Coming in June 2023
Between 1947 and 1953, the Austrian-born, Bauhaus-trained artist Herbert Bayer (1900–1985) oversaw the design and production of the World Geo-Graphic Atlas, a landmark work of graphic design and data visualization. Commissioned by Container Corporation of America to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chicago-based company’s founding, the Atlas would ultimately become much more than the promotional publication its patrons had initially envisioned. The Atlas’s imaginative presentation methods have had a lasting impact within the fields of information design and visual education, transforming the look and character of subsequent geographic atlases and popular scientific illustration. Characterized by Bayer as “the concept of a ‘visualist,’” the Atlas’s graphic presentations made complex and specialized information comprehensible and engaging for readers—a point he underscored in giving the Atlas’s title its distinctive, hyphenated formulation “geo-graphic.” The Atlas’s narrative proved to be prescient as well, highlighting challenges related to economic globalization and human-caused environmental destruction—crises that have only grown more acute in the seventy years since its publication.
In Herbert Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas and Information Design at Midcentury, Benjamin Benus tells the story behind this work’s creation. Richly illustrated and drawing on extensive archival documentation, Benus’s account reconstructs the working methods and intellectual exchanges through which Bayer and his circle of scientific collaborators realized this remarkable work. Reflecting on Bayer’s attempt to balance and resolve the commissioned work’s educational and advertising functions, Benus’s study offers broader insights into the roles twentieth-century artists and designers played in popularizing scientific knowledge and shaping audiences’ geographical worldviews.
About the Author
Benjamin Benus is an associate professor of art and design history at Loyola University New Orleans. He specializes in the history of modern art, with a focus on twentieth-century graphic design in Europe and the United States. He completed his PhD in art history at the University of Maryland in College Park, and he earned a BFA and an MS in art history from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. His scholarship, which examines historical connections between modernist design and data visualization, has been supported with research fellowships from the Vienna Circle Institute at the University of Vienna, the Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Benus is the cocurator of the exhibition “Concept of a Visualist: Herbert Bayer’s World Geo-Graphic Atlas,” which opened in June 2023 at the Aspen Institute’s Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies in Aspen, Colorado.
Publisher: RIT Press (06/2023)
Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket
Illustrations: 128, mostly color
Size: 9 x 12 in.
Shipping Weight: 3lb
Table of Contents
1 LESSONS AND LEGACY OF THE BAUHAUS
1.1. Weimar—Dessau—Berlin 25
1.2. New York—Aspen 33
2 PRODUCTION AND STYLE
2.1. Technical and Logistical Considerations 47
2.2. The Printers’ Maps 51
2.3. Illustration and Graphic Form 59
2.4. “Toward the Book of the Future” 67
3 SOURCES AND METHODS
3.1. Collaborations and Appropriations 77
3.2. Visual Education and Isotype 83
3.3. Picturing Populations 93
3.4. Picturing Processes 103
4 ADVERTISING AND INFORMATION
4.1. “The Realms of Education and Good Taste” 111
4.2. Visual Identity at Container Corporation of America 115
4.3. Modern Art in Advertising 123
4.4. “Political Inferences” 129
4.5. “The Complete Task of the Graphic Designer” 139