the symbol of the modern culture, and it is possible to mention that during the 19th century chromolithography was used in order to meet the demands of the public and make the process of producing pictures economically relevant.
Moreover, later the technique of chromolithography was utilized not only for producing the illustrations but also for copying the famous paintings and the other works of artists. During the second part of the 20th century the method which has a lot of peculiarities with chromolithography was used by Bradbury Thompson to create his colored illustrations and images4.
Thus, the illuminated manuscripts became the first step to the modern illustrated books, and the progress of chromolithography gave the start for developing the other numerous ways of making the copies of various images and vivid illustrations.
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The manifestation of the illuminated manuscripts and chromolithography’s concepts and ideas in the products of the 20th and the 21st centuries
Artists and designers often develop their new ideas with references to the tradition. In spite of the fact sometimes it is rather difficult to find the origins of this or that idea, a lot of modern art objects are influenced by the aspects of the historical progress of art and design. Today, the concepts of the illuminated manuscripts are not only reflected in the tradition of decorating books with illustrations but also followed in producing the contemporary variants of the illuminated manuscripts.
Modern illuminated manuscripts are often the books which include the religious texts, and they are extremely significant for the definite community. These books are usually referred to as iconic books, and it is possible to find them in churches, monasteries, and cathedrals where they are used as the ritual books. Nowadays, to decorate the religious texts, designers do not use gold and silver, but the usage of the other traditional elements of the illuminated manuscripts is followed.
Thus, these books contain vivid ornaments, the decorated initials, and many miniatures and illustrations at the borders of the pages5. Furthermore, the tradition of decorating the letters in the illuminated manuscripts affected the style of the 20th century according to which the letters are often accentuated with the definite symbols, and the image makes the headline more intensive and meaningful6.
The possibility to use the full-color and multi-color graphics is the result of developing chromolithography. Today, the reflections of the style of the first chromolithographs can be observed on many modern posters where the accents are made on the intensiveness of the color and the symbolic meaning of the picture7.
The abstract art and the principles of Modernism rejected the elements of the traditional chromolithographs, but according to the tendencies of Postmodernism it is possible to refer to the traditional images, and the ideas of chromolithographs are used for decorating the modern books and posters.
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: A New History. USA: Yale University Press, 2007.
Jones, Susan. “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe”. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. 2002.
Last, Jay T. The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography. USA: Hillcrest Press, 2005.
Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. USA: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.
Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
Munari, Bruno. Design as Art. USA: Penguin Global, 2009.
- Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011).
- Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.
- Susan Jones, “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe”, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, 2002.
- Jay T. Last, The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography, (USA: Hillcrest Press, 2005).
- Stephen J. Eskilson, Graphic Design: A New History, (USA: Yale University Press, 2007).
- Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics, (USA: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008).
- Bruno Munari, Design as Art, (USA: Penguin Global, 2009).