The History of Graphic Design - Influential Style & Art Movements | Lindsay Marsh | Skillshare

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The History of Graphic Design - Influential Style & Art Movements

teacher avatar Lindsay Marsh, Over 500,000 Design Students & Counting!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Preview


    • 2.

      The History of Style Movements- An Introduction


    • 3.

      Art Nouveau and The Bauhaus Movement


    • 4.

      Art Deco and The Swiss Design Movement


    • 5.

      Pop Art, The Ad Boom and The Digital Age


    • 6.

      Student Project


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About This Class

We are very lucky to be in our position and to be able to draw on such a wonderful rich design history.

To understand the future of design we must understand the past.

This class will review long-lasting design and art movements of the 20th and 21st century that helped to shape the graphic design industry today.

Style and art movements happen rarely; sometimes just once in a generation and they depend heavily on events occurring in global politics, culture and history. They are broad, sweeping changes in how artists and designers view and interact with the world around them.

Some movements, like Art Deco, which was popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s, are still very relevant today. You will see how all of these style eras have influenced the diversity of current day design esthetics.

In Graphic design history we see this same pendulum swinging every decade or two throughout the last 100 years. You will notice as I walk through these 7 different large style movements that one movement counters the next and they slowly build on each other like a Multi-leveled building allowing all the styles of the past to influence the latest movements.

I would like to start off in the late 1800s for our first style movement and we will end up talking about the more recent history of graphic design and events that has helped shape our industry now and beyond.

In the end you will be tasked to create a poster project that emulates one of these 7 styles.

There will also be helpful additional reach available so you can see modern interpolations of these styles in action. 

This course is for anyone interested in design history or those who are passionate about expanding their knowledge in the field of design.

I will be your teacher for this class. My name is Lindsay Marsh and I have been a graphic designer for over 20 years and I have taught over 300,000 design students over the course of 5. Anyone who has taken my classes has seen my devotion and love for the graphic design industry and I am excited about presenting this history class to you.

So, I will see you in the first lesson!

Meet Your Teacher

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Lindsay Marsh

Over 500,000 Design Students & Counting!


I have had many self-made titles over the years: Brand Manager, Digital Architect, Interactive Designer, Graphic Designer, Web Developer and Social Media Expert, to name a few. My name is Lindsay Marsh and I have been creating brand experiences for my clients for over 12 years. I have worked on a wide variety of projects both digital and print. During those 12 years, I have been a full-time freelancer who made many mistakes along the way, but also realized that there is nothing in the world like being your own boss.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to be able to take classes at some of the top design schools in the world, Parsons at The New School, The Pratt Institute and NYU. I am currently transitioning to coaching and teaching.

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1. Class Preview: [MUSIC] To understand the future of graphic design, you must understand the past and how far we've come over the last 120 years. This quick class reviews the history of graphic design as we review seven different style and art movements that changed our industry forever. These are fun and enjoyable lessons that are filled with lots of visual examples from each style movement. In this class, we will be reviewing the following art movements. Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Swiss style, Pop Art, Post-modern, and the Digital Age. In the end, you'll be tasked to create a poster project that emulates one of these seven styles. They'll also be helpful additional research available so you can see modern interpretations of these styles in action. This course is for anyone interested in design history or for those who are passionate about expanding their knowledge in the field of design. I will be your teacher for this class. My name is Lindsay Marsh and I've been a graphic designer for over 20 years and I have taught over 300,000 design students over the last five years. Anyone who has taken my classes has seen my devotion and love for the graphic design industry, and I'm excited about presenting this history class to you today. I'll see you in the first lesson. [MUSIC] 2. The History of Style Movements- An Introduction: [MUSIC] We are very lucky to be in our position and be able to draw on such a large, wonderful, rich design history. To understand the future of design, we must understand the past. This class will review long-lasting style movements of the 20th and 21st century that helped to shape the graphic design industry today. Style and art movements happen rarely, sometimes just once in a generation and they depend heavily on events occurring in global politics, culture, and history. They are broad sweeping changes in how artists and designers view and interact with the world around them. Some movements like Art Deco which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s are still relevant today in design. You can see how all of these style era's have influenced the diversity of current day design aesthetics. You will notice that each new art or style movement builds on the next. When a particular design style starts to become stale or oversaturated in a culture, there tends to be a shift toward an opposing style. Think about the styling of cars in the last 50 years. In the 1950s and '60s you'll notice cars had very large fins and really smooth, rounded body styles. After a few decades of saturation and overuse, something new and different was desired. That's when the more boxy styling of the 1980s came around. Then slowly past the 1990s and into the mid 2010s, we noticed cars getting more round and curvy again. Also, the same phenomenon happens with fashion. Once it was mom jeans back in the 1980s. Then light-colored torn jeans in the 1990s, to then in the 2000s shift right back to the darker straight-legged pants that were popular in the 1950s. To the now, well, we're back to mom jeans. The lighter bleached colors of the 1990s are in. The pendulum continues to swing back and forth, not only in the styling of cars but the styling of just about everything. When something becomes ordinary, we look for direction on what can we do to now make it something extraordinary. In graphic design history, we see the same pendulum swinging every decade or two throughout the last hundred years. You'll notice as I walk through these seven different larger style movements that one movement counters the next and they slowly build on each other like a multi-level building, allowing all the styles of the past to influence the latest movements. I would like to start off in the late 1800s for our first style movement and we'll end up talking about the more recent history of graphic design and events that helped shape our industry now and beyond. I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 3. Art Nouveau and The Bauhaus Movement : [MUSIC] Our first style that we're going to talk about is Art Nouveau. This lasted roughly around the 1880s to the 1910s. I believe that before everything, a painting must decorate. This is artists Maurice Denis, a French painter and artist. If I could describe this style in one sentence, it would be curvy, playful, and full of life, literally. If France had a design style heritage, it would most likely be rooted in Art Nouveau. This architectural style would influence many of Paris's magnificent hotels and buildings and ornament design. Like most design movements, this one transcended design, architecture, and decorative arts and was dominant during the Belle Epoque period. This period in the late 1800s and before World War I was a full of spirited optimism and artistic exploration and expression. Art Nouveau is characterized by the abundance of detailed floral and plant life, usually displayed in non-repeating patterns. You'll notice a lot of the curves that frame photos and focal points, like in this example. In the two photos below you see various design elements in the Art Nouveau style. You will find these plentiful as background decor are draped on the corners of a design. You also see a lot of highly illustrative main characters would tend to feature a lot of women more than men. Art Nouveau found its inspiration from old Japanese woodblock prints. Many artists from the mid to late 1800s gravitated toward early 1800s Japanese art and style, including none other than Claude Monet. The topography style would often feature imperfect hand-drawn letters with a distinct custom look. Most posters use typography that used all caps in their headlines. Rarely is there any whitespace in an Art Nouveau piece and almost every square inch has detail and ornamental flourishes and a sense of richness. The main characters of the design would most likely be in a very dramatic pose to show as much movement as possible. The poster to the left features a headline at different font sizes tightly packed together. This is a very common characteristic of Art Nouveau. Color palettes used in this style tended to favor more saturated, earthy tones with a nice mix of both warm and cool colors, with a warm being more favorite of the two. You can also see lots of tans, golds, browns, and natural green tones. One of the interesting features of the style is the asymmetrical aspects of most layouts. You will typically see one side more heavily weighted than the other, with typography balancing out the imagery and characters. Near the beginning of World War I, this design style had run its course and would make way for a similar detailed and ornamental design style called Art Deco that would persist into the 1920s. You will later see just how much the style influences Art Deco's curvy and maximalist features. Now we move on to the second art movement. We needed to have something to counter all that maximalist design from Art Nouveau and that was going to be Bauhaus. Bauhaus lasted from roughly 1919-1933. It unified the arts to create aesthetically pleasing and practical design. Bauhaus was a German school that was open 1919-1933. The word Bauhaus in German translates to building house, the school and eventually an influential movement in art and design, sought to make everyday objects effective and maintain a sense of simplicity and beauty. It was born in an era of modernism in Germany where artists wanted to create new expressions and forms of art and style and leave the traditional era of design behind. It focused on producing well-designed products that can easily be mass-produced for a larger portion of society. Instead of just the wealthy elite. There's an industrialized influence on Bauhaus as it introduces technology and new materials into its product designs. The Bauhaus school of thought eventually impacted the future of architectural design, product design and even typography. Geometric typography was influenced by the precise but rounded characteristics of the Bauhaus style. It has a holistic approach to design and the arts without distinct borders between different design and art fields. There is a heavy desire within Bauhaus style to focus on the more scientific approach to solving design problems. This paved the way for grids, the golden ratio, and other more mathematical interpretations being used in design. The Bauhaus style consists of basic geometric shapes which serve as its main form of inspiration. There's a distinct use of rounded edges combined with sharper, rectangular edges. It's sought to break free from the past artistic expressions and focused more on the simplistic nature of clean lines and less on emotions. It wanted to provide order to a disordered world. This style frequently overlaps geometric shapes and makes sure to follow the basic theories of color, layout, and hierarchy to achieve a basic balance and flow. Bauhaus design seeks to make things as simple as possible without the use of anything unnecessary. Form follows function is the main tagline of this style. The shape of an object should relate to its intended function or purpose. Unlike art movements of the 19th century, like Art Nouveau, unnecessary or ornate or added decorations in the design were stripped away. This is because every element should serve the main purpose of the design. The chair featured here by Marcel Breuer seems basic, but each design decision provides value to the main purpose, which is sitting in comfort. It also makes less use of materials. It would be easy to manufacture and produce because of the simplification. It is easy to see the influence of Bauhaus style on current logo design. Most of these examples continued to use basic geometric forms to construct their logo marks. The Beats logo by Dr. Dre is a great representation of the Bauhaus rounded letter form and surrounding circle. Bauhaus can have sharp angles, but complemented by the softer rounded edges. All of these marks are at their simplest form without any unnecessary design elements. The style of logo works well for the modern-day digital world because of the simplicity and back to basics look. This style has been around for almost 100 years and it's not a style that will be going away anytime soon and encapsulates clean, classic design. [MUSIC] 4. Art Deco and The Swiss Design Movement : The next style we're going to discover is Art Deco, which roughly lasted between 1925-1940. This would be described as dramatic, opulent detail, and luxurious. The Art Deco movement was inspired by cubism, a style of painting pioneered by Pablo Picasso. Cubism was also heavily influenced by basic 3D geometric shapes like the cone, cylinder and sphere. Art Deco is less of a specific art style, but more of a collection of styles of that era. It developed in the early 20th century, around the period of World War One. It developed through a desire to show excitement for the rapidly developing technology and industries of its time and the success that followed. It is defined by extravagant opulence with lots of details, sharp angles, and modern-day materials like smooth rounded plastic and glass. The style of Art Deco movement inspired buildings like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. You can also see the details and ornaments in this classic design for a deck of cards, very much in the Art Deco style. This style heavily influenced the development of varying typography characteristics like long, stretched, dramatic letter forms with both pointed ends but geometric inspired curves. The current day influence of art deco can be seen in logo design in a lot of different ways, you could see it through the use of typography as the ultra stretch letter forms you often see used in modern day. You can also see it in detailed line art, which is popular in logos for coaching, personal development and hospitality. Because Art Deco is not just one single defined style, it's a collection of styles of that era, you can see different representations of Art Deco throughout typography based logos. In this example, you have a classic stretch letters with the center arm of the E being placed lower on the letter form, as well as in underlining characters like the o and this metro example. You also see more stylized ligatures, you'll notice in this modern day typeface interpretation the two l's, with the second one nested in the first one this is very commonly seen throughout Art Deco. Layout design in Art Deco style features detailed boxes, line art, and double strokes. I found the perfect example while dining at a 1920s style restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. The menu layout featured beautifully detailed line art, as well as boxes that feature those double strokes or lines that cross over each other creating an elegant feature. You can also see this double stroke or outline feature in the name of the restaurant that goes vertically down the left side. Gold, as you might have noticed, gets heavy use in this movement as part of showing success, wealth, and opulence of the era. Monograms and radio graphics. Another fantastic fine was this scout guide, found in the lobby of my hotel. This triple monogram features a radial line effect that emulates the sun's rays. You will see sun rays echoed and lots of Art Deco designs, as well as other features from nature like plant leaves, shells, and other natural objects a holdover from Art Nouveau. The next art and style movement we're going to talk about is probably the most influential one in modern graphic design. We all are taught this method when we go to design school or when we're starting to learn design so this one is really important to pay attention to because it really established the basics for a lot of things we do today. The next one is Swiss International Design, also known as the International Typographic Style. Some people shorten it to just say Swiss design. Grids, white space and San-Serif typefaces rule. This form follows function ethos of the Bauhaus movement can be clearly seen in the Swiss design style popularized in the 1950s by designers in Switzerland. It has heavily influenced modern day design and can be seen as a continued evolution of the Bauhaus movement with its super simple geometric shapes. Grids are the mainstay of Swiss style and that they helped to logically maintain order, but to also present information in an easily digestible way. This style stands out among other styles because of its general use of heavy white space between elements, this ensures the design maintains readability and has a simple direct goal. Typography plays a larger role and even starts to become the design itself. It features mostly San-Serif typefaces, void of any details or serifs. Typography is usually left aligned with ragged right edges. This is also the style that birth the typeface Helvetica, the most popular San-Serif typeface today, even used for the New York City subway and many other government institutions. Volkswagen applied Swiss design to its advertising to create wide open white space. Before this time, using too much white space was considered wasteful of the given space. Swiss design accentuates the white space and it even becomes part of a design element on its own. The golden ratio was important to Swiss design in helping give structure to design. Any grid created with a structured math equation was now in the Swiss designer's tool belt, we can see a resurgence and grids being used in all facets of logo design from overall layout to the construction of the logo mark as seen in these examples. The Bauhaus movement, there is a general focus on simple geometric shapes and simplification, rarely does one design movement exist independently without being influenced by prior design movements. If you can make it more simple then do it. The main mantra of Swiss design is the process of simplification. I think the biggest mistake designers make as being overly ambitious with visualizing an idea. Complexity can add some character to a logo or icon or design but we also must ensure our concepts are as simple as they can be, so they can be effective. Are there any unnecessary elements or details in your concept? Is there a way to combine graphics to have one single focal point instead of multiple things. As we studied earlier, Art Deco and other prior art movements depended on extra decorations or detail to wow a viewer. With Swiss design, we wow with simplicity and clarity. We want them to see our design as clean and simple and to the point. It is what you do with the extra space that matters. What makes this old physics textbook a classic Swiss design is not what it does with the design space, but what it does with the leftover space, most modern designers struggle with making sure to use all of the design space given. Swiss design allows the designer to present less information at one time, bringing more focus to what is shown. It would be natural to make this physics graphic larger. In this case, it is made smaller so that extra white-space can allow the design to breathe. There's always tension when we lay out our designs, make sure to use whitespace as an element of design and not just empty nothingness. What you do with the extra space matters just as much as the other design elements you show. This is some feature student work. This editorial project completed by a student of one of my courses, uses typography in graphic elements that go vertical and center aligned to challenge the typical index page you normally see. The thin weight of the type helps to add an elegant, fragile feeling. The subject matter featured on the cover is stunning on its own so they made sure to keep it free from distracting objects, patterns, and textures to create a very Swiss style, clean layout with lots of great space. 5. Pop Art, The Ad Boom and The Digital Age: Let's continue to move throughout graphic design history. I'm going to talk about the pop art movement and this roughly lasted from the 1950s to the 1970s. Everyday things get exciting, colorful, and bold pop art originated in the United States and the United Kingdom. One might instantly think of the famous artist Andy Warhol when viewing this over-the-top style. Well, pop art challenge was the traditional forms of fine art by using everyday, mundane objects as its subject matter, usually in a comic book type style. A famous example by Andy Warhol is his painting of a simple can of Campbell's Soup. These everyday objects became interesting and resonated with viewers because pop art was very relatable. A far cry from the delicate and intricate patterns and pictures of perfection from the Renaissance era. What defines pop art is a haphazard, less clean style that focuses on the subject and less on grids and precision and being perfect. Rough sketch lines, torn newspapers, collages were common elements used in pop art. Pop art define the 1960s advertising style with a colorful, if sometimes sarcastic sense of humor. It brought a down-to-earth style mainstream to sell products. The globe witnessed a huge resurgence of pop art style and the 1990s as well. You've might have seen this pattern before it's called a halftone pattern, and it originated in this time period. If there was a mantra to this style, it would be do not let rules limit your style. One of the most well-known logo designs of our time is the famous red lips of the band The Rolling Stones. It makes a big statement with a comical undertone and a slight defiance of social norms. Most logos that adapt a pop art style have very expressive typography, like in the pizza head logo by this designer. It usually consists of custom handwritten topography or texts characters rather than follow a straight line, caress each other, and fit together almost like a puzzle piece. The beginning of the pop art style naturally gave birth to another boom, that's the advertising boom. From the 1960s to the 1990s, we were oversaturated with advertising. "Don't try to be original, just try to be good," famous designer Paul Rand, who lived 1914-1996. As corporation ad budgets grew larger in the mid-20th century, so did their appetite for art and design. Graphic designers were no longer relegated to just placing words on a page or arranging photos for a newspaper. Now they played a huge role in helping companies establish visual brands, logos, global advertising campaigns, and assisting companies in connecting with their audience visually. Paul Rand, a once humble, self-taught graphic designer, hint, self-taught, just like myself and many of you turned global art director, developed iconic logos for Ford, ABC, and IBM. Paul Rand fuse the artistic side of design with the more practical business side and marketing side of things. He made graphic design an essential part of the booming advertising department. Rand was most known for developing corporate identities. His approach was not to be bold, acentric, but to be affective in his design approach making sure to avoid over complex visual ideas for the sake of just artistic expression. Drawing inspiration from style movements before him, he made sure every stroke and object ha meaning and had a purpose for being there in context. After the advertising boom, we move into the postmodern design movement, roughly lasting from the 1980s to the 1990s. This would be described as bright and experimental, and let's break some rules. If you like being odd, fun, quirky, bold, and if you break design rules often established by the likes of the Swiss typographic style and Bauhaus movement, you might find yourself in the movement of postmodern design. It developed in the late 1960s but really became a popular interior design style in the 1970s and '80s. Deconstructionism was a movement within postmodern design, which gave buildings a fragmented look. It uses non-rectangular shapes and distorted exteriors. This was all to challenge and push further the rigid classical architecture of the past. There is a vast perception of movement and postmodern art with rounded corners and objects that tend to appear in motion with nonlinear lines. Abstract logos were born out of this movement of breaking the grid, but also providing this fluid movement with rounded edges and overlapping elements. Let's talk about a real-life example. This is the Parsons logo, and Parson is a design school that's part of the famed, the New School in New York City. It adapted a random variable typeface for its branding standards called new random. It would randomly set different character width as is user typed, thus creating a totally rule-breaking look to its topography and its logos. This was controversial at the time, and most things that are postmodern try to be controversial, but it decides to be different. The design school has a philosophy of trying new things and developing the future of design so it made a lot of sense for the brand. What movement are we in right now? I would call that the digital age. The move to digital merged style with usability. What has made styles evolve in the last decade has been an increase in user experience design. UX or user experience puts the user at the center of the focus and showing there is no roadblocks to accomplishing their goals, wishes, and desires. If it is a food ordering app then focusing on UX allows the user to quickly move to checkout and process the order while also enjoying the smooth, easy experience. Perhaps the app, make sure the item was not forgotten upon checkout with a notification that provides a very visual experience to flow through the app quickly and easily. The digital age has brought us to new territory. Now that digital devices are super small and mobile, everything we create as designers must adapt to this new world. Complicated detailed logos are still great for other brand assets, but for the use of a main company identifier, you must think about the small spaces in which it now must exist. Before mobile devices were our main interaction with the world, we browsed the Internet using desktop computers. The screens were generous and allowed the creation of more complicated logo marks with drop shadows, blurred highlights, and layers. I tend to think of the original Yahoo and Google logos when I consider the style in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Apple change the world with their high gloss, slick-looking iMac computer with transparent back and individualized color choices. They're advertising change too with the added super glossy, slick-looking effect. This style, you may refer to as Web 2.0, if you lived back then, this was a move to make brands look high-tech and ready to help you move into the future with the latest technology. Other brands followed with this glossy look and adopted the name Web 2.0, and its reference to how much the web has evolved since the early 2000s. A lot of tech companies followed suit with these extra details. Popular effects included fluxions, like the logo was sitting on top of glass. Others use gradients, curved highlights, and anything that can emulate glass, as you can see here. Apple released the iPhone and with it came these hyper-realistic looking icon designs. This was called skeuomorphic design where layers and realism was favored. These icons almost had a tactile feeling to them with textures, patterns, and highlights. Popular example is the Instagram logo from 2015. As we move later into the digital age, we have the era of flat design from 2008 to current. If it can be simplified, it was similar to past movements like Bauhaus or Swiss style. As we moved into the second decade of the 21st century, we experienced a total contrast to all of the detailed and effective-driven design. The flat design era was upon us. This was a counter to the Web 2.0 look that almost every company had embraced at that point, and as we talked about before, once one style movement has gone too far, a counter-movement ensues and the future is no different. Flat design has zero effects, drop shadows, and details. Flat design also became very overused and oversaturated in the last two decades and especially the last decade where almost every company had a flat logo design style, and back-and-forth goes the styles. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way in the last few years as more hand-drawn elements are sneaking their way back into logos, but also keeping it flat and clean unlike the logos of the early 21st century. This is because we are making sure our logos remain expressive and unique, but also can adopt to those smaller screen sizes and be practical for the sake of the user. 6. Student Project: [MUSIC] Now that we had a chance to dive into influential style and art movements of the last 100 years, it's now time to apply what we've learned and hopefully, spark some excitement for trying some new styles. I want you to pick one of the style movements we discussed, and create a poster that finds inspiration from that style. We have Art Nouveau, which is detailed, curvy, natural elements. Bauhaus, which is geometric, simplified, and purposeful. We have Art Deco, which is ornamental, detailed line art, gold and dark color palettes. Swiss style, which is the use of grids, lots of white space, and structure. Pop Art, which is everyday objects and bright colors. Post-modern, which breaks the rules, distorted, unpredictable. Or the digital age, technology rules, user experience first, and practical. Feel free to do further research into some of the influential artists and designers that lived during these dominant art movements to gather some ideas for your poster. Your poster could be an advertising for a car from the 1960s or a pop art piece. It could feature geometric shapes inspired by the Bauhaus movement, or you want your poster to be a whimsical poster for a musical from the late 1800s. The choice is all yours. Enjoy the process of studying other styles that have influenced modern-day graphic design. I hope you enjoyed this class. I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with. I love to feature student work on my Instagram @lindsaymarshdesign, so make sure to tag me with your student work, but also post work in the student project areas to inspire others to take on the challenge. [MUSIC]