“By 1930 modernism had entered popular culture. With the increasing urbanization of populations, it was beginning to be looked at as the source for ideas to deal with the challenges of the day.”( The History of Visual Communication – The Modernists) Alexey Brodovich was a Russian emigrant photographer and designer who is considered as one of the most influential designers in the 20th century.
Brodovich is best known for his time as art director of Harper’s Bazaar. He was a pioneer in graphic design by introducing European modernism to the United States and teaching others his belief “in visual vitality and immediacy.” (The History of Visual Communication – The Modernists.) “By the 1950’s, Brodovich had perfected his style of combining text and photography with copious amounts of white space.” But despite his easily recognizable work, he never came up with a theory of design. “There is no recipe for good layout,” he said. Brodovich believed that a good designer is able to make beautiful layouts with both good photographs and bad ones, you just need to approach it differently. When you look at the layouts that Brodovich did for Harper’s Bazaar you can’t help but be impressed by the simplicity and elegance in the space. He cropped images in ways that were unexpected and used the forms of the photographs as models for how to place the text. During this time color was new to the magazine also and Brodovich would use this as a way to emphasis things and create a sense of luxury to the magazine. Today Brodovich’s layouts serve as models for other designers and those who he taught and inspired during his time continue to mold graphic design “in the image of his uncompromising ideals” (“Alexey Brodovitch.”)
As modernism changed and art moved into a new era of post-modernism there is one thing that seemed to stay constant. The simplicity inspired by Brodovich’s layouts cane clearly seen in work from the later art of the century. One example of a designer who believed in simplicity and carried it on is Milton Glaser. During the postmodern era designers pulled away from the problem solving and emphasis on originality.
When he was a kid, Milton Glaser decided that he wanted to go into the business of “creating miracles.” And that is exactly what he does. Glaser isn’t afraid to try new things and work in many different mediums. In fact, he prefers to work this way. Milton is always moving forward and wanting to improve and learn new things. It is for this reason that he is to many, “ the embodiment of American graphic design during the latter half of this century.” (“Milton Glaser.”) He is among the most celebrated graphic designers and his work has been exhibited in many museums including one-man shows at MOMA and the Georges Pompidou Center. Glaser has also been the recipient of many awards including a 2004 lifetime achievement award.
Throughout his career, Glaser has created over 300 posters and prints. One of his most recognizable designs is the “I heart NY” logo, which he gave to the city and has never asked for a penny in return. This is said to be one of the most imitated designs in human history. (“Milton Glaser”) This logo is as simple as a logo can be. All he did was use a heart in place of the word love, but it was genius. Another one of Glaser’s designs that is highly recognizable is his “Bob Dylan” poster, which would become one of the most circulated posters of all time. He depicted Dylan with very colorful hair, which has led to the poster being described as “psychedelic” and being compared to many rock posters produced in San Francisco at the same time. “But Glaser, who studied in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship in the early 1950’s, is a formalist with a broad awareness of artists and art movements, and he took his inspiration for the Dylan profile from a 1957 self-portrait by Marcel Duchamp.” (Smithsonianmag.) The use of color in these two designs was used sparingly, to show emphasis and elegance much like Brodovich did with his layouts, even though color was no longer a new addition at this time to design. Milton Glaser’s work moved beyond its functional intentions and the problem solving of graphic design and allows the audience to be moved in ways we call great work.
Are some forms of art higher than others? “High art is appreciated by those with the most cultivated taste. Low art is for the masses, accessible and easily comprehended.” By this argument it is hard to decide where the graphic designs of Brodovich and Glaser are high or low art. Both of their work was easily accessible at the time they were working at magazines, which would put them into the low art category. However if you go online today and want to buy the Dylan poster by Milton Glaser you could pay hundreds of dollars for it which would place that piece in high demand and therefore high art. There is a big problem with the separation of work into these two groups because something that is considered low art when it is made can change to high art over time if demand goes up for that piece. The fact that some art and design is considered low art just because it is “mere entertainment” or a logo that is recognizable and designed to solve a problem, or is in a magazine that you only pay five dollars for shouldn’t cause such a negative definition to be attached to it. (“High and low art.”)
Both Brodovich and Glaser designed with simplicity and used color as an emphasis. And it is undeniable that they were masters of their times in areas of design and have been inspirations to many designers they taught and others who studied there work from a distance. The fact that their work is so influential makes me believe that it should be considered high art. It is clear that through both modernism and postmodernism the idea of simplicity was a constant among many other changing elements.
“Alexey Brodovitch.” AIGA. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013. <http://www.aiga.org/medalist-alexeybrodovitch/>.
“High and low art.” The Rapidian. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013. <http://therapidian.org/high-and-low-art>.
“Milton Glaser.” Milton Glaser. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.miltonglaser.com>.
“The History of Visual Communication – The Modernists.” The History of Visual Communication – The Modernists. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2013. <http://www.citrinitas.com/history_of_viscom/modernists.html>.