Brian's History of Communication Design Blog

Weekly exposition on recent learnings.

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Art Nouveau’s Birth in a Chair

Last week we were looking at artists from the Victorian age, and one in particular that struck my eye was Mackmurdo.

He produced a set of five chairs in 1882 that clearly predates that Art Nouveau movement by perhaps as much as 20 years, yet is clearly a precursor of Art Nouveau in its styling. To wit:

Mackmurdo Chair

The fluid lines suggestive of, yet not representational of, plant forms, are clearly the same as seen in Art Nouveau works.

For example, the design of the Paris metro stations by Guimard:

Guimard Metro Station

Guimard Metro Railing

Guimard designed these stations in 1900, just to give an indication as to how far after Mackmurdo his work came.


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Changing Book Design

One of the slides we had a brief look at in class was a classic example of Victorian book cover design, The Pencil of Nature.

The Penicl of Nature

This dates to 1844. What amazes me is the similarities and differences in what William Morris was doing nearly 50 years later in book design.

William Morris Book Design

We still have an ornate sense of decoration, albeit an organic one, but there has been a shift from blackletter typeface to a more humanist transitional typeface (designed by Morris). Morris also uses a a more traditional canon (dating back to Gutenberg) for the layout of the page, instead of centering it.

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Mighty Ships

In reviewing the lecture slide show from the class that I missed, the image that struck me the most was that of a WWII US Navy recruiting poster:


It was clearly referential to the Art Deco masterpiece of Cassandre:


I love how the Navy was referencing a work of romance and art to create something needed for recruitment. It takes the art of the Navy to a whole new level.