Design, Graphic Design, Uncategorized

Evolution of Graphic Design (Part 4)

Here comes the end of the series!

The previous posts talked about how the graphic design paved its way to the contemporary world through wars, social and economic roller coasters. Every time span leaves an impact on the art of that particular time and graphic design has not been any different.

Fast forward a few decades, design acquired a primary functional role (like never before).

Considering the modern/post-modern design evolved from the old styles and schools only, this post would speak more about the functional side of design post 1960.

Impact of social and political activism

The 60s was the era of social and political activism. The increasing racial divide, Southeast Asia wars set the youth against the cultural norms and conservative beliefs. The Black movement, the feminist movement, the hippie movement and the youth movement all sought to create an egalitarian society. All these movements were represented through the posters, flyers, and the like to shake the existing status quo that the older generations wanted to cling on to so desperately. Graphic design became a way of expression.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll dominated the scene, and the art and design of era reflected these changes. The consumption of mind-altering drugs became common and that led to the rise of America’s psychedelic movement. The impact of psychedelic movement could be seen in music, art, literature and fashion.

Talking specifically about the visual language, the creatives included Nouveau-inspired curvilinear shapes, illegible hand-drawn type letters and dizzying optical illusions with kaleidoscope patterns. There were also intense optical color vibrations inspired by the pop art movement which could be seen on album covers and movie posters of the era. The design also incorporated asymmetrical experiential styles, surreal imagery and messy grunge abstracts.

Infusion of design in marketing and advertising

Using graphic design for promotional material wasn’t that new. However, rather than just being an element to attract attention, it attained the role of a catalyst in the communication process for the product/service. As part of the marketing, graphic design became more functional, aiding to the overall impact of the messaging.

Graphic design became an integral part of the communication process. Corporate identities were initiated to build a visual image for the brands. Though 1950s was the prime era for designers like Saul Bass and Paul Rand, 1960s observed a subtle shift in their design style. Alan Fletcher and Erik Nitsche became famous for their branding campaigns, and Keiichi Tanaami delved into animation, lithograph, illustration, and editorial design.

The New Wave movement

The New Wave typography was developed by Wolfgang Weingart in the early 1970s at the Basel School of Design, Switzerland.

Also known as Swiss Punk Typography, the New Wave movement broke the conventional rule of grid structures for the text. While sans serif fonts still prevailed, the overall layout of the fonts stretched the boundaries in terms of letter spacing, alignment, leading, type-sizes, font colors etc. Inconsistent and playful lettering were another common style of this movement. The compositions were complex and were very close to psychedelic designs in terms of the look and feel.

The movement witnessed the rise in the digital technology and transition to computer graphics further added to the complexity of the layouts. April Greiman was one of the first graphic designers to embrace computers and the New Wave aesthetic is still visible in her digital works.

Digital revolution

The first computer graphics design system – known as Sketchpad’, was developed by Evan Sutherland as his PhD thesis at MIT in 1963. However, it was only in the late 1980s, when the computers became affordability of computers led to mass-adoption of the technology, that the digital design became mainstream.

Apple introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984. It used a simple, user-friendly interface that said “Hello”, encouraging users to be creators. The launch of Photoshop on 19 February 1990 was another landmark in the history of new age design. Basic programs like Microsoft Paint enabled masses to create basic art on their own.

The present day

Last two decades have seen mushrooming of the design tools and software that don’t even require technical expertise to create designs. The automation at so many levels has made it easy for non-designers to work around with visually appealing creatives which is pushing the designers to color outside the lines in order to stay relevant.

The Covid pandemic witnessed some changes in how the design is being treated. With increased screen time and reduced attention span, the focus has continuously been on communicating clearly – on how the design works rather than the mere aesthetics. Minimalism has been one of the key principles.

What’s next?

The future is now!

The creative generative AI is already there. While the AI would take up major design execution tasks, the focus would be more on attaining the creative skills and developing better understanding of the AI since only design skill won’t suffice.

Technology would keep evolving but what would always be of paramount importance – how the design functions, how accessible and inclusive the design is, and most importantly, how your design is making the viewer feel!

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