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7 Midcentury Modern Graphic Designers You Should Know

We all know midcentury modern designers and architects like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, and Richard Neutra, but what about the era’s graphic designers? My new book Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design, profiles the field’s pioneers who pushed modernism during this time. Here are a few you should know:

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1. Saul Bass

Pioneered the art of film title designDeveloped comprehensive ad campaigns for moviesDesigned many well-known corporate identity programs
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Pioneered the art of film title design

Developed comprehensive ad campaigns for movies

Designed many well-known corporate identity programs

2. Herbert Matter

Excelled at design, photography, and teachingBroadened the use of photography in designExperimented throughout his career
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Excelled at design, photography, and teaching

Broadened the use of photography in design

Experimented throughout his career

3. Alvin Lustig

Designed groundbreaking book coversWorked in multiple design disciplinesTook an intellectual approach to solving problems
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Designed groundbreaking book covers

Worked in multiple design disciplines

Took an intellectual approach to solving problems

4. Cipe Pineles

Became the first female art director of a mass-market American magazineInducted into the New York Art Directors Club and elected to its Hall of Fame as the first womanHired fine artists to illustrate mainstream magazines
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Became the first female art director of a mass-market American magazine

Inducted into the New York Art Directors Club and elected to its Hall of Fame as the first woman

Hired fine artists to illustrate mainstream magazines

5. Erik Nitsche

Designed iconic scientific postersUnderstood that design could shape a company’s public imageElevated the standard for nonfiction book design
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Designed iconic scientific posters

Understood that design could shape a company’s public image

Elevated the standard for nonfiction book design

6. Georg Olden

Pioneered on-air television graphicsBecame the first notable African American graphic designer
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Pioneered on-air television graphics

Became the first notable African American graphic designer

7. Josef Müller-Brockmann

Advocated the use of the grid, sans serif type, and objective photographyFounded Neue Grafik to promote Swiss StyleWrote the first comprehensive history of graphic design
Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design / Via graphiciconsbook.com

Advocated the use of the grid, sans serif type, and objective photography

Founded Neue Grafik to promote Swiss Style

Wrote the first comprehensive history of graphic design

John Clifford is the author of Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design, and the creative director of NYC design firm Think Studio, focusing on identity, digital, publishing, and print design. He teaches graphic design history at Parsons School of Design.

excerpted from Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design by John Clifford. Copyright © 2014. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

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