Cover image for American Modernism : graphic design 1920 to 1960
American Modernism : graphic design 1920 to 1960
Remington, R. Roger.
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Publication Information:
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
192 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
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Material Type
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NC998.5.A1 R45 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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This insightful book is the first to present a comprehensive survey of the Modernist movement as it emerged in America between 1920 and 1960 in various graphic media. It identifies and examines great works in advertising, information design, identity, magazine design, print, dimensional design, and posters that by mid-century had defined American graphic design.

R. Roger Remington begins by discussing the emergence of Modernism and its major historical influences, including European avant-garde art movements, technology, geopolitical issues, popular culture, educational innovations such as the Bauhaus, architecture, industrial design, and photography. The heart of the book brings together the key works of mid-century Modernism, presenting them chronologically from the 1930s to the 1950s. The final section shows the impact of and reactions to these Modernist influences as graphic design in America matured into the 1960s and beyond.

Handsomely designed and illustrated, American Modernism is destined to become a classic text in the study of design and visual culture.

Author Notes

R. Roger Remington is professor of graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As twenty-first-century design concerns seem to center increasingly on the depiction as well as the use of technology, this new graphic design book, copiously illustrated and thoughtfully written, provides a comprehensive overview of modernism as applied to American graphics and a look at the explosion of creativity ushered in via digital design. From Vogue0 to the Playboy0 bunny and Show 0 Magazine, Remington and Bodenstedt's energetic and insightful survey covers 40 critical years in American design history, starting with the emergence of the modernist movement in the 1920s, in terms of the enormous, pervasive, and ever-evolving influence of the European avant-garde on advertising, magazine design, posters, and other media. --Whitney Scott Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Focusing on the prevailing style that in large part defined graphic design from its inception to its maturity, this volume by Remington (graphic design, Rochester Inst. of Technology; Nine Pioneers in American Graphic Design) presents a sweeping overview of the development of the profession itself. A handsome volume complete with a well-curated collection of graphic design's greatest hits (seen in 250 color illustrations), the book is obviously indebted to other historical overviews, such as Philip Meggs's A History of Graphic Design. Indeed, if Remington is to be faulted for anything, it would be for treading well-worn territory and exhibiting little work that has not been well documented elsewhere. He is also reticent to examine the downside of modernism and the reasons for its rejection as it ultimately degenerated into the de facto visual vernacular for the most banal corporate veneer (e.g., the same can be said for architecture, where for every Seagram's Building there are oceans of hideous glass boxes). Nonetheless, the book is well produced, its narrative is lively, and it will most likely provide rewarding reading for any student of design history and enough familiar imagery for even the casual reader.-Phil Hamlett, Turner & Assocs., San Francisco (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

These two books from Yale University Press are indispensable. The history of graphic design is a story still being shaped. The first important contribution was Philip B. Megg's A History of Graphic Design (CH, Oct'83). Since that time, there have been important books by Steven Heller, Ellen Lupton, Gunnar Swanson, and others. These works paint a picture of graphic design as it emerged from its infancy in the 20th century and grew into an important cultural force. Using an amalgamation of printing technology, art, and new notions of information theory and mass communication, graphic designers have arguably influenced the look of Western societies more profoundly than fine artists.Remington (Rochester Institute of Technology) traces the development of the self-awareness that changed "commercial art" into graphic design. Although modernist design was prevalent well into the 1980s and one might have hoped that he would have extended his book into that decade, he admirably covers the important players in the story of its development. Poyner, founder of Eye and a regular columnist for Print, picks up the tale in the 1970s and 1980s and continues to the present. Poyner's book is arranged by topic--"Origins," "Deconstruction," "Appropriation," "Techno," "Authorship," "Opposition"--rather than chronologically. Although this organization is perfectly suited to postmodernism, it does cause a disjuncture between his book and Remington's, which is conventionally chronological by decade. But this is not the time to nitpick: both books are beautifully printed and bound, lavishly illustrated, comprehensive, and important. Together, they provide the bedrock for the design history on which future building blocks will be based. ^BSumming Up: Both--highly recommended. All levels. S. Skaggs University of Louisville

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 6
1 The Basis for the New: The Cradle of Modernism 1850 - 1899p. 7
2 A New World Forming: The Impact of Modernism 1900 - 1919p. 15
3 American Design in Transition: Traditional to Modernism 1920 - 1929p. 33
4 Into the Design Scene: Modernism Arrives in America 1930 - 1939p. 47
5 At War and After: The Creative Forties in America 1940 - 1949p. 83
6 A New Style: American Design at Mid-Century 1950 - 1959p. 135
7 Design Since Mid-Century: Diversity and Contradiction 1960 - 1999p. 157
Notesp. 185
Bibliographyp. 188
Picture creditsp. 192
Acknowledgementsp. 192