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Art and Design

Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers

Read Graphic Design before Graphic Designers

Graphic design existed long before there were any graphic designers and this lavish volume is a vibrant tribute to beautifully crafted printed ephemera from the past. The art of combining text and pictures has been at the heart of the printer’s craft for hundreds of years. While early pioneers focused on books, others began using their presses for more humble uses, from handbills to games, advertisements and packaging. This so-called ‘jobbing’ work grew rapidly in importance, yet has been overlooked in histories of both print and graphic design.

A few things I liked from a skim through this book:

The Girlie matchbox with illustration of sickly looking woman with big eyes
London, early 1900s
Folio cover with concentric circles of color in black, red and gold, with golden Sundays
1880. Designed by Paul E. Werner in Ohio

I recently bought a poster that’s vaguely reminiscent of this. 

Red cover with black numeral befinf all caps yellow type

    1928. Published by Charles Peignot of Paris
1920s. Paris

I like the dashed outlines of the clouds, kinda Aubrey Beardsley style, adding decoration to fill the empty sky but not distracting from the grand hotel illustration. I suspect hotels today wouldn’t want a red association, but it looks striking in this.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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