In the last couple of days I featured information on new advertising campaigns by British Railway company GWR and New Yorker magazine. This got me to thinking about a pet subject which is why (often) are contemporary commercial graphics unsigned.
The answer is that now indispensable ‘creative’ who wants to be the star of the show : the Art Director.
As a comic aside, I found myself working in such a set up for a well known UK retailer in the 1990’s developing such iconic designs as the ‘Moo Shed’ and the ‘Garden Gang’ : more on that another time.
What I did learn from that experience is how uber competitive it can be to be the one that ‘lands the concept’ and ‘pitches the campaign’ . Very little room for a talented artist to be heard under these circumstances.
The history bit: Pre WW2, American corporations began to take note of the graphic design revolution taking place in France, Germany and Russia. In 1928 Conde Nast, editor of Vogue and Vanity Fair bought in design guru M F Agha from Germany to revolutionise its front covers and ‘look’. Harpers Bizarre followed suit bringing Alexey Brodovitch over from Paris. Bringing in the likes of Cassandre, Saul Steinberg and nurturing the talents of the likes of Richard Avendon they set a new benchmark for the deign concept of the magazine as a whole. Brodovitch was known for marathon layout sessions to show of the magazines sequence or ‘layout’ to the best graphic effect.
Others followed suit : notably Fortune Magazine (who’s covers i have admired in other posts)
Digging in, it makes sense why I have bemoaned the lack of American graphics from the 1920s and 1930s : the reason is simple, the European influence did not com along until around 1932. One of the leaders Sascha Maurer from Germany
American born Lester Beall picked up the idiom to great effect and added his own layer of simplicity
Earnest Elmo Calkins of Ad Agency Calkins and Holden developed the use of a ‘creative team’
Around this time the concept of a ‘house style’ was being established and although some of the greatest poster artists of all time were involved around and just post WW2, their work was beginning to be constrained by the brands and agencies.
The era of the Art Director had begun and things would never be quite the same.