Classical modernism in graphic design

There's a style in contemporary graphic design that until this week I hadn't quite been able to define.

The fundamental building blocks are classic post-war Swiss style: sans-serif typefaces, simple vector shapes, geometric patterns, muted colour schemes, black and white photography, all laid out on a disciplined grid. But these are combined with less formal, 'analogue' elements: landscapes, organic shapes, handwritten script, and ageing textures such as noise, grain and stains, that give the finished work a worn, nostalgic feel.

I've seen this style in all kinds of places over the past couple of years - book covers, posters, magazine illustrations - and was intrigued to find a book a few days ago that showcases some of the best examples of the genre: The Modernist, published by Gestalten. There's no messing about with lengthy analyses of the style, just this text on the back:

Today's designers and illustrators are synthesizing the best elements from past eras of graphic design to create a new visual language with a reduced and ratioanal approach. The Modernist documents this uniquely contemporary, yet timeless aesthetic that is built upon the rediscovery and seamless melding of classical type elements and collage of the 1950s, the geometric patterns and graphic elements of the 1960s and 1970s, and the vector graphics and computer-aided montage of the 1990s.

That's it: the rest is nearly 200 pages of wonderful work. It's one of those books that reminds me of why I became interested in design in the first place, and I hope to apply some of the techniques here to my own work in the future, personal and commercial. Without further ado, some images:

Justin van Genderen
Mark Weaver
Christiana Couceiro
Astronaut Design
Paul Tebbott
Brent Couchman

More examples are available on The Modernist entry on Gestalten's website.

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