Friday, September 30, 2011

The Modernist edited by R. Klanten and H. Hellige

The Modernist
Edited by R. Klanten, H. Hellige

We would go to Barnes and Noble and crouch to the floor, pawing through the bottom shelf where they kept the graphic design books. "Look at this," he would say whenever he found something that would set his brain alight. "So pretty."

I was in love, and I knew exactly what he meant.

We would study the magazines and shamelessly pilfer ideas from Apple ads and Entertainment Weekly. We were new millennium teenagers careening into adulthood, and I hoped the world would know just how good he was. He and I were never meant to be partners, but through him I learned to know good design when I saw it. And though I may not have the same level of visual imagination as him, I learned how to lay out a double page spread and I credit him for what skills I have. Maybe if my process had happened differently, I wouldn't romanticize graphic design in the way that I do, but then, romance is part of enjoying anything, isn't it?

Because my soft spot for futurism mixed with nostalgia can be downright mushy at times, I loved the work featured in The Modernist, from the very first page. There is everything from re-imagined movie posters and book covers, to visual representations of TV shows, commissioned event flier work, to personal projects from a variety of graphic designers that are breathtaking.

(by M.S. Corley from The Modernist, Copyright Gestalten 2011. Click to enlarge.)

As I was perusing this book in an electronic format, I could see how it would be easy for a viewer to flip through the pages quickly, hungering for more. However, this is also the sort of book worth lingering over during repeat reads. There are so many little details to absorb, and it's inspiring for my own work. I've always loved a well-designed promo poster, and I used to have a stack of hand drawn fliers from local punk shows. Even now, whenever I visit somewhere that has free fliers or postcards lying around, I'm likely to take the ones that look interesting, even if I can't attend whatever is being advertised. I'm slightly envious of people who know how to do just do good visual artwork. My approach is more of the "Eh, poke around and drag and drop and see if this works?" variety. But first, I have to see something I love, and that gets my brain going.

Still, I wish I could afford to pay a stable of graphic designers as good as the people featured in this book. In my magazine, Electric City Creative, I employ basically the same self-made template and it evolves slightly along the way. I would love to be able to do interesting things with interesting fonts and big, bold graphics on the cover, and to utilize a more sophisticated design in general. Alas, we are a staff of two right now — a writer/editor who masquerades as a designer and a photographer/writer. We're not quite there yet, but we can look around for ideas in the meantime.

(by La Boca from The Modernist, Copyright Gestalten 2011. Click to enlarge.)

The Modernist is unabashed in its influences. Some images are made up to look like old library books, complete with yellowed tape holding together the "cover." Others take directly from 60s-era visions of the future, while others revel in simplistic images that wouldn't look out of place on National Parks signage.

Looking over the pages on a decent 21" LCD monitor was fine, but I would really like to get my mitts on a physical copy of the book. Currently, I am attempting to behave myself and to move through the stack of books I already have here before I make any more purchases, but I would wholeheartedly recommend The Modernist as a gift for anyone in your life who loves visual art. Design similar to that featured in the book is becoming more present in so many places — everywhere from product packaging to album covers, and I would love to see more work like this hung in galleries. How many people do you know who would love a print of these Black Swan posters?

(by La Boca from The Modernist, Copyright Gestalten 2011. Click to enlarge.)

My visual arts education is largely informal. I have learned by observing people who know what they are doing and listening to what they have to say. From there, I can only go with my gut. Art is everywhere, and it can be accessible to everyone. The more effort we put into bringing good work into the world and spreading it around, the more likely we are to reach a teenager who is looking for that one thing that makes them say, Yes. I want to do that.

(by Brandon Schaefer from The Modernist, Copyright Gestalten 2011. Click to enlarge.)


I received this ebook as a review copy from Gestalten. I thank them for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair in my reviews.

This review is part of Pajiba’s Cannonball Read III, in which participants attempt to read and review 52 books over the course of one year. In order to make up for last year’s 51 books, I’m aiming for 53. The challenge ends December 31, 2011.

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