The timeless appeal of mid century modern design is a trend that shows no signs of fading. But, although we’re all familiar with mid-century modern furniture – think Eames chairs and George Nelson lighting – what about graphic design?
What does it resemble? When did it happen, and why did it happen? What designers and artists were the forerunners of the movement? Here’s all you need to know about mid-century modern graphic design if you need a visual and comprehensive guide.
The hugely popular graphic style of mid-century began in the late 1930s, broadly speaking. It lasted until roughly 1970, when the Swiss International Typographic Style reached its peak, thanks to the founding of the ‘New Bauhaus’ School of Design in Chicago in the early 1940s.
The movement was more than a group of brilliant creative minds; it was a melting pot of recent historical events that ignited a spirit of radicalism and promise in the domain of art and design. By the 1930s, the Industrial Revolution had ushered in a new era of advertising and the global proliferation of printed posters and billboards and was being considered as a design style globally.
Modernism, the era’s stylistic and ideological forerunner, had emerged earlier in the twentieth century as a rejection of Victorian ideals and their pompous, highly ornamented aesthetics in art, literature, and design. A more straightforward and clear visual language was preferred instead.
The birth of mid-century modernism occurred in the year 1939, just before World War II began. Joseph Binder created a recruiting poster for the Army’s Air Corps, and Lester produced the 1942 poster “Don’t Let Him Down.” Which was widely utilized to promote America’s war effort.
In another aspect, the evolution of the era’s design style was influenced by the war. Many European designers were compelled to flee, bringing with them ideas from their native nations’ diverse radical and avant-garde movements.
These designers arrived in the United States, particularly in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. Bringing their abilities, ideologies, and ideas, and printed matter that inspired the mid-century modern style.
Following WWII, the style was widely employed in commercials, book covers, record sleeves, and mid-century modernists’ renowned corporate identity work.
“You can’t criticize geometry; it’s never wrong,” Rand joked. His statement encapsulates the movement’s aesthetic traits, which favor clean lines, strong shapes, brilliant colors, and a flatness in which the constituent pieces are reduced to their most fundamental visual forms for easy visual communication.
These concepts appear to be more important than ever before: the design must progressively break through the clutter of our huge and bewildering world of visuals and communications. As a result, the basic, straight flatness that defined mid-century modernism is more relevant and startling than ever.
Geometric forms, clear lines, brilliant colors, and earthy palettes are used to produce power. Reductive pictures in mid-century modern graphic design which is comparable to flat design. Mid-century modern graphic design has a variety of distinct aesthetic features that are defined by its ability to reduce complicated thoughts into simple visual forms.
Many designers chose to employ numerous permutations of simple geometric shapes. This is done to create an overall composition that was reduced down to its most basic forms. Consider Herbert Leupin’s vibrant 1952 poster for Pelikan, a Swiss fountain pen maker. The artwork is stripped down to its most basic form, with little detail.
The color palettes of the time are not all identical. They range from bright, nursery-schoolish primary and secondary hues. To more earthy combinations of olive, gold, and paprika to chintzy patterns in mint green, and turquoise.
Josef Albers’ work, with its dynamic interplay of vivid colors and jarringly ordered geometric patterns, may be considered absolutely similar to the work of the designers of the period.
If you only read one book on color, make it this one. In 1963, he published Interaction of Color, a groundbreaking exploration of color principles that echoed the work of mid-century modern graphic designers.
The Bauhaus and the International Typographic Style, which originated in Switzerland, are two prominent design schools that impacted and affected the type of the time.
Mid-century modern lettering, like most Bauhaus graphic work, frequently employs whimsical shape-based letterforms for dramatic typographic poster designs. Meanwhile, the usage of grids, asymmetric layouts, and text aligned flush left, and ragged right in the mid-century reflects the influence of Swiss designers.
The most common typeface was a clean, geometric sans serif, including popular designs like Univers and Frutiger, developed by Swiss typeface designer Adrian Frutiger, as shown in Paul Rand’s soft sans serif logo for American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Although slab serifs and “fat faces” were popular, as in Cohen’s 1956 Meridian Books paperback cover design, where a whimsical polka-dot scheme is utilized alongside Thorowgood italic, such type was frequently used alone, against basic forms or cutout photographic material.
Using The Design Today
Mid century design may reduce complicated ideas to easily understandable visual forms. The graphic designer must strip down their designs to their bare bones and place a premium on simple visual communication to adopt this style. It’s critical to adapt mid-mod ideas to today’s aesthetic tastes and demands; otherwise, they’ll end up seeming unnecessary kitschy, and antiquated.
In 2019, a big graphic design trend was mid-century modern design. Think of clearly visible phrases and graphics surrounded by plenty of white space if you want to give a design a Mid-Mod style. Different geometric forms make up the negative and positive spaces. Once you’ve established this base, you can experiment with other typefaces, colors, roughness, and texture to create a dynamic contrast. You may also play around with it and soften up strong designs. Colors that are bright and bold may work just as well as pastels and earth tones.
As a tribute to mid-century illustrated advertising, applying the Mid-Mod style to today’s designs also entails bespoke artwork. In an age where face-to-face encounters are becoming less prevalent in business. These sorts of graphics give print and online designs a nostalgic and hilarious touch while bringing personality and handmade craftsmanship to the forefront.
The antique sense of Mid-Century Modern artwork emphasizes simplicity and closeness. Mid-Mod is also simple to combine with other more flamboyant designs. Such as Art Deco because it is basic and subtle.
Whether you want to evoke the feeling of an era or just create something eye-catching. Mid-century modern graphic design is definitely worth considering. You can take your designs back in time with a few tips and tricks. Making sure your mid century design captured the essence of the era.
What do you think? Do you have any favorite mid-century modern graphic designers? Let us know in the comments below! Visit our website for more blogs regarding graphic designing techniques, technologies involved in the process, and software used for it.