A Constructivist Interbellum Poster

For this assignment, we were asked to create a poster for a social cause or a film. I chose to create a constructivist poster for the move The Golem. However, as you will see based on the three drafts I created, my original idea was for a political poster against racism. I chose to not use this poster design, however.

Here’s my mind map on constructivism (and a thumbnail of a Space Odyssey poster that also wasn’t used – as you can see, the poster went through many iterations):

141 project 7 mind map

 

The drafts:

draft of poster final

I learned that constructivism employs bright colors, geometric shapes, and bold lettering. The movement, which began in Russia in 1919, borrows from cubism, futurism, and suprematism. Constructivist art doesn’t attempt to represent beauty, the artist’s outlook, or the world. Rather, the movement focused on the material properties of objects, spacial presence, and art as a practice for social purposes. Diagonal elements and “machine aesthetic” are also present. Here is a digital draft of the poster itself:

Interbellum poster

It’s 11 x 17 inches, and I’ll use photomerge and collage techniques to create it.

The golem, a magical clay being summoned by a rabbi, is himself “a construct.” In this poster, I wanted to express both the golem’s physical creation and subsequent moral disintegration: soon after he’s given life, he becomes a monster. The word on the golem’s forehead spells “truth” in Hebrew, but erase one letter, and the word becomes “death.” The winding letterforms were inspired by the text layout of the Talmud, as seen in one of my mood boards to the right:

Construct mood board mood board golem poster

I chose to use a bold blue, in the spirit of the constructivist use of bright colors, and because it’s traditionally associated with the divine in Judaism. The fragmented faces featured in the mood board to the left were another inspiration in for using the “disintegrating” golem’s face on the poster.

Exploring 20th Century Poster Design through Dadaist Techniques

For this poster project, I chose Dadaism as a style because it’s bold, insane, and uncommon in advertising. From the moment I first heard about it in Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine, I was fascinated. The nihilistic, laissez faire attitude of the movement personally appeals to me, and works as an interesting juxtaposition against advertising and posters in general, which are often stylistically sanitized and populist. When creating a poster, artists often have to ask, “How can I make this appealing?” Dadaism completely rejects the idea. Ironically, I hope that breaking these classical rules will create appeal, while still maintaining the Dada style. I chose to use collage techniques, which some Dadaists embraced after its discovery by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques. Dadaists used fabrics, paper, and other every day materials in their collages, blurring the line between every day life and art. This is why I chose to incorporate my student bus passes, candy wrappers, and old projects in the poster. Students will shudder at the sight of a destroyed bus pass, which they (and I) heavily rely on in daily life, making this piece both personal and relatable. In the brief, we were asked, “What made YOU want to come to CapU?” so I feel that the personal touches are appropriate. For example, the background of the collage is one of my old oil painting palettes (which partially makes the poster “found art” as well – another Dadaist technique). I came to Capilano for the art! And so this is the theme of the poster. When I first came to the campus, I loved the massive paintings on the walls inside the Arbutus building. Painting on the walls is culturally taboo, but this freedom, lightness, and versatility is part of the IDEA program. And so Dadaism, another rule breaker, with all of its wildness, makes an appropriate style for an IDEA poster.

Some of the poster elements include: art from the Capilano Courier (the local school newspaper), a coffee cup protector (a large part of my daily life), pieces from my “illusion project” (a animated rabbit run-cycle), an old oil painting palette, a stencil from a photography project, scrap paper, an eyeball candy wrapper, gold coin candy wrappers (put in my “personal school mailbox” while I was sick, as a gift), my bus passes from October and November, gauche, and printed type.

Here’s the first page of sketches and designs. Most of them are offensive and inappropriate.

141 project 6 sketches

Here are some mood boards, thought maps, brain spasms, and idea blasts.

141 project 6 moods 2141 project 6 moods

The final analog product:

141 project 6 final absolute version

And two other versions!

141 project 6 final blue version

141 project 6 final BW version copy

Pithy History p. IV / The Modernist Era / Cubism

In this post I summarize the beginning of chapter 13 from Megg’s History of Graphic Design.

Find a summary of chapters 9 – 12 here.

Megg’s states that the first two decades of the twentieth century were full of upheaval. Monarchies fell, and socialist, communist, and democratic societies emerged all over the world. The fallout from WWI shook the foundations of Western thinking, and from this tumultuous time, politically intense art movements such as Dadaism and surrealism gained momentum. Cubism, futurism, suprematism, constructivism, and expressionism also distinguished themselves during this time period, and continue to influence art today.

Cubism

Cubism began with Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, who drew influence from ancient Iberian and African tribal art. Later, French postimpressionist Paul Cézanne, another important figure from the movement, said artists should “treat nature in terms of the cylinder and the sphere and the cone.” Cubism plays with geometric planes and perspective, and often depicts one subject from multiple viewpoints at the same time. Other characteristics include purposely shifting between 2D and 3D perspective in one painting. Cubist techniques pushed geometric abstraction and embraced new attitudes towards pictorial space.

Pithy History p. III / The Bridge to the Twentieth Century

In this post I summarize Megg’s History of Graphic Design, chapter 9 – 12.

Find a summary of chapters 5 – 8 here

Graphic Design and the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution (1760 – 1840) is characterized by great social, economic, and technological change in England and later, the world. Urban populations increased while rural ones diminished, and the printing industry expanded. Fat faces, Tuscan letters, and sans-serif type styles emerged from this era and printing press technology developed, further mechanizing typography. Photography, though the basic concept existed as early as the time of Aristotle, was essentially invented. Additionally, lithography was also invented, somewhere between 1796 and 1798. The culmination of these technologies led to the development of the magazine, and respectively, the origins of modern advertising.

The Arts and Crafts Movement and its Heritage

The arts and crafts movement was partially a reaction to the shoddy, mass-produced goods made possible by industrial revolution technology. Fans of the movement called for a return to quality and handicraft, and the individual expression of the maker. Perhaps, in 2014, this movement has caught its second wind. Many young people seek a return to “authenticity” and attempt to embrace local businesses, rather than buying mass-produced items from corporations.

Art Nouveau

The Japanese movement Ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) heavily inspired art nouveau, in terms of style and content. In Japan, the movement lasted from 1603 – 1867. In contrast, in Europe art nouveau only lasted two decades (1890 – 1910) but the movement continues to have influence over the design and illustration world. Samuel Bing, who opened a gallery in Paris under the name “Salon de l’Art Nouveau,” coined the term, and the style is characterized by organic shapes, pictures of beautiful women and birds as motifs, “whiplash” lines, and bold contours with subtle internal details. This non-representational style that rejected historicism and the old themes of preceding art movements set the wheels of modernism in motion.

The Genesis of Twentieth-Century Design

Key players and groups in this movement include architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Glasgow School, the Vienna Secession, Peter Behrens, and Frank Pick, among many others. In modern times, art nouveau spread the idea that art didn’t have to abide by ancient traditions, and that artists could create their own styles and interpretations of reality, with themes of their choice.

Art Nouveau Soap Packaging

I love Shanene’s perspective on art nouveau and how she compares the movement to Victorian aesthetics. The Victorian era is stereotypically viewed as oppressed, so the sentiment that “the Victorians knew how to let loose!” is both refreshing and accurate. Although they were oppressed in some ways, I see the point she makes in terms of design. Art nouveau, though beautiful, is somewhat homogeneous. Additionally Shanene’s soap package design is lovely, well crafted, and a good representation of art nouveau aesthetics. Style (the bold outlines) and content (the woman, the flowers, the flowing hair) all work together wonderfully. It’s clear that research went into this piece, and that the artist walked away with a greater understanding of the art nouveau movement than they had before the project.

Shanene's Blog

Through my project research on Art Nouveau, I mostly gained a sense of highly stylized line work paired with natural themes. Art Nouveau is fun visually, sure – I love the whiplash curves, emphasis on bold outlines with gentle gradient shading inside the lines, and how the style spread to architecture, furniture design, jewelry, etc – but in comparison to the Victorian times, I found it to be.. lacking. All the type is cohesive, there’s reason behind every detail, and the craftsmanship is clean. Very boring! Those Victorians knew how to let loose.

Here’s my Art Nouveau soap package design:

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  I went with influences from Mucha and Grasset, mainly. I admire their strong, definite styles in their poster design and wanted to emulate a similar feeling but in a softer palette. I used a sort of matcha-green and peach/soft pinks to colour the soap package, all of which were…

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