Baseline and Beauty: Graphic Design Visionaries by Caroline Roberts

There was one recurring thought that soft returned through my well kerned (they really aren’t) brain cells whilst imbibing all the beautiful healthy nourishing idea rich design contained within the creative menu leaves of the new rather excellent Graphic Design Visionaries by Caroline Roberts (editor of Grafik).

Never mind the recommended 5-a-day, how about 75 (more if you include extra talent that would have been in the agencies/studios) creatives to fill your fertile reservoir to absolute bursting point. But the thing I kept harking back to was how bloody fantastic and ground breaking early 20th Century design was (Piet Zwart designing like a 1920s punk typographer), where less really is more.

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Unless you’re actually part of an industry that overtly uses design/graphic, most folk won’t really pay much attention to it. Least that’s what they might think, when in fact it’s such a non stop visually noisy fireworks exploding presence into our retina smashing multiple messages and instructions (even at the same time) into our poorly curated identities.

Of course there was a world before the birth of Apple, there was even a world before the internet (we held typography classes in the side of trees), but Apple (amongst others) have been greatly responsible for deliberately raising the concept of design as a tangible and accessible product for everyone, to consume and produce.

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Such accessibility and tools to ‘ease’ the inventive process don’t necessarily mean the work will be better. It’s my thinking that the somewhat laborious technical processes inherent in early graphic design eras would at times have actively contributed to the distillation (out of deadline necessities) and potential more consideration of the work. In contrast to that, how long before we have snapchat campaigns existing for seconds?

It’s an excellent time for a book like this to come along, before all graphic design races away into the aforementioned snapchatted binary future, so all credit to Caroline and publishers Laurence King. Covering from around the 1920s (Piet Zwart, again) to more or less present day (M/M Paris), spanning a very potent evolution of the graphic arts into the unwielding behemoth that exists today.

Beautifully selected diverse works presented in a considered digestible and very well designed format. This book (to it’s absolute praise) is not about giving you the entire history of graphic design nor it’s luminaries, but acts as a very powerful catalyst/stimulant where each spread lights a fuse of inspiration.

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Concentrated informed text that is readily diluted into oceans of knowledge should you take favour with one of this initial batch. I say initial in regards that hopefully this will become an on going and ever expanding collection. The author does pay service to the unfortunate absence, or certainly disproportionate about of men to women within the pages, but that does represent the make up of the early days of the industry, that will hopefully be rebalanced in future releases.

It would be a disservice to go into detail of the content, this is a book to be picked up on a regular basis by creatives not only in any field, but actually anyone. The copy humanises the individuals as much as the work respectfully elevates them. As such it really is for everyone.

For myself having gone to college, trained (eventually) and now work as graphic designer, it is wonderful to see pretty much everyone who inspired me to be a creative contained within the pages. I’ve no doubt this book can and will inspire future careers.

Graphic Design Visionaries by Caroline Roberts is out now from Laurence King.