The Graphic Designers Who Shaped The US

September 2017Words by Mr Ashley Clarke

“Virtually all of the good design in our world today is either an adaptation of the visual language of modernism or a reaction against it.” So say co-authors and design experts Mr Steven Heller and Mr Greg D’Onofrio in their new book The Moderns, a pleasantly polychromatic directory of modernist graphic designers of the 20th century. Graphic modernism’s roots may be in Europe (see Bauhaus and De Stijl), but it was in the USA that modernist design most infiltrated everyday life through its marriage of art and commerce. The venerable talents featured in this book, via 900 vivid illustrations, were the designers behind the advertising boom of the Mad Men era – men and women who might have executed Don Draper’s ideas onto billboards and posters across the USA.

Designs by Ms Elaine Lustig Cohen, circa 1955–1961

While much of the book focuses on home-grown US talent, plenty of space is devoted to many graphic designer emigrés. Such as Mr Josef Albers, one of the jungmeisters (young masters) of German design in the 1920s, who moved to the USA to escape the Nazi invasion a few years before Bauhaus founder Mr Walter Gropius did the same. Mr Albers was later seen as instrumental in bringing a European modernist sensibility to the States with his austere monochrome designs for Mr Enoch Light’s album covers in the 1960s.