De Stijl (The Style)

February 13, 2009

I do apollagize about the few post recently to the blog. I have been taking a class on the program InDesign, starting on some new work and planning my future amongst other things. So I have been rather busy in the real world.

Regarding a previous post, I have been doing some more reading on the subject of graphic design, another history book (Graphic Design: A History, Alain Weill) that says that Cubism wasn’t really a big influence to graphic design. It basically states that the text and the use of montage was basically coincidence and there was no direct influence. So I guess it just depends on who you talk to and what you read. Decide for yourself.

I think I wrote that I would go into Surrealism next but I have changed my mind. I want to write about De Stijl instead.

I think the work of the De Stijl movement (along with Constructivism) is the starting point of the progression of modern graphic design’s rise to dominate the look and feel of corporate advertising and design.

I do find it interesting that the rise of Modernism was born our of revolution and the avant-garde and then grew up and became the language of corporations and authority. 

Anyway, why do I think De Stijl is so important?

First of all, what is De Stijl? Basically De Stijl was born in the Netherlands between 1915-17 and lasted till maybe the 1930s. Russian Constructivism grew simultaneously and there are some similarities and some overlap of artists and designers that are part of each movement. De Stijl sought to create a universal vision through abstraction and rationalism that was pure and austere. They sought a spiritual purity through precise organization and geometric abstraction. This was in a way to protest war, individualism, and nationalism.

De Stijl was a movement that would span though architecture, design, art. It’s principles could be applied to anything. De Stijl work was geometric and avoided the use of curves. It used simple forms and color was pure in its use. It had a grid-like structure. It was formal in its use of dynamic asymmetric balance, and interactions of simple forms (i.e. shapes) and space.

In the way of graphic design and typography, there was a strict adhesion to san serif type and the square was the basic element used for page layout. This use of the grid and geometric frame work and the use of san serif type would dominate graphic design for decades. It basically still dominates conservative corporate and government/public design. Helvetica was not De Stijl but it is a san serif font and is/was seen as the fruition of the perfect san serif font and dominates design that is meant to be authoritative. See the documentary Helvetica. 

De Stijl aesthetic can be seen in the publication De Stijl that was produced by the architect Theo Van Doesburg and the man who designed the typography, Vilmos Huszar.

 

De Stijl Magazine Cover

De Stijl Magazine Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrik T. Wijdweld founded the magazine called Wendingen in 1918. He chose a strictly square format and used san serif type. It was a little more eclectic in its design. It seemed to have an Asian influence in the use of Chinese paper and it was bound in a Japanese style binding. Note the typeface used is similar to the one used in the De Stijl publication. There is a use of color but it is minimal and pure in its hue. 

 

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a magazine called The Next Call. It was created by Hendrik N Werkman. It was even more eclectic than Wendingen was was maybe more experimental and radical. However, I think you can see the geometric use of the format, pure and minimal color, a dynamic asymmetrical balance. 

 

The Next Call

The Next Call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other works attributed to the De Stijl movement:

 

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schroder house is considered to be the pinnacle of De Stijl architecture.

 

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram 1923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is an isometric diagram of a building made up of “floating” geometric frames. These ideas were never realized in form and the closest thing really is Rietveld’s Schroder House in Utrecht. It does look like a 3-d Mondrian painting with its use of angular forms and primary colors. These drawings seem to be influential to constructivist architecture, the Bauhaus and eventually the International Style of architecture.

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Dada and It’s Influence

January 30, 2009

This is part two of my “history” series. It has been a little while since I last post to my blog. The snow and winter weather has been a distraction. Even though a lot of time has been spent inside, I have decided to work on some art instead of writing. Plus I have been doing some sledding and made a snowman.Well, now I am back…with a sore tailbone from sledding. Ouch, I am getting old.

So part two will be on Dada and it’s sub-movements and how they influenced visual communications/graphic design.

Dada started as a literary movement when Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland around 1917. A huge member of this group, in addition to Hugo Ball, was Tristan Tzara, a poet. He published poetry and edited a publication called DADA. 

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These literary figures were interested in sound, nonsense,  and chance poetry. This did spill out into the visual art field in the form of automatic drawing and the allowance of chance and the absurd to infiltrate too.

The Dada movement claimed to be “anti-art” and had a strong destructive and negative element. It was a rejection of tradition and the seeking of complete freedom from past traditions. This was familiar territory of the Futurists and I am sure they did have some influence. 

Also, like the Cubists, they had an interest in letter forms as concrete visual shapes. Letters were not just phonetic symbols.

The art of photo-montage was said to originate from this same movement. The most famous artist to use this was Hannah Hoch. She took found elements from printed sources and patched them together in rather random and/or absurd ways.

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kurt Schwitters…not technically part of the Dada Movement.

They rejected him.

However, he did have great influence on 20th century typography. However, in the art world he is most known for his collage compositions created from printed ephemera , rubbish and other found materials. In all of his work, he combined Dada’s nonsense and chance with strong use design elements and principles. I suppose he was too structured for the Dadaists then. I suppose this is why they rejected him.

From 1923-32 he published a periodical called Merz. Typography and design were major subjects of the publication. In addition, he worked with El Lissitzky, a Russian Constructivist, and he worked with Theo Van Doesburg, a Dutch De Stijl artist who was also famous for his architectural and design/typographic work. 

Schwittters also ran a graphic design studio and the city of Hanover, Germany employed him as a typography consultant for years.

A Kurt Schwitters collage

A Kurt Schwitters collage

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sub-movement of Dada were the Berlin Dadaists. Two of their most famous members were John Heartfield and George Grosz. They sought to raise public consciousness and promote social change through visual communications.

Grosz and Heartfield Design

Grosz and Heartfield Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both were highly critical of Germany’s politics and society. Heartfield used the art of photo-montage as a propaganda weapon and innovated the way work was prepared for offset printing. He hated Hitler and Nazi Germany…so much he changed his name from Helmut Herzfelde as a protest against German militarism. 

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Grosz, mainly known as a visual artist who is known for his paintings and drawings. He attacked a “decadent and degenerate” society through satire and characature. He did work for several publications such as, Der Blutige Ernst. 

Grosz drawing

Grosz drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, Dada dissolved into rival factions in 1921-22. One faction led by Andre Breton lead to the founding of Surrealism.

Surrealism will be next. I also checked out a book about woman designers so you will probably see some stuff on that soon. As a woman, I am interested in what woman have contributed to design since it seems like, historically, that men have dominated the field.