Simon Zirkunow

Older Project
A Good Book Website

A History of Graphic Design in the 20th Century Book

Regular books on design history are great for research, but their extensiveness is discouraging for many students. This book is more approachable and illuminates different aspects of graphic design in the 20th century within individual chapters instead of a single chronological walkthrough. Thus, the reader becomes acquainted with the overall development, world history, and technology before studying movements or individual designers. The structure provides a richer context and invites for a non-linear reading with cross references.

This book was part of my master’s thesis. I channeled my passion for the history of graphic design into something tangible and researched how to convey the content in a better way. (I blame Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk for that.) The fourth iteration of the book comprises of 128 pages and it’s still used as the main reading material for the design history course at my alma mater in Konstanz, Germany.

The book is currently in its fourth iteration. Since acquiring all image rights is too expensive, the book remains self-published and for teaching purposes only.
You’ll find the chapters right on the cover to indicate the atypical structure.

The spreads in between chapters show inspiring and humorous photographs from design history.
The first chapter offers an overview of how the design profession emerged and developed from its predecessors who were commercial artists.

The second chapter brushes up on world history so the reader can embed everything that follows into that context.

The third chapter gives an insight into the different technology available to designers and how it affected their work.
The fourth chapter showcases art and design movements. The table of contents also serves as a diagram with the duration of each movement.
Each spread presents one movement, its visual characteristics and main practitioners. It’s concise while offering first steps for a more thorough research.
These are cropped detail views of the chapter spreads. The bottom area is used for footnotes, image captions, and further recommendations. The top area introduces the movement and presents some of its practitioners.
The fifth chapter offers a more detailed look into the life and work of noteworthy graphic designers.
Each designer’s biography is followed by characteristics of their graphic elements and further reading.

This chapter concludes with a list of even more noteworthy designers. The readers are encouraged to further research these designers on their own.
These are cropped detail views of the designer spreads. Within the text, there are cross references to other chapters. In this case, you can look up what influenced Alexey Brodovitch in his formative years. That connection comes in handy, when you realize that Brodovitch invited A.M. Cassandre, the primary designer associated with Art Deco, to design a magazine cover for Bazaar.
The sixth chapter provides original texts by designers. The topics range from quality in design, design ethics and suggestions for those just starting out as graphic designers.

The seventh chapter offers arguments on why it’s important to learn about the history of design and how to apply this knowledge.
Since this book serves only as an introduction, there are annotated recommendations for delving further into the history of design.

The book concludes with an index of people, things, works, places and more for your convenience.

More Projects