While rummaging through my books, I came upon the above 1947 copy of Alphabet & Image. It was the magazine on typography and graphic arts of the post-war period.
Just a few months back, I wrote a piece for the Royal College of Art on graphics from 1948, and it was exactly this approach to design that was the norm at the RCA at that time. But as new postgraduate students arrived from various colleges, particularly those from the Central School of Art (which was leading the way in a modernist approach to graphic design teaching), things began to change. And it was this modernist practice that eventually broke through to become the staple in the world of graphics and still generally prevails today.
Of course, there have been other movements that have momentarily captured the limelight: punk, Dutch, post-modern and even classicism. But over the last decade, there has been an interesting re-assessment of those early graphic teachings at the RCA, which at the time rigidly embraced the handcrafted areas of book binding, lettering, engraving, print making and traditional Victorian-based typography, especially the more decorative kind.
Looking at the magazine featured above, there is an enormous charm and joyfulness in its presentation – two words that you couldn’t really use when describing the stark Swiss modernist approach, with its prefabricated system of grids and disciplines.
A 20th century example of a Swiss inspired prefabricated system design by the eminent Dutch graphic designer Wim Crowell
A 21st century example of pre modernist principles by the highly versatile British graphic designer David Pearson
For me, being limited to one stylistic approach is, well, pretty damn boring, while embracing a wider range of possibilities is far more enjoyable, stimulating and surprising.
To read the Royal College of Art post war piece click here