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Image Reference | Contextual Theory For Designers

18 Mar













Above is an image of the Jim Dollar series of books created by Alexander Rodchenko in 1924. these books have similar features to my poster which I am using for my essay ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ because of the element of symmetry and diagonal lines to show direction and increase the vibrancy of the piece, which is why I am going to include it into my essay as a useful reference when talking about my own piece of work (below)

Clown Revised 1


Mind-mapping key terms | Contextual Theory For Designers

13 Mar


Essay Structure | Contextual Theory For Designers

12 Mar

Having a thorough look through the brief for our CTFD essay assignment, I feel a lot clearer about the direction of the content I would like to include. A tutorial meeting with Alan Meades regarding the assignment left me with a useful structure in which I am going to adopt:

  • Hypothesis (100 words approx)
  • Key terms and ideas (700 words approx)
  • Case Study – my piece of work, link to design movements (200 words)
  • Analyse the case study (800 words)
  • Conclude (200 words)

The essay has not been given to us as a means of describing how amazing our piece of work, because it explicitly implores us NOT to use descriptive content on why we chose to make our piece of work look the way it looks. Instead the requirement is to relate specific aspects of the work to one of four modernist schools of thought – Bauhaus, Constructivism, Modernism and Futurism.

Clown Revised 1











Above is the piece of work that I am using to complete the assignment. the work was a poster submission for my first year module ‘Lens Based Media’. initially my first thoughts of the poster would be to relate it to the Constructivist movement over the others, because of the good use of structure. At first glance (now that I am aware of the movements) I can easily relate it to the work of Rodchenko and Maholy-Nagy because of their use of geometric letterforms, flat color, diagonal composition and photomontage.

International Style | Contextual Theory For Designers

11 Mar

The international style was an adaptation to graphic design in the late 1950’s, originating in Switzerland. The issue in switzerland was that there were four languages commonly used across the country, these being:

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Romanish

Switzerland_Linguistic_ENSource: Karte Schweizer Sprachgebiete, 2010

The international style was a way of creating a simplistic, modernist approach in order to communicate across language barriers with greater ease. It adopted the use of geometric reduction, simplified colour palettes as well as photomontage.

The core ideas of ‘The Swiss Style’ are; Asymmetry, use of grids and objective photography (photographs that show you what is actually happening). Factual details and little use of propaganda is very common, with sans serif type (Akzidenz Grotesk) and a Ragged right process (flush left paragraphs). These are all to create as little confusion as possible, and remove any form of subjective thought or opinion. For example, male and female signs for toilets were developed as part of the international Style, so it would be wrong to give these signs a form of interpretation by the public. In other words, they need to have a clear and distinct direction of what they are looking at, to prevent confusion.

Toilet Sign











Max Bill (1908-1994) and Otl Aicher (1922-1991) founded the Ulm School (school of design) in Germany, which focused on the teaching of semiotics, semantics, synactics and pagmatics. essentially the focus was to create a system of symbols in order to break the language barrier. Otl Aicher was involved in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany where he developed a system of symbols to direct people to olympic events without the use of language or text (as the olympics attracts people from many nationalities so typing many translations of events would not be suitable.


Futurism and Cubism | Contextual Theory for Designers

7 Feb

Gesamkultur – a new universal culture existing in a totally reformed man made environment.

Gesamkultur (Gesamtkunstwerk) is the attempt to create art which uses a wide range of art forms. it attempts to be a total or ideal work of art. the term was initially used by K. F. E. Trahndorff in 1827, although Richard Wagner used the term in essays in 1849, but it is not certain whether Wagner was aware that Trahndorff used it too. The term is commonly related to Wagner who generated a set of Aesthetic ideals. Wagners use of the term in his two essays was used to unify all works of art within the theatre.


Influenced greatly buy Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). they stated that they should “treat nature in terms of the cylinder and the sphere and the cone”. the paintings created that were based on Cubism opened a new door to being able to use space, as well as picturing human emotions. The works that have been created previously are extremely ambiguous, as they have split apart the normal idea of a human portrait. Cubism is closely related to shapes, colours, textures and values in spacial relationships. It also plays with human vision, where we can still scan an object or painting that may not be perfectly obvious, but can still combine the fragments into a whole.

Paul Cezanne was focused on making images through the use of geometric shapes like cylinders, cones and spheres. This was seen within Fernand Leger (1881-1955) who moved away from the initial ideas of Cezanne and Picasso. he took the use of geometric shapes to another level, picturing trees as long cylinders and so on.



Pablo Picasso


Pablo Picasso – Man with violin (1911-1912)

Picasso played with planes of a subject from vantage points, split them apart then put them onto a canvas. They are extremely ambiguous in nature.










Definition of the futurist Manifesto is “A revolutionary movement in which all the arts were to test their ideas and forms against the new realities of scientific and industrial society” (Meggs, 2012)

The futurist manifesto was a way of explaining the new era of Noise and Speed, the development of the internal combustion engine, flight as a form of transport, development of automobiles and so on. These forms were expressed using Futurist poetry (below).


Filippo Marinetti, Cover for Zan Tumb Tumb, 1912

The title is a sound poem.









The futurists saw this era as a way of freedom of design, going outside the normal structures or horizontal and vertical lines and avoiding such constraints. the use of diagonal lines to create a sense of direction was also used, using nonlinear compositions to animate pages and bring them to life. They attempted to use typography as the sole visual form of communication which was not particularly common before this period.

They used variants of word spacing, changed font sizes, irregular capitalisation, as well as using multiple punctuation marks for emphasis and meaning.


set of cultural tendencies and associated cultural movements originally arising from wide-scale and far reaching changed to Western Society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

John Ruskin | Contextual Theory For Designers

5 Feb

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was an art critic, socialist, anti-capitalist and anti-industrualist. He was involved with William Morris during his life, and inspired William to develop the society for the protection of ancient buildings.

He was a patron for the Arts and Crafts movement, and the philosophy was focused on his work. Because he was an anti-industrialist, he was extremely against the use of ‘the machine’, and disagreed with the manufacture of ‘Cheap and Nasty’ mass produced goods of the Victorian era. He stated that during the renaissance period, there was a decline in professional artwork due to industrialisation, and there was a process of separating art from society.

John Ruskin’s aesthetic philosophies and theories were adapted by William Morris (1834-1896), and his close friend Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98). His ideologies that we became the ‘slave to the machine’ is exemplified in the poor printmaking below, where typefaces seem to be pushed together without thought, and the quality is very low as quantity was the main requirement.

Pre-Raphaelite Movement

The Pre-Raphaelite movement, strongly influenced by Ruskin, was founded in 1849 by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), D.G. Rosetti, Johen Millais, William Rosetti, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner and F.G. Stephens. They were a group of avante-garde painters who were associated with John Ruskin. They have greatly affected a global appreciation of art, as well as including a romantic element to their work. They used true principles of art to complete their work.

Pandora (1869)

Pandora (1869)
Dante Gabriel Rosetti
The Faringdon Collection Trust









Dieter Rams | Contextual Theory For Designers

4 Feb

“Design is a nobly activity. Design Frees”

Dieter Rams:

Image of Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer born on May 20, 1932. He is very closely linked to the design of Braun products, working as an Architect and an Interior designer. Rams had a number of influences of his design style, with a phrase commonly associated towards him which reads;

“Less, But Better”.

This is a statement which supports the statement “Form follows Function”, where products are manufactured to be most useful to the end user, and the form of the product is thought of once the function is put in place. Vistoe states that Dieter was appointed the head of design at Braun from 1961 to 1995. He was a strong believer that good design can only come from a team of designers within companies.

Responsible (in other words economical) design was one of Dieter’s main fortes. His design was influenced by the “increasing and irreversible shortage of natural resources” which is common in the 20th century world. This focus was seen within his product range, using renewable resources to reduce the effect that mass production is having on the world, this work is also seen within Vistoe who he works with to this day. he said that it would “cause future generations to shudder” at the way in which “we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk”. (Design by Vistoe, Rams, 1976)

Dieter Rams generated the ‘ten commandments’ of good design, what he believes to be included in a product which has good design:

1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product more useful
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is unobtrusive
6. Good design is honest
7. Good design is long lasting
8. Design is thorough and down to the last detail
9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
10. Good design is at little design as possible. (minimalistic/Bauhaus)

Braun SK 4 radiogram, 1956, designed by Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams