Establishing itself in Chicago in 1965, Unimark was made up of several different groundbreaking designers like Rand Paul. Unimark acted like a big corporation in order to receive other big corporations as clients. Giant corporations were not interested in hiring a small studio to do its designs.

Unimark's Target logo

Unimark started in Chicago, but expanded to several other major cities around the world. Ralph Eckstrom was the president, and Massimo Vignelli, Jay Doblin, and Bob Noorda were the vice presidents. It was the first organization to devote itself to modernism on an international scale.

They created Target’s famous red target logo, designed the subway signs for New York City, designed American Airlines’ identity system, along with many others. Noorda was behind Milan’s subway signs and maps, Vignelli integrated Ford’s original logo with a more modern identity, and the designers of Unimark were behind JCPenny’s logo. Its designs were clean, logical, consistent, and timeless.

Unimark's New York City subway signs

The problem, however, was the inherent stress between the marketing people and the design people within the company. Marketing is all about what the new and latest strategy should be, while the design team wanted to create work that could last forever.

A lot of the designers left because they didn’t want to take on small, trivial projects the marketing team brought in. Consequently, there was a mass exodus in 1972, and all of Unimark’s offices were officially closed in 2000.



Lester Beall and Paul Rand, both pioneers of American design, were influenced greatly by European modernism. They created identity systems for large companies such as IBM, and did a lot of magazine spreads and ads.

Beall's Scope Magazine cover design

Lester Beall used flat, grid-like designs to create ads depicting everyday activities. He applied color in only specific spots to create energy. Although influenced by European design, his work divided American design slightly from European design, with the former being more intuitive and expressive.

Paul Rand, considered the “father of American design,” created stripped-down, yet expressive work. He created the corporate identity system for IBM which has been used since the 1960s. He’s been involved in book design, advertising, corporate identity, and children’s book design. In his book Thoughts on Design, he laid out what designers can do for society and for business. He often used stripped backgrounds, textures, flat colors, quirky shapes, and clear structures.

Rand's children's book illustration

Rand's logos


Being that Switzerland was always a neutral country during World War II, they were able to move forward with their stable economy, and were therefore very design-conscious and innovative. They are the originators of International Typographic Style, a.k.a. International Modernism.

Herbert Matter photomontage tourism poster

Artists like Herbert Matter in Switzerland tried to create a modern, universal form of communication through design. Everything about what they created was meant to be highly structured, rational, objective, precise, and timeless. Matter was responsible for Swiss tourism posters.

Brockmann poster speaking against noise pollution

A lot of photography and symbols were used, because they were the most fact-based and functional graphics. There was no illustration or decoration. Individualism in art was no longer important. Instead, designers wanted to be socially responsible for global unification through their designs. Their goal was to use minimal means for a maximal message.

Hofmann's ballet photomontage poster

Other designers involved in this movement included Joseph Muller-Brochmann, and Armin Hofmann. Muller-Brockmann was “The Theorist,” saying that there was more to life than making money from art. He often made posters for social justice and human welfare purposes. He was one of the first to use a flush left/ragged right justification to create a grid-like poster.

Hofmann used a lot of black and white to create striking positive and negative space. He used cropping to add drama and make posters less personal. For example, in his ballet advertising poster, he cropped out he ballerina’s head to highlight ballet in general, and not that particular ballerina. His son, Mattias Hofmann, is a modern graphic designer who has also put out a lot of interesting work.

BAUHAUS: Principles of Design

The Bauhaus, the first-ever design school, opened in Germany in 1919. It established the principles of design that current graphic designers still use.

The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar by Walter Gropius, then moved to Dessau, and was then closed down because of Nazi control. Many of the designers who were professors there moved to the United States, and opened the Chicago Institute of Art–the “American Bauhaus.”

The art professors came from all over the world. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer had perhaps the greatest influence on modern design. The Bauhaus designers were the first to use sans-serif typography, and synthesized De Stijl and Constructivist ideas.

Moholy-Nagy Photography

Moholy-Nagy was one of the first to experiment with photography, using lighting and exposure to manipulate his art. Herbert Bayer was a professor of typography.

Herbert Bayer, Cover of Bauhaus Magazine

Bayer was the first to use boldface words and organization to show a hierarchy of information on a page, and created the first all-lowercase typography. His design theories are still taught in today’s design schools.

The first modern art school, The Bauhaus dissolved the line between fine art and applied art. Architects, sculptors, painters, carpenters, etc. all worked together. The school was looking forward, embracing modern art and the new urban culture of the 20th century.

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