Design History – 40s & 50s the age of the Graphic Designer

40s and 50s Graphic Design
40s and 50s Graphic Design

Information Graphics

During WWII, graphic designers, illustrators, and artists used their talents to disseminate information and propaganda. Later, instead of promoting countries, the same strategies were used to promote products and enterprises.

Power of the Poster

During the war, posters encouraged people to enlist in the army or provided directions, such as wearing a gas mask. Others were propaganda aimed at instilling patriotic hate of the adversary in the public. Abram Games was the official poster artist in the United Kingdom (1914 – 1996). He was a big fan of catchy phrases and created the renowned ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ posters.

Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades - Poster Art by Abram Games
Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades – Poster Art by Abram Games

Postwar Poster Influence

Designers continued to employ symbols to communicate concepts in an interesting way after the conflict. The Festival of Britain emblem (’51), for example, was meticulously crafted to instil pride in the United Kingdom by showcasing Britannia’s Union Jack colours and head.

Raymond Loewy – Father of Design

Working in the United States, French-born designer Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986) pioneered the concept of ‘good design’. He recognised that consumers had grown more sophisticated. He advised manufacturers to woo their customers with elegant and streamlined designs.  
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Raymond Loewy featured image
Raymond Loewy featured image

Simple Text

‘Open Sans,’ a sans serif typeface designed by Steve Matteson, is what you’re reading right now. The clean lines of sans serif typefaces, such as Univers, were considered modern in the 1940s and 1950s.

Long-Term Logos

Companies commissioned expert designers to create logos that would last a lifetime as they grew more aware of the significance of branding. They sought to recruit devoted customers who would stick to a single, well-known brand. One of the most successful and long-lasting corporate identification emblems was Paul Rand’s logo for IBM (1956). Rand’s ability to break down the logo into simple, timeless shapes contributed to his design clarity.

Sources

Jones, H. (1999). 20th-Century Design: 40s And 50s: War and post-war years. Heinemann Library.

Important Graphic Designers

  • Robert Oxenaar (b.1939) Designer of Dutch Banknotes

    Robert Oxenaar (b.1939) Designer of Dutch Banknotes

    Robert Oxenaar (1929 – 2017) Designer of Dutch banknotes and stamps. Head of the Art and Design branch of the Dutch postal service. Helped launch a new generation of Dutch designers in the 1970s, including notables like Gert Dumbar.Read More →

  • Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) American multi-disciplined designer

    Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) American multi-disciplined designer

    Herbert Bayer was one of the Bauhaus’s most influential students, teachers, and proponents. Most of Bayer’s photographs come from the decade 1928–38, when he was based in Berlin working as a commercial artist. He designed the show Road to Victory (1942), which would set the course for Steichen’s influential approach to photography.Read More →

  • Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929 – 1995) Japanese Textile Designer

    Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929 – 1995) Japanese Textile Designer

    Hiroshi Awatsuji (1929- 1995) was a Japanese textile and graphic designer: born in Kyoto. He was considered the first Japanese textile designer to be recognised for contemporary design rather than for traditional art and craft. The main characteristic of his work was over sized motifs.Read More →

  • Ikko Tanaka (1930 -2002) 🇯🇵 Graphic Design blend of East and West

    Ikko Tanaka (1930 -2002)  🇯🇵 Graphic Design blend of East and West

    Ikko Tanaka was a Leading graphic designer in Japan. He had an enormous impact on the post-war visual culture in Japan.Read More →

  • František Zelenka (1896 – 1942) – Czech architect and stage and graphic designer.

    František Zelenka (1896 – 1942) – Czech architect and stage and graphic designer.

    František Zelenka (1896 – 1942) was a Czech architect and stage and graphic designer. He was born in Prague. Zelenka’s career in the theatre was initiated by K.H. Hilar, the National Theatre director in Prague in 1926.Read More →

  • Selwyn Image (1849- 1930) British Priest, Artist, Designer

    Selwyn Image (1849- 1930) British Priest, Artist, Designer

    In 1873, Image was ordained a priest in the Church of England. From 1882, he was associated with A.H. Mackmurdo in forming the Century Guild and designed the first issue (1884) of the Guild’s publication, The Hobby Horse. Read More →

  • Hermann Zapf (1918 – 2015) German Typographer and Calligrapher

    Hermann Zapf (1918 – 2015) German Typographer and Calligrapher

    Hermann Zapf (1918 – 2015) was born and educated in Nuremberg. Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse, a calligrapher and typeface designer, was his wife. Palatino, Optima, and Zapfino are some of the typefaces he developed.Read More →

  • Laura Knight (1877 – 1970) British Painter and Ceramicist

    Laura Knight (1877 – 1970) British Painter and Ceramicist

    She was a juror of the 1922 Carnegie International competition, Pittsburgh. She designed both the shapes and the decorations for the 1933—34 Circus range of tableware produced by Arthur J. Wilkinson, Burslem, under Clarice Cliff’s supervision.Read More →

  • Herbert Matter (1907 – 1984) Swiss Designer and Photographer

    Herbert Matter (1907 – 1984) Swiss Designer and Photographer

    Herbert Matter (April 25, 1907 – May 8, 1984) was a Swiss-born American photographer and graphic designer known for his pioneering use of photomontage in commercial art.Read More →

  • Keith Haring (1958 – 1990) American artist and designer – art that danced

    Keith Haring (1958 – 1990) American artist and designer – art that danced

    Keith Haring was best known for his graffiti-like painting, initially on the black paper used to cover discontinued billboard advertisements in the New York subway. After after a feverish 1980’s style career of surging popular success and grudging critical attention, Haring died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 31.Read More →

  • René Kieffer (1875 -1964) – French Bookbinder

    René Kieffer (1875 -1964) – French Bookbinder

    He was a gilder at the Chambolle-Duru bindery for ten years. In 1903, set up his workshop at 99 boulevard St-Germain, Paris. Later he moved to 41 rue St-Andre-des-Arts and finally, in 1910, to 18 rue Seguier. A disciple of Henri Marius ­Michel, his work shifted from classical forms to motifs in the Art Nouveau style.Read More →

  • Hermann Bongard Norwegian graphic & glassware designer

    Hermann Bongard Norwegian graphic & glassware designer

    Hermann Bongard Norwegian graphic designer and glassware designer. He studied lithography and commercial design. Read MoreRead More →

  • Alexey Brodovitch (1898 – 1971) 🇺🇸 🇷🇺 graphic designer and magazine art director

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

    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.Read More →

  • William Dwiggins (1880 -1956) – Typographer and all-rounder

    William Dwiggins (1880 -1956) – Typographer and all-rounder

    Dwiggins was known for his “Metro” series of typefaces, the first designed specifically for newspaper headlines. He produced that in 1929 when he won the gold medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.Read More →

  • Rut Bryk (1916 – 1999) Swedish ceramicist/graphic/textile designer

    Rut Bryk (1916 – 1999) Swedish ceramicist/graphic/textile designer

    In 1942, she worked for the pottery Arabia, Helsinki; from 1959, she was a freelance ceramics designer with Rosenthal, Selb. From the 1960s, she worked for Vassa Cotton Company.Read More →

  • Pierluigi Cerri (b.1939) Italian Architect/Graphic/Exhibition Designer

    Pierluigi Cerri (b.1939) Italian Architect/Graphic/Exhibition Designer

    He was active as an exhibition designer, designed 1978 ‘Peter Behrens und die AEG’ exhibition, Berlin; 1978 ‘Carrozzeria Italiana’ exhibition, Turin and Rome; 1981 ‘Identité Italienne,’ Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; 1983 ‘Alexander Calder’ exhibition, Turin; 1984 ‘Italian Design,’ Stuttgart and Tokyo; 1984 ‘Venti Progetti per il futuro del Lingotto,’ Turin; 1986 ‘Futurismo e Futurismi,’ Venice. Industrial design clients included B&B Italia, Fiat, IBM, Molteni, Unifor, Missoni, and Marotto.Read More →

  • Zdeněk Rossmann (1905 – 1984) Czech Book Designer, Architect

    Zdeněk Rossmann (1905 – 1984) Czech Book Designer, Architect

    He was a member of the Devétsil group from 1923 until its closure in 1931 and the Brno Devétsil group 1923-27. He designed publications, including Pasmo (1924—27) and the Fronta compendium (1927). His work was based on the principles of Bayer and Tschichold.Read More →

  • Abram Games (1914 – 1996) British graphic and industrial designer

    Abram Games (1914 – 1996) British graphic and industrial designer

    In acknowledging his power as a propagandist, he claimed, “I wind the spring and the public, in looking at the poster, will have that spring released in its mind.” Read More →

  • William Caxton (1422 – 1491) Father of English Printing

    William Caxton (1422 – 1491) Father of English Printing

    William Caxton learned about the mystery of printing in the Low Countries, and it was in Bruges that he translated a French work, ” The Tales of Troy, ” through his printing press.Read More →

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