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Lay out, typeface, printing quality, ease in reading, all of these and much more are components of a style in graphic design. This style is called constructivism, modernism.

A lot of information can be found on this subject on the internet, in college libraries, in private enterprises like design galleries or by collectors who willingly share content on line.

Much of these trends and ideas go back to either the German Bauhaus or the Dutch De Stijl influence, that parallels the Italian Futurist Movement and the Russian avant-garde (suprematism). One of the key figures in Swiss graphic design was the painter and artist Richard Paul Lohse (1902-1988). From 1958 he became one of the editors of a new multi-lingual quarterly Swiss magazine called Neue Grafik (1958-1965) together with Josef Mueller-Brockmann (1914-1996), Hans Neuburg (1904-1983) and the Italian designer Carlo Vivarelli (1919-1986).

Shown below are some photos of issue number 3 from 1959 largely devoted to Italian graphic design written by Carlo Belloli, Italian artist, art critic and concrete-style poet, but also including an important overview of the Basic Workshop program in Chicago, Illinois by Ray Pearson  (follow this link for an interesting article in Shaker designs) at the Illinois Institute of Design.   

private2 003 private2 004 private2 005 private2 006 private2 007 private2 010private2 011 private2 012 private2 013 private2 014private2 016private2 017Evident throughout the magazine is the division of the page in columns, the so called grid system. So prevalent was this type of page layout in the sixties and early seventies that it became the standard of modernism used by Max Bill and Herbert Bayer.

Here is an example of how the French used it in their automobile manuals. For example Citroen, the French avant-garde car manufacturer. Having owned several Citroens (a door panel van version of the 2CV) and an early Chapron coach built rare DS 1963 convertible with right hand drive and Jaeger instruments, I can attest to that. (that is how a masochist falls in love with a car!)

img616 The top manual in the photo is from the early 1960’s the bottom one is from the last years of 2CV production early 1982.img626The top one has just a logo and is in 2 colors throughout. Photographs are neatly divided on the page following the column layout. The illustrations work well in black on green, a good example of the grid system.

img627img629In the later manual, the legibility is different, busier throughout even though the pointers seem logical and are in neat but larger blocks of text, the shades of gray add little and the use of the green color as a highlight does not seem thought out well. It appears coherent but is a watered down version of the International typographic style.

img619img620img623img622The use of the color green in this photograph makes sense, but the captioning and text placement does not help legibility. What a difference 20 years of design makes! Those willing to take a six minute drive in an icon of design, the Chapron DS (no not mine alas) have a look. Easy to get sidetracked with all those memories at the end of a post.

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