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The Postmodern Era of Graphic Design Essay

The 1980s was characterized with the rise of eclecticism as an art trend. Style was no longer dictated by established rules but by the random convergence of different theories and practices. The aforementioned phenomenon, in turn, ushered the postmodern wave in graphic design. The liberal atmosphere that prevailed over their craft prompted many graphic designers to come up with more creative and daring works. In the late 1970s, some educators in the field of graphic design started questioning the rigidity and minimalism of graphic modernism (Heller 9).

Graphic modernism, a graphic design trend that originated from Switzerland in the 1950s and the 1960s, placed emphasis on simplicity, universality, rationality, abstraction and structural expressionism (Heller 6). It was eventually became the standard style in several corporate and institutional design groups both in Europe and in the US. The academe soon followed suit – schools such as the Philadelphia College of Art, University of Cincinnati and Yale developed curricula that emphasized the prolonged study of abstract design and typographic form (Heller 7).

In the process, graphic designers who worked outside the academic and corporate settings were alienated. Majority of these artists were strongly affiliated with the punk movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They expressed their adherence to punk culture through aggressive, destructive and uninhibited graphic designs. Some of them, however, combined the influences of punk culture and graphic modernism in their works, bringing about the era of postmodernism in graphic design (Raizman 360).

British-born Neville Brody was one of the most well-known graphic designers who used this novel style. He parodied the uniformity and consistency of corporate graphics by experimenting with original lettering and trademarks. Magazines such as The Face later used his typefaces, paving the way for their development towards being able to convey moods and attitudes beyond the range of fonts available from foundries (Raizman 360).

One of Brody’s typefaces, Industria (1984), was “a bold sans serif typeface with a combination of blunt rectangular positive and negative shapes and knife-edged terminations for a number of letters” (Raizman 360). Other graphic designers of the punk movement, meanwhile, made their works from found material. Using pictures and texts that were cut from old magazines and newspapers, they were able to come up with striking posters that conveyed entirely new messages (Poynor 41).

This torn-paper collage approach to graphic design eventually became the springboard for the development of other forms of postmodern graphic design. Other graphic designers used loose, spontaneous brush strokes in their paintings in order to make them resemble torn-paper collages (Poynor 42). Some low-budget club promotions, meanwhile, gave existing art an edgy twist by deconstructing them (Poynor 38). The advent of computer technology in the 1990s and in the beginning of the 21st century further entrenched the era of postmodernism in graphic design.

The availability of affordable (if not free) and user-friendly computer software can allow anyone to create striking graphic designs. With just a little creativity, even those who did not undergo formal training in graphic design can come up with works that can surpass even those of professionals. It would be fair to say, therefore, that postmodernism democratized the concept of graphic design. Without any rules to follow except his or her own, anyone can create an artwork using materials that are either affordable or free.

The only factors that should be taken into consideration are individual creativity and imagination. Indeed, it is only human beings who put a limit to whatever they are capable of accomplishing. Works Cited Heller, Steven. The Education of a Graphic Designer. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Communications Inc. , 2005. Poynor, Rick. No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2003. Raizman, David. History of Modern Design: Graphics and Products since the Industrial Revolution. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2003.


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