The twentieth century is the first century
of self-conscious, total design at every level of our living and environment. Care
and vision in application of design have come to be demanded in every aspect of
modern life – from our kitchens and bathrooms, to our factories and workshops,
from our clothes and domestic objects, to the packaging of pocket calculators
or the structuring of plastic dining chairs.
Although the word has been used since at least the fifteenth
century, when Italian writers spoke of 'disegno' in describing the quality of
line possessed by an image or artifact, in all essentials 'design' is an
industrial or post-industrial concept. With the introduction of
mass-production, the people who invented ideas for objects became separated
from the people who made them who, again, were separated from the people who
sold them. The industrial revolution also created the concept of the market.
Personal need, or the whims of a patron, were replaced by a more abstract
demand: the tastes of a large, amorphous body of consumers.
The modern designer came into being as an intermediary
between industry and the consumer. His role was to adapt the products of
industry to the mass market, to make them more useful and durable, perhaps, but
to make them more appealing and commercially successful, certainly. Commercial
success is the touchstone of achievement in design, although designers in
different cultures have often taken different views as to how the achievement
is measured or the success validated.
So, design in business and advertisement means much. The
story of style in the applied arts since the mid-to late fifties has been
dominated by various new forces, including social and economic factors and
certain aspects of technical and scientific progress. Now we have computer
design, web design, advertisement design ( for example consumer-product branding
design) and the whole fashion of different types of ad, colors and so on.
The late fifties saw the birth of advertising as we know it
today, a high-powered business dedicated to the development effective marketing
techniques; it involved new design concepts and a whole new professional jargon
of product packaging, market research, corporate images and house style.
The POP Art movement embraced the work of a new generation
of artists of late fifties and early sixties of both sides of the Atlantic. In
Britain, in addition to the Independent Group, there were Peter Blake, Allen
Jones. In USA Jasper Johns, Tom Wesselman, Claes Oldenburg and other formalized
the language of product packaging, from beer cans to Campbell's Soup tins of
strip cartoons, fast food, advertising hoardings and pin-ups.
Pop Art at once reflected and glorified mass-market culture
and injected a new vigour into the applied arts. Pop and the art styles which
were its natural successors, notably American Hard-Edge Abstraction and the Hyper-
or Photo-realist school of around 1970, suggested a new palette o colours and
gave a fresh, ironical edge to the imagery of popular culture. The Pop ethic
posi lively encouraged designers to exploit vulgarity brashness and bright
colour, and to use synthetic or disposable materials in contexts in which they
would formerly have been unacceptable. Pop has had a lasting effect on design
in a wide variety of media, including interiors, graphics and fashion.
Pop has spawned furniture in bright, primary-coloured
plastics and in boldly printed fold-away cardboard; it has inspired, notably in
Britain and Italy, witty sculptural furniture in brash, synthetic materials
reminiscent of the sculptures of Claes Oldenburg. The fashion and furniture
shop Mr Freedom, opened in London in 1969 by Tommy Roberts, was a veritable
shrine to the Pop cult, with lively furniture designs by Jon Weallans. Italian
Pop furniture was one aspect of the Italian design community's wide-ranging
intellectual approach which, since the sixties, has made Italy the most
progressive country in many areas of the applied arts.
The influence of Pop can be seen in graphic design in the
sixties in the work of the American Pushpin Studios, founded by Milton Glaser
and Seymour Chwast. Pop and the Hyper-Realists also inspired the slick airbrush
work of a number of graphic artists working in the seventies and eighties,
notably the British artists Philip Castle and Michael English. Pop imagery is
still, today, a part of the staple diet of graphic design.
Pop's most notable impact on the world of fashion was in
London in the late sixties and early seventies, and in Italy in the
achievements of Elio Fiorucciin the seventies. Fiorucci brought fun into fashion,
and his shops, first in Milan and then internationally, became known for their
Pop-inspired clothes and graphics.
And it's influence can be seen also and on a graphic design
in USA. POP is everywhere, we see everyday objects and images of American
popular culture – Coca-Cola bottles, soup cans, sigarette packages and comic
Commercial photographic images are a major ingredient of our
visual life, assimilated from magazines, hoardings and such contexts as
brochures, catalogues, calendars, packaging and point-of-sale promotional
material. Commercial photography thrives as a means of creating highly polished
images of a stylized, glamourized and idealized view of the World in order to
sell a product or a service.
The major categories of commercial photography are
advertising in its countless guises, including product photography and
photo-illustration, fashion, beauty and certain categories of photography
which are neither reportage nor aspire to be fine art, yet which can be
fascinating social documents of considerable aesthetic quality.
Irving Penn has continued to be a master in each of these
genres and has set standards to which many aspire. His career has spanned forty
years, during which his work, from his early fashion and still-life
compositions to current still-life product studies such as his series for the
cosmetics manufacturers Clinique, has shown an inimitable vision and
consistent aesthetic rigour.
Ben Stern, though far from being Penn's artistic equal,
became the archetypal commercial photographer in the fifties and sixties,
running a vast studio in New York and showing considerable skill and
versatility in interpreting the briefs of art directors and clients.
In the sixties the profession of commercial and, in
particular, fashion photography became greatly glamourized: the successful
young photographer became a popular folk hero, as if the camera were a passport
to the illusory world which it could depict—Antonioni's film Blow-Up (1966-7)
defined the role model. Among the most interesting magazines to be launched in
the sixties, the photography of which captured the youthful excitement of that
period, were the British Nova, which commissioned some of the best fashion
photography of its day, and the German Twen, brilliantly art directed by Willy
In the sixties advertising played a secondary role to
editorial photography in magazines. Today the reverse seems true, for the
character of many magazines is dictated by the market needs of advertisers and
many photographers bemoan the greater restrictions this imposes. The seventies
and eighties have, nonetheless, brought forth a new roll-call of talent.
Outstanding contemporary figures include Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, who
have dominated the field of fashion photography; Hans Feurer, Arthur Elgort,
Denis Piel and others, a few of the less celebrated but talented fashion
photographers; advertising and glamour photographers such as Francis Giacobetti,
Commercial photographers play a great role in our consumer
society, creating the images of a life-style to which we are constantly encouraged
to aspire. They create glamourized images of women and give a heightened visual
appeal to the products which are economic mainstay of our society, be it a
hamburger, a perfume or an automobile.
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