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Book Review: ‘Pioneers of German Graphic Design’ by Jens Muller

What is graphic design, typography, applied arts, wordmarks, and such? These practices are a form of visual communication based in conceptual expressions and applied to a tangible form such as advertisements, posters, packaging of a product, and the likes. Where these practices originated from and how they evolved, particularly among German artists from the 19th through the 21st century, is studied by Jens Muller in his book Pioneers of German Graphic Design.

Muller’s book is an insightful report on how the Industrial Revolution sparked a new breed of artists to emerge. To facilitate these artists, the birth of advertising agencies followed.

He tells how artists in the field of graphic design were a vehicle for selling consumer goods, designing textile patterns and products like utensils and clocks, creating slogans that stuck in people’s minds, crafting logos and illustrations that affected audiences more immediately than speeches. So much about visual communication is taken for granted like the Century Gothic typeface or the image of an S with two parallel lines through it to symbolize money. An artist invented such language, applying the practice of graphic design to the art of typography and illustration respectively.

Graphic design is put under a microscope by Muller, explaining how a new market of artists evolved, expressing themselves through various forms of visual communication. The author explores how the progress of technological inventions in society carved out a niche for graphic designers. Muller takes readers along this journey from the craft’s inception to modern times. He details how German artists contributed to the applied arts, pairing conceptual drawings with the branding of products, services, cafes, films, corporations, magazines, and political regimes.

The author examines the world of commercial arts and thoroughly researches the topic from the perspective of Germany’s hub of graphic designers. Providing timelines that chronicle the story of the applied arts progress across three centuries enables readers to make connections that had not been previously illuminated. It’s a must read for students of graphic design, and an insightful tome for professional artists who seek inspiration in their craft.

About susanfrancesny

Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island.

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