Origins [Precis]


Chapter 1    Origins

[PM = postmodernism]

Page 18: The first paragraph sets out how the term postmodernism came to b e connected with graphic design. Some people regarded postmodernism as just a style and that is disappeared around 1990. Rick Poynor argues that PM is much more than just a style. He writes. ‘…there is no reason for believing that it [PM] came to a sudden halt around 1990 and proponents of postmodernism as a graphic style do not argue that it did.’ [Poynor 2003:18]

Pages 18-19: Poynor goes through a series of explanations of the origins of PM in various other disciplines and ways of describing it. Some of the phrases and words used to describe PM are: freewheeling, eclecticism, an attitude, without moralising, breakdown, aesthetically adventurous, pleasure giving, partly modern, ‘hybrid, double-coded, based on fundamental dualities.’, strange and paradoxical, playful elements and decorative. [Ibid:18-19]

Pages 19-20: He  suggests that Wolfgang Weingart was, ‘…a seminal figure…that in time [became] postmodernistic.’ [Ibid] He then give a short biography of Weingart and why he changed his mind. Weingart says. I was motivated to provoke this stodgy profession and to stretch the typeshop’s capabilities to the breaking point…’ [Ibid:20] he wanted to push typography, ‘..until the text came close to being unintelligible.’ [Ibid] Poynor concludes by writing that, ‘Weingart’s work was spontaneous, intuitive, deeply infused with feeling…’ [Ibid].

Here are some quotes by Wolfgang Weingart

“My contention then was that Swiss Typography needed a fresh impulse. Based as it was on a reductionist philosophy, for instance, was considered suspect…”

“Forty-five years ago I was very uncivilized. I did not know about the Bauhaus or Tschichold. I lived in my own world, working seven days a week.”

“Achieving genuine aesthetic quality with the computer presumes a rigorous sense of discipline on the part of the designer. I try to get the students to question typographic details with the overall aim of provoking discernment, to see differences, to become critical of the machine.”

All from [accessed 09.03.09]

Page 21: In the next section of the chapter Poynor describes the influence Weingart had on a group of young American designers, among them, Dan Friedman and April Greiman. It contrasts the change in style that the designers of the time 1968 -71 went through form the: ‘simple, restrained, orderly, static, exclusive, abstract, pure, reduced, harmonious, systematic, and integrated.’ To the: ‘complex, excessive, chaotic, dynamic, inclusive, vernacular, contextual, expanded, dissonant, random, and fractured.’ [Poynor 2003:21]

There is an evocative description of one of Friedman’s design where Poynor writes about the different elements of the design, ‘…float and revolve around each other like so much debris adrift in deep space.’ [Ibid]

Pages 22-23: He continues to map out the influence of Weingart and analyses an 1977 exhibition called, ‘Postmodern Typography: Recent American Developments.’ This show brought together many of the leading proponents of this ‘new wave’ of so called postmodern graphic designers. [Ibid]

Page 24: Here Poynor describes the work of Greiman and syas of her work that, ‘[She] contrasts the mystery, irrationality and unexplained aspect of her work with the masculine linearity of Swiss design…’ He does point out through that, ‘…her aim, though, was to build additional layers on this sense of order and structure rather than abandon it.’ [Ibid:24]

He continues with an analysis of a poster by Willi Kunz and describes that Swiss design, ‘…is simultaneously acknowledged and subverted.’ [Ibid]

Pages 25-26: In this section Poynor looks at the way graphic designer had become a slave to the ‘Corporate Style’ and had become, ‘…totally predictable and lifeless…’ [ibid:25] He quotes from Valerie F. Brooks article ‘Triumph of the Corporarte Style…’: ‘It was a period in which security and safety replaced risk as the dominant selling tool.’ [Ibid] He also points out that this ‘New Wave’ of designers was met by negative criticism, and still today by some, from older designers who where used to ‘…suppressing the personal,…’ and resisted the ideas put forward by Weingart and Greiman, ‘…that design might be a form of art.’ [Ibid:26]

Poynor goes on to argue that these Postmodern ideas had been around for a while in Architecture but had not be noticed by the graphic designer. He looks closely at Robert Venturi’s  ideas about architecture. Venturi writes that, ‘I am for messy vitality over obvious unity.’ [Ibid]

Pages 26-27: Here Poynor writes about how these PM architects would look at places like Las Vegas and brash roads signs for inspiration as much as the serious designs of modernism. He points out that a generation later, compared to the way architecture had been developing, the graphics of the late 1980s and early 1990s ‘…now looks far from shocking.’ [Ibid:27]


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