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.
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.
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.
Other works attributed to the De Stijl movement:
The Schroder house is considered to be the pinnacle of De Stijl architecture.
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.