Modernism transformed American graphic design in the mid-twentieth century and established a visual language that still carries tremendous authority. The Moderns: Midcentury American Graphic Design by Steven Heller and Greg D’Onofrio (Abrams Books, 2017) is the first comprehensive survey of this phenomenon that shaped our visual environment, presenting the work and lives of sixty-three graphic designers. Some were émigrés (including five Bauhaus students and faculty) who brought the gospel of Modernism to America from its sources in Europe. Others were homegrown talents who encountered Modernism in schools and offices at home and abroad. Together, they formed a multigenerational community, learning from one another and forging their individual practices through rigorous engagement with the esthetics of the movement.
The Moderns focuses on the principals and disciples who brought Modernist graphic design to the United States as well as acolytes who continued the legacy in the design capitals of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles from around 1937 with the founding of the New Bauhaus to 1970, the height of the International Typographic Style. Our aim is to highlight a curated group that, like Modernism itself, had varying viewpoints and methods yet was bound by governing principles of function, clarity, and simplicity held together through geometry, abstraction, and minimalism. Some of these designers are well-known, others are honored in this volume for the first time, and together they comprised a movement that changed our design world.
I TRIED TO EVOLVE FORMS THAT IN FEELING COVERED THE ENTIRE EMOTIONAL SPECTRUM, AND ALSO WERE IMPECCABLE IN THEIR SENSE OF ORDER. THIS TO ME WAS MODERNISM, AND TOWARD THAT END I WANTED TO CREATE CONSTELLATIONS SO RICH THAT THEY IN THEMSELVES WOULD COMMUNICATE CONTENT.