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Pedagogy Design and Computers page 2

 
 

Making Sense of Chaos:
The End of the 19th Century

Near the end of the nineteenth century, all design was in a chaotic state. As constraints were eliminated by advancement in machines and processes, few restraints were imposed. Victorian values were a mix of eclectic sources. The nineteenth century was a period of exploration, archaeology and colonization by Europeans. Contact with foreign and ancient cultures resulted in an exotic array of diverse imagery integrated into the design repertory of the day. Traditional standards for value such as hand-formed embellishment by artisans were still popular. During the nineteenth century, the same decorative effects could be done by machines. Intricate relief was stamped in a second, and artificial gems substituted for real ones. John Ruskin was to say of Victorian design that “…it was done without the labor that gave it honor.”

Near the end of the nineteenth century, design chaos was finally acknowledged as such, and reaction began to build. The counter action was led by various individuals and groups loosely identified as the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The revivalists, with William Morris as their principal exponent, believed that printing should return to the age of decadence for its means and values. The Kelmscott Press was established within this context. Paper and ink were handmade, type and decorative styles were based on those of the middle ages, and printing was done on a hand-press.

Another group felt that values had declined because of urban decadence, and that true values resided with peasants and were to be found in simple country life. To regain morality, it was necessary to return to basic life styles and values. Folk art, home crafts and rustic architecture illustrated their philosophy. Others believed that the source for all design was nature. Design was an interpretation and extension of nature. It was believed that the principles for design grew out of natural laws and that imagery should mirror nature.

Yet another group believed that design should incorporate and reflect new technologies, materials and the industrial age. Key elements of their philosophy were integrity of materials and substituting function for embellishment in design. These principles became central to the philosophy of the Bauhaus. During the latter years of the nineteenth and early years of the twentieth century, there was a growing understanding for the need of restraints to establish order in design. A number of books were published promoting different philosophies of design. Most books offered visual principles best described as recipes for design. In one form or another, facets from several movements were incorporated into the Bauhaus which emerged as the dominant voice for architecture and design in the twentieth century. It was the Bauhaus that firmly established restraint as essential to the quality of design by making the distinction between function and embellishment.

From around 1900 until the 1930s, there were various art movements such as Dada, DeStijl, Futurism, Bauhaus and others experimenting with type, letterform and design. Some individuals represented more than one school at different times, or followed the philosophies of more than one movement at the same time.

A diverse group of painters, poets, printers and typographers used type as visual texture, blocks of type as shape or lines of type to show movement, letterform as shape, and combined them with color. Type and letterform became design elements serving both as image and communication. Traditional use of type had always been supplemental in the sense of being separate but added to image. Graphic artists from the design movements of early twentieth century and their works are to graphic designers what French painters of late nineteenth century are to painters. Most of the precepts of modern graphic design were established during these years by these individuals. Throughout history, the introduction of significant new inventions such as electricity, automobiles, airplanes and computers went through several predictable stages. The first is as a curiosity and its use is restricted to the small group of people who have a technical understanding of its workings. The second stage is as a toy or prestige symbol, and its use is confined mainly to the wealthy who can afford it. The third stage is general acceptance with widespread usage by the population at large.

 

The Influence of Technology >

 

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Typography
is the visual translation
of verbal communication.

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