Polish artists had to get past a censorship board before any of their political posters were printed and publicly displayed, but irony and satire were incorporated so that board members wouldn’t realize their true meaning. This obstacle forced the artists to be more metaphorical rather than straight-forward, which actually ended up helping them transform their work into something very unique and meaningful.


THE ANTI-UNIMARK: Design in the 1970s

Unimark created a universal style that other companies could easily duplicate, which led to it getting old and repetitive. After Unimark dissolved, American logos were created that were so timeless, they could be played around with.

Bernbach's Volkswagen ad

Logos for CBS, Volkswagen, and The Girl Scouts of America were created during this time, among many others. William Golden and Lou Dorfsman were responsible for the CBS eye, and they designed the whole CBS building so that it was consistent with the CBS identity.

William Bernbach was responsible for the first Volkswagon campaign. He was the quintessential copywriter. He said it’s not about design itself, but the integration of design and copy that makes an ad effective. He said that copy needs to be something you want to read, but you should never lie. This approach is much different from the American approach to advertising in the Victorian Era.

Lois' Esquire covers

George Lois was another significant designer who challenged convention, and used street talk and real people in everyday situations to appeal to readers. He did cover designs for Esquire magazine along with many advertisements.

EDITORIAL DESIGN: The beginnings of striking magazine spreads and covers

Bradbury Thompson, Alexey Brodovitch, Cipe Pineles, and Otto Storch were the innovators of editorial design.Thompson liked to used unmixed CMYK colors. He began his work at a printing company called Westvaco, where he started designing the spreads and covers of the company’s magazine.

Brodovitch was responsible for designing striking covers for Harper’s Bazaar and Portfolio magazines that were glamorous, dramatic, and controlled. He used photography with typography in a fresh way.

Cipe Pineles, though she struggled to find work as a female artist, finally landed a job at Vogue magazine designing covers and spreads. She also designed covers for Glamour and Seventeen magazines. Others thought designing girls’ magazines was petty work, but Pineles said that it’s important for young women to know what good design is as well. She was the first women inducted into the New York Art Directors’ Club.

Otto Storch designed McCall’s covers and spreads in playful and clever ways.


Thompson's Westvaco magazine spread

Brodovitch's Harper's Bazaar cover

Pineles' Vogue cover

Storch's McCall's spread


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.

WORLD WAR I: Allied and Central Powers’ Propaganda

During World War I, the United States and Great Britain used posters to invoke action and emotion among their citizens in order to promote the war effort. While their posters were effective, Germany’s direct, emotionless posters were not.

James Montgomery Flagg

United States artist James Montgomery Flagg created the famous Uncle Sam poster to persuade men to enlist in the army. Other posters that were created by him and other artists from the U.S. and Great Britain urged every kind of citizen, such as women, children, and older people, to participate in the war effort in any way they could.

While the posters created by German artists were well done, they didn’t effectively provoke Germans to come together for the war effort. These posters were pro-war, but didn’t play to people’s emotions. This poster promoted U-boats, but didn’t do anything to persuade a young man to enlist. Later, when Hitler came to power, he said that the number one reason the Germans lost WWI was their lack of effective propaganda.

RUSSIAN REVOLUTION: Constructivism in Graphic Design

World War I and Russia’s civil war caused years of chaos for its people, and their Constructivist designs illustrated their desire to restore order and create new ideas.

Vladamir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko founded Constructivism; Tatlin was its spokesperson while Rodchenko was the artist. Constructivism was less about painting and sculpting and more about architecture, photojournalism, and industrialization.

This style included bold colors and geometric designs. Constructivist artists wanted to create a single style for all classes of people, no matter what their status of wealth was. This idea was reflected in art, architecture, furniture, appliances, and clothing.

Rodchenko photomontage

POSTER PIONEERS: Organization and Corporate Identity

Cluttered Victorian Era posters versus art nouveau posters in 20th Century Europe, which contain white space, organization, and the beginnings of corporate identity.

While U.S. ad designers strove to stand out, Europeans concentrated on aesthetic quality, which is a dichotomy that still exists today. Salons and galleries were spectator sports in France. While artists remained anonymous in the U.S., certain artists were known for their individual styles in France.

Jules Cheret is considered the father of the modern poster. He, along with other French poster artists, worked large-scale. His posters were eight feet tall. They had more white space, minimal information, and focused on modern life. He created vibrant, dramatic images of glamourous women to sell the latest styles.

He along with other French artists such as Lautres, Steinlein, Grasset, and Mucha used abstract art as a communicative tool. This creativity was duplicated in American art with Will Bradley, who ignited art nouveau in America.

Behren's logo for company AEG and some of his other posters

Meanwhile, in Germany, architect Peter Behrens wanted to develop a “visual language.” He utilized sans serif fonts and grids,  providing organization and geometry in his pieces in order to create readability and give design a purpose. He is among the first to use design to create corporate identity; he created logos and advertisements that contained similar elements to show they were all connected to the same corporation.

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