A history of design systems

Programming Design Systems, Week 1.

Note: This is a somewhat western-centric view of graphic design as a response to the industrial revolution in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, this history is also heavily male. We will look at more diverse examples over the course of the semester, but this history is important as a shared reference of how technology influences design.

Early Renaissance

Futurists, Dadaists and De Stijl

The Bauhaus

"Just as in the workshops of the Bauhaus the smallest utility object is given the simplest geometrical shape, so are these, the biggest of them all. Thus one is made to receive here the sense of a convincing uniformity of all objects made by man regardless of size, from a metal ashtray to a building" - Rudolf Arnheim
"But the idea of freeing ourselves of tradition and of starting again from the two basic motives, the practical requirement of life and the conditions of the materials is so good that nothing else matters for the time being" - Rudolf Arnheim

Jan Tschichold

Big Idea Designers

"Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling." - William Bernbach
Before you have focused your thoughts you are all over the place, because you are searching. You are feeling. You are looking for things. You do not know what you are doing. You are lost. You are in a maze. So thinking is the number one in the design process. The design is the product of your thinking - Paul Rand
Another kind of definition is that design is a system of relationships between all of the aspects of the problem, which means the relationship between you and the piece of canvas, you and the eraser, you and the pen. The relationship between the elements proportions, which mean the relationship of sizes. I can go on all day. This is one of the reasons why design is so difficult to accomplish. Because every time you do something, the potential for making mistakes is enormous. The process of designing is from complexity to simplicity. The part of complexity if filled with all kinds of horrible problems. - Paul Rand

The Swiss Style

This graphic aesthetic and method was the second wave of European Modernism to influence the U.S. Essentially different from the "big idea" approach, it is based on an assumption of Modernist rational "method", a codified approach not so dependent on the individualistic inspiration and talent of the designer. - "American Graphic Design Expression", Katherine McCoy, 1990
"The message will reach a maximum power of expression if the object or idea is presented aesthetically and efficiently with a minimum of accompanying design. Both subjective ornament in the sense of illustrative exaggerations and over-objective presentation must be avoided" - Josef Müller-Brockmann

Serial Art

The system is the work of art; the visual work of art is the proof of the system - Sol Lewitt

A Brief History of Computers

The Macintosh turned out so well because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists. - Steve Jobs

The first computers in arts

Second Generation Computational Artists

The Internet and Design programs as Coding Environments


The End