“Modernism destroyed.” T.J Clark ‘Modernism’ is a term that


had two great wishes. It wanted its audience to be led toward a recognition of
the social reality of the sign (away from the comforts of narrative and
illusionism, was the claim); but equally it dreamed of turning the sign back to
a bedrock of World/Nature/Sensation/Subjectivity which the to and fro of
capitalism had all but destroyed.”

T.J Clark

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is a term that is used to explain movements in Design during early 20th
century period, however I believe it can be broken into two principles. The
first of them been the break from existing ‘traditional’ methods and
principles, and the second; a move towards a universal new way for designers to
express themselves and their revolutionary work. It showed that design could be
relevant to everyone, not just a select few. This meant that a visual language
was created and that it was free of cultural allusions therefore it was
possible for people from all countries, social backgrounds and levels of

In the
following essays I will provide background
information of the relevance of modernist design and its long lasting legacy it
has contributed to the contemporary world of the 21st century. I
will also explain this
information in brief points of the major developments in the modernist era and on
how there still is an influence and connection between modernism and
contemporary design today.

Fig.1 the Bauhaus

Taken from


was a major break with the past and the search for new forms of expression in
design. It was a time of great change from the late 19th to the mid-20th
century. It primarily focused on industrialization,
rapid social change, and advances in science and the social sciences,
Modernists felt a growing optimism. Ideas in philosophy and political theory ignited a new hope and began
to search for new ways for designers to express themselves.


Many new
Graphic design schools responded to the bigger requirement for the rise in
advertising and the   design of ads and
print resources. The first graphic design school, Bauhaus, was founded in 1919
in Germany. The Bauhaus design school was founded by Walter Gropius as a school
of design. As the Bauhaus was a blend of arts and crafts, its attitude back
then was considered as something completely new. The Bauhaus today is the most
important school in the area of design that existed. The Bauhaus survived from
1919 to 1933 and it is considered it to be the home of modern style in design.
The significance of the Bauhaus can still be felt today, truly symbolizing the
image of modernized styled design abroad and this was quickly followed by other
to set up graphic design schools around the world.

Also in the
early 19th century saw the rise of other ‘styles’ to assist?a revolutionary
new culture, designers like El Lissitzky and Moholy-Nagy rejected refined
aesthetics in unconventional perspectives, An outcome from this led to like of
work from American graphic designer Paula Scher and English graphic designer,
typographer and art director Neville Brody are seen as a reference designers to
the modernist change.




 The economy improved after the war in the
mid-1920s, Modernists began a thought process to create a better world and a
utopian way began to take shape. Modernist design moved from small exhibitions
and advertising to a broader audience base to planners of large international
shows. This gave them a larger audience which to promote the new modernist
ideology .the word ‘New’ was used more commonly during this period in  Photography, Typography and design.by
achieving This, the designers wanted to catch the mind of people and change the
way people lived, socially and by new technology.







Perfect typography is more a science than an art.

Jan Tschichold (Tschichold and Bringhurst, 1991)


In the 1920s, graphic designers began designing various
typography processes as their own characteristic styles. Jan Tschichold, is
possibly the most influential of all typographers.Tschichold was a prominent
twentieth century German typographer a book designer, teacher and author. His
most famous work, Die neue Typographie and Typographische Gestaltung have become
influential books for typographers to the present day. When Tschichold wrote
Die Neue Typographie he set guidelines involving paper size and the way modern
type is to be used. He felt that all typefaces bar sans-serif types were too

 The sans
serif only seems to be the simpler script. It is a form that was violently
reduced for little children. For adults it is more difficult to read than
serifed roman type, whose serifs were never meant to be ornamental.

Jan Tschichold 

Over time he felt his books may have being strict and
eventually returned to centred designs and roman typefaces which were favoured
for blocks of copy. He also felt strongly about hierarchy when using type in
design. Tschichold’s text still is commonly used today and laid the base for
many of the modern font typography styles. Tschichold’s legacy has had a major
impact on today’s designers. His ways on how to space letters and words, or
what type to choose, are still are still used today. His works and texts will
forever remain classics representing the era, and we will still continue to
read him and use his work as a guide.



The development of Photography had a huge effect on
Modernist design, Graphic design changed due to these new forms of expression
and they developed differently with each country having their own unique style.
With this came the Combination of photography and typography which led to
designers starting to use the more formal qualities of photography rather than
obscuring their works. Like Paul Strand would further develop the techniques of
photography and creating it as art form in itself. Features of modernist
photography involved the use of clean lines, unusual perspectives and
repetitive form.  Strand believed that
art had positive impact on social thinking and throughout his career believed
it could help progressive changes. Strand has had a huge influence on contemporary
design and you can see his influence on street photography today. The designers
can make political and social statements while taking pictures of people
landscapes and buildings.


White space

White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a
passive background.

Jan Tschichold (Tschichold and Bringhurst, 1991)

The Bauhaus designers believed in minimalist ideas like
white space is not only in their work, but part of their overall attitude.
Gropius, said “form follows function” idea in modernist design and that there
is beauty in the simple functionality of an object. Modernist designers
commonly used white space, working on one essential idea and getting rid of all
else that is unnecessary. Early modernist ideas you will see that economy of
form is a frequent feature in their work. Nowadays Whitespace is a very
significant part of visual design .people prefer using a web page that’s well
organized and clearly displayed in order. People tend to use a well laid out
page that can be easily understood immediately particularly businesses, when
people dismiss fussy webpages a lot of the time And an example  of the ‘less is more’.


Use of industrial materials

Modernist architects set out to use industrial materials as
form over function and to use this building method to transform society by
using new construction techniques. The use of steel, concrete and glass were
admired for strength and to admit more light through. They wanted to express
their ways to show these properties, Dieter Rams was a German industrial
designer closely related with the household appliance company Braun. He was
becoming more and more frustrated by design around him:

“An impenetrable
confusion of forms, colours and noises.”

Dieter rams

Conscious to design, He proposed ten principles for good design.
Today you can see these ideas on a daily basis, from financial buildings to the
steampunk designs on posters, the modernist approach that still influences .


(http://www.graphics.com/sites/default/files/grid7big.jpg, 2017)




The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a
number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate
to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art
that requires practice.



A grid system is a framework that is supposed to help
designers in the organization of information on a page. Grid systems have
existed for generations but a group of graphic designers, mostly inspired by
the ideas from typographical books, started building a more firm and clear
system for page layout. These ideas were first seen in the book Grid Systems in
Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann which lend a hand to spread the
information about grids worldwide. Today grid systems are often used and now
are often used by print and web designers to create well balanced designs.





Designers want to discover bounds in design. People would
have agreed that there was a need to change from traditional styles of old in
order to move to a new modern style in the late 19th early 20th century. With
plain and simple designs the Bauhaus came at a very good time, Not only did the
style influence the functionality of design it was also the beginning of the
way we see design today. Industrial design, graphic design, art, and typography
led to the way we see and understand it today. With its geometrical shapes,
simple lines, elegant design, it is quiet easy to see the influence the Bauhaus
style had and that we can learn today from 
pattern design, poster making and graphic design for examples as well
the thought process conceptually is one of the major influences we see today.
The philosophical ideas of the school, the way it focused on simplicity and
lack of ornamentation, geometrical objects and minimalism, were all major
factors in the growth of modernism and design of the 20th century, which is still
very much present in the world of contemporary design. Design in the future
will always find a new way but with the blend of old modernist ideas.


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