Origins Tumultuous Years page 8


These conditions still exist at far too many universities. Graphic Design as an educational program had its beginnings at the post secondary level at Yale University in 1950. Within fifteen years, Graphic Design as a program title had replaced Advertising Design at most institutions. Universities, Art Schools, Technical Schools and Community Colleges generally identify their programs as Graphic Design. However, in far too many instances, only the name was changed and not course content nor educational objectives. Many programs are still geared to advertising and illustration. The confusion in definition between Graphic Design and Advertising carries over into professional practice as well. During the 1950s most agencies abandoned the concept of inhouse artists and relied on outside studios for artwork. Many of the studios that specialize in servicing advertising agencies identify their business as Graphic Design.

The surge of American corporations during the 1950s to establish a public identity working with image or identity and communication rather than marketing gave enormous impetus to Graphic Design as a profession. Most corporations had substantial design departments and retained prestigious designers as consultants. Corporate design practices and objectives were borrowed by smaller businesses, and Graphic Design was firmly established as a profession in this period. There was a corresponding impact on Graphic Design education as systems, grids, human factors, symbol and letter form design, typography, communication, formal values, and eventually, design history were addressed as concerns or new courses. The new educational focus was a direct outgrowth of design emphasis in business during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the 1980s, the American Institute of Graphic Design established regional chapters becoming a national organization. AIGA chapters have replaced the old Art Director’s Clubs in many major cities. In recent years, the Society for the Typographic Arts has reorganized
as the American center for Design and it is moving toward becoming a national organization. Even though most educational programs and professional studios work under the designation of Graphic Design, there is a great variance in what they do, and in performance standards. There is still insufficient distinction made between Graphic Design, Illustration and Advertising Design. The educational requirements for each are quite different.

Advertising is based on marketing goods or services, and the objective is to sell. Therefore, if a design results increased profits, it must be regarded as good design. Advertising is a service that is usually defined by the client. Marketing research, trends, novelty, and clients’ wishes influence much of what an Art Director does on the job.

Graphic Designers are visual communicators and problem-solvers. They work with human factors, research and analysis. Graphic Designers are strongly grounded in theory and formal values. They are more prone to recommend to the client than to ask what the client wants. They prefer to work at a professional level rather than as a service to clients. Graphic Designers frequently work in marketing but they are not limited to it. Graphic Designers often collaborate with other professionals such as architects, engineers, industrial designers or others.

Graphic Designers work in industry, marketing, promotion, publishing, television, packaging, exhibit design, education and government. I prefer Graphic Design to Advertising as an educational program because of the wider latitude of job opportunities for graduates.

The institutions that have had the greatest influence on Graphic Design educational programs, largely as models or sources for teachers, have been Yale University at the graduate level, University of the Arts (formerly The Philadelphia College of Art and Design) at the undergraduate level and the Kunst Gewerbeschule in Basel. In advertising, Art Center, Pratt, Parsons and the School of Visual Arts have had an equal impact.

By the 1990s, most of the individuals who have been pivotal in Graphic Design education since WWII have died, retired or retirement is imminent. The distinctions between Graphic Design and Advertising which were strongest in the fifties and sixties are now blurred.
The large influential corporate design departments no longer exist. Unfortunately, the ultimate criteria for design today seems to be success in the marketplace. The future of Graphic Design education is now being shaped by technology, mainly the computer. It is unclear how this is going to affect traditional values and change pedagogy. It is equally uncertain who the new leaders will be and what directions Graphic Design is moving. An important consideration at this time bears on whether educators can subject the computer to its proper status as a tool, or whether its application will be rampant and dictate form rather than execute it.


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