History Makers

A huge new publication by Taschen containing over 2,500 images charts the rich visual history of graphic design between 1890 and 1959 – and a very impressive book it is too. We have two copies to give away to two lucky Grafik readers…

Large 8de4c927 68a1 42ad 9e47 42503e3334d3

Will Burtin, magazine cover, 1950

Books attempting to chart the history of graphic design have been somewhat thin on the ground recently. Compared to disciplines such as art or architecture, graphic design has a relatively short history – however what it lacks in age, it more than makes up for in speed of change, with technology having a huge impact on every area of graphic design over the past thirty or so years. While some people are still arguing over what to actually call it, graphic design has expanded and diversified at an unprecedented rate, meaning that many histories of the subject feel outdated as soon as they are published.

This isn't a problem with Taschen's new publication The History of Graphic Design Vol 1, as it's the first in a two-volume series and concludes in 1959. As the text appears in both English, German and French, it's no surprise that this publication is very image-focused, with over 2,500 examples bursting from each spread. There's nothing very radical about the way the information is organised – in chronological order and by decade – and there are profiles of over fifty practitioners and seventy significant pieces. There are interesting (if fairly brief) introductory texts by David Jury and Jens Müller, which give some context to the selection. Due to the time period covered, much of this first volume is concerned with posters and advertisements created when graphic design was known as commercial art, which tends to give the book a more illustrative (rather than graphic) feel overall.

Any history of graphic design is sure to provoke a discussion on what should and shouldn't be included, with the best books featuring enough of the big hitters to whet peoples' appetites, coupled with some not-so-familiar pieces so that readers feel like they've learned something. But at the end of the day, it's a subjective process, and the history which appears in a project with a commercial aspect such as this one is likely to differ from one that's written from an academic perspective.

The History of Graphic Design is a fascinating book, filled with countless beautiful examples of early graphic design, although the sheer weight and oversized format mean it's not something you'll be reading on the bus. We have two copies of the book (which retails at £50) to give away to two lucky Grafik readers. To be in with a chance of getting your hands on one of them, just send an email to giveaway@grafik.net telling us the name of Jens Müller's Dusseldorf-based design studio. Deadline is 12 January 2017, and you might just find the answer here.


Large 315a920f 8380 4e02 89c2 218b34870d7d

Herb Lubalin, advertisement, 1959

Large 335663f0 55d6 4807 986d be9970f4b6db

F. H. K. Henrion, poster, 1943

Large 6d012543 feec 4282 b077 77c162ff7bef

El Lissitzky, magazine cover, 1923

Large 47320d7c 7c9a 413f 9b1a 21e6fef087a5

Russian poster, designer unknown, 1900s

The History of Graphic Design Vol 1: 1890-1959
By Jens Müller and Julius Wiedemann 
Published by Taschen, £50

Large 74091ac1 46d0 474d 8931 87269b2b3317