This article highlights a number of popular typefaces, notable figures from the design industry, and design trends relevant to the current state of the industry.
To deal with typography is to make written language appealing to learning and recognition: it certainly is a big part of what we play with as graphic designers.
Choosing a typeface is especially important, as each typeface is designed to set the tone of the content --- even before the user starts reading the text. It is vital to choose a typeface that fits the context, is suitable to the target audience, and enhances the visual identity of the designer. Below are three of the most popular typefaces from the 20th century.
One of the most widely used typefaces around the world, Helvetica needs no introduction. Spawning an eponymous documentary to critical acclaim and transforming an entire city, Helvetica remains as influential as ever.
Designed by Paul Renner in 1928, Futura remains the "typeface of the future" to this day. Characterized by even weight, perfect circles, and isosceles triangles, Futura is as iconic as the 1969 moon landing mission, where it was used as the typeface for the plaque installed on the lunar surface. Futura is also featured in the following products and brands:
The 1926 typeface Gill Sans, designed by Eric Gill, always has been considered a classically British typeface, and the British government followed suit in 2003. The popular "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster and its numerous parodies, BBC show titles, and Penguin Books paperbooks all proudly feature this typeface. Although not directly related to Gill Sans, the book "Penguin By Design" chronicles the history of Penguin Books as a young publisher that popularized paperbacks with iconic cover design.
FontShop's "100 Best Typefaces of All Time" provide a thoroughly annotated catalogue of the world's most recognizable typefaces, and serves as a wonderful resource for any designer who is looking to learn more about typography.
Below is only a partial list of key figures in modern graphic design. Ranging from interdisciplinary collaborations to technology-driven experiments, these designers remain notable for their innovative approaches to their practice.
Often remembered for his Moulin Rouge and other cabaret posters as well as his appearance in Woody Allen's film "Midnight in Paris," Toulouse-Laurec is also recognized as one of the early practitioners of advertising design, much to the chagrin of the Parisian art world.
In addition to the iconic logos of American Airlines (featuring Helvetica, until the recent redesign), Bloomingdale's, and Ford, Vignelli is renowned for his contribution to rebranding the New York City Subway system. As a big fan of Helvetica, Vignelli also contributed to the production of the eponymous documentary.
While he certainly made a mark in the graphic design world with a bulk of iconic logos for clients including Bell, AT&T, and Kleenex, Saul Bass Saul is considered one of the first designers to create title sequences in cinema. He is well known for his collaboration with master filmmakers including Scorsese, Kubrick, and Hitchcock.
Paul Rand is considered to be one of the first all-American designers who embraced the Swiss Style, contributing to a number of famous logos for clients including IBM, Westinghouse, and ABC. Anecdotally, Rand is also associated with Steve Jobs, who hired Rand to design a new logo for his company during his time away from Apple.
As part of the original Apple Macintosh OS team, Susan Kare encountered a unique challenge of designing user interface components for black-and-white monitors. Against the technical limitations at the time, Susan Kare remains one of the pioneers in pixel art --- creating the famous "Happy Mac" icon and the Command key symbol.
While design fads come and go, the following approaches to graphic design remain relevant:
Minimalism is loved by graphic and interactive designers alike, and the tech industry especially embraces the trend mainly due to its responsive, efficient, and flexible nature.
However, flat design was first preceded by skeuomorphism: a design approach to have the product resemble their real-world counterparts. iPhone's original applications, including Calculator, Notes, and Compass, did indeed resemble actual table-top objects to allow its early adopters to easily learn the features.
Today's graphic design works have become anachronistic and timeless as designers discover and apply techniques of the past to their projects. A film poster may make a visual tribute to the period that the film is set in, and a video game may feature illustrations that pay homage to old Fleischer Studios cartoons.
Designers sometimes take advantage of programming and algorithm to automatically generate graphics. Often used in media art, data visualization, and infographics, these approaches are most apparent in video games, where the user's world can be dynamically created with lines of code. MIT Media Lab's old logo presents an interesting example of logo generation, where the various components are dynamically combined to produce different design permutations.