Alexey Brodovitch (1898 – 1971) graphic designer and magazine art director

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Alexey Brodovitch
Alexey Brodovitch

Art Director of Harper’s Bazaar for 25 years

Alexey Brodovitch (1898 – 1971) was an American/Russian graphic designer and magazine art director. Alexey Brodovitch was born in Russia and worked in Paris in the 1920s, creating books, posters, furniture, and advertising. He moved to America in 1930 and worked as the art director of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in New York after a brief stint of teaching and advertising. From 1934 to 1958, he revolutionised American magazine design in this capacity.

Biography

His work for Harper’s was sensitive and intuitive; rather than being constrained by a stylistic or academic mould, type, image, and colour were treated with flare and artistic audacity. But it was the use of photography and type that ushered in the real revolution. Brodovitch commissioned stunning photography from the European avant-garde, cropped images in entirely new ways; urged his photographers to design photos as full-frame pages; and used illusory techniques like size contrast to create a sense of depth within the page. Although the type was always responsive to photography, it was allowed to have its flow and beauty. His trademarks were captions and paragraphs with outrageously ragged margins (producing long stringlike wisps across the page). Harper’s Bazaar issues published during Brodovitch’s reign have become a historical design study in and of itself, including evocative pictures by Man Ray and graphics by a young Andy Warhol.

Alexey Brodovitch Harpers Bazaar
Alexey Brodovitch Harperers Bazaar

Brodovitch also developed and designed another significant magazine achievement of the day, a large-format showcase for graphic design called Portfolio, in collaboration with Frank Zachery, in 1950. (a sumptuous magazine with no advertising).

Educator

Brodovitch lectured and taught at several schools, including Yale, Pratt, and others. Still, his primary educational function was in the Design Laboratory, a seminar course. From 1936 until the 1940s, the Laboratory was housed at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, then the New School for Social Research in New York, and finally other locations. Photographers Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Art Kane were among Brodovitch’s students.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Dormer, P. (1991). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers. Mallard Press.

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