Brain Donnelly, Mass Modernism: Graphic Design in Central Canada, 1955-1965, 1997 (THESIS)
Donnelly begins his thesis by explaining that it is his contention that modern design in Canada emerged as a synthesis of several well known and well understood international design influences, and that it did not merely copy those influential traditions, but both questioned them and adopted what were understood to be useful elements. He also notes that as a synthesis of different variants of modernism, Canadian modern graphic designs of the 1950s and 1960s cannot be understood to be copies of influential sources, but rather, a combination of their styles and unique Canadian developments. Donnelly notes that, as in other countries, modernism has played a large role in the mass culture, economic development, and mass production. If the role of the modern typography which emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century was to transmit ideas through clear and universal semiotics, then the role of modernism in commercial design appears to be compatible with the movement. What is more, its success during the century suggests that it should not be dismissed as a style which is now out of fashion, but one whose tools of expression are still important and effective.
Donnelly begins by clarifying that his study does not offer a history of the entire history of Canadian graphic design. Instead, he focuses upon the ten years from 1955 to 1965 during which he claims the field saw "the greatest qualitative change". He claims that it was during those years that graphic design became clearly understood to be a separate field and means of cultural expression from typography or other art forms. However Donnelly also notes that the one person who does not fit this ten-year period was Carl Dair. Dair played a large role in the establishment of the field, but he had been working with international trends and establishing his own approaches to graphic design prior to 1955, and his later contributions to the emergence of the field cannot be fully understood without examining his earlier work.
In describing the modern style which emerged by the mid-1960s in Canada, Donnelly explains the version of modernism which came before it by quoting Lesley Jackson's The New Look: Design in the Fifties, who defines the modern graphic style of that decade as "Rococo Modernism" which was composed of "wayward forms" leading to a "regression into fantasy [which] had gone so far that the cry arose in the age of reason for a return to control and discipline.'' (page 5) Referencing Penny Sparke's Design in Context, Donnelly suggests that this style arose in reaction to the practical demands of the war and reconstruction. They were replaced by a turn towards the fantastic which the public, and its power of choice, demanded. Sparke argues that success and growth of the profession was, following the war, closely tied to the visual satisfaction of the public's consuming desire. In examining just how design became a powerful tool in the economic reconstruction of Canada, Donnelly claims that his thesis will also examine the social conditions which made that possible, the growth of the industry, and how modernism itself was changing from its pre-war version.
Donnelly claims that there was a major shift in modern graphic design during the decade in question (1955-1965) away from concerns of and concentration upon illustration, image, and taste towards design and rationality. He views this as a shift from commercial art to graphic design, where the emphasis changed from creating illustrations so as to sell products, to creating controlled and rational designs that would convey specific universal messages to the audience. While designers were increasingly concerned with type, other elements including space, form, and colour, illustration, photography, imagery, and fantasy were still employed. All that changed was that these elements of design were increasingly guided by rational rules or abstract formal qualities.
While dealing with many of the main trends and actors in the Canadian design world of the 1950s and 1960s, Donnelly recognizes that his study concentrates largely upon developments in Canadian graphic design which occurred in the Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal areas, and that graphic design in Canada was not limited to these three cities, although they did have a significant influence upon the rest of the Canadian profession. He also recognizes that his study largely focuses upon designers who lived and worked in Toronto, while also discussing two Anglophone designers who lived in Montreal and two from Ottawa. Thus, his history of Canadian graphic design can largely be defined as a history of English-Canadian graphic design in central Canada from 1955 to 1965.
Although design was not limited to Toronto, during the decade in question Toronto did have the largest printing and advertising industry in Canada, and it also had the strongest links with other major printing and advertising centres, particularly New York. However, during this period the designers in Toronto not only moved to distinguish themselves from the printing industry as a distinct profession, but they also began looking more to Britain and Europe for sources of design inspiration, and less to the closer American advertising and magazine industry.
Donnelly next offers an overview of the various designers covered by his study, beginning with Carl Dair, whom he claims was one of Canada's first designers to form a good understanding or, and connections to, continental European designers. While Britain had long had an influence upon Canadian typography/graphic design, it was the styles of modernist design which emerged out of interwar Europe which would eventually have a significant influence upon the styles of design which emerged in Canada between 1955 and 1965. However, while influencing Dair's work, he would eventually and increasingly abandoned Die Neue Typographie (the New Typography) in favour of more traditional styles. Indeed, he would later come to be an outspoken critique of the later version of Die Neue Typographie, the simplified and analytical Swiss or International Style.
The main Canadian (and largely English-Canadian) professional graphic design organization (the TDC) was not founded by Dair, however, but by four immigrants from Britain. While modern in style, these immigrants brought with them the ideas that design is central to both the typographic and printing trades, and that it constituted its own profession. As a profession, Donnelly argues that Canadian graphic design was heavily influenced, especially after 1960, by the development of what has come to be called the International Style. This self-consciously modern style, which rejected eclectic and fantastic elements of modernism, was more geometrical, rational, and constructivist in form than what had come before. While some innovations were made in this style by Canadian designers, the style largely emerged in Germany and Switzerland in the 1950s. The importation, emergence, and development of this style in Canada is largely explored through an examination of the work of Ernst Roch and Rolf Harder, the two European immigrant graphic designers who were the greatest exponents of the style in Canada of the late 1950s to the 1970s. The internationalist approach of Roch, Harder, and others focused upon clarity and rational, essential ideas of visual communication. Many of their colleagues, however, continued to make use of the popular eclecticism which dominated design in the 1950s. The rational and organized qualities of the international style also fit well with government and corporate design programs, where such qualities were used to reinforce ideas of such organizations being well controlled and efficient. Yet, while popular, this approach did not match with the ideas or experimentation and freedom from regulation which dominated the 1960s counterculture. (However, this contradiction could be explained through Alan C. Elder's article "When counterculture Went Mainstream" in Made in Canada in which he explains that the counterculture did not really go mainstream until the late 1960s and into the 1970s. In addition, the use of this style by government gave the impression that the government was accountable and transparent, which would have appealed to those who were wary of the state. Also, the counterculture did begin to die out in the early 1970s, and thus did large-scale opposition to all authority and institutions.) Furthermore, the international style never did come to fully dominate the field of Canadian graphic design, a fact which Donnelly, agreeing with Penney, claims could be attributed to mere market demand, where not all people appreciated the cool and rational approach of the International Style.
The last graphic designers to be examined by Donnelly are those who were born in and developed their careers within Canada. These designers, including Allan Fleming, Theo Dimson, and Gerry Moses synthesized the styles and approaches of those mentioned above, creating designs which were "neither purely analytic nor merely synthetic and eclectic; neither constrained by strictly defined communicational demands nor solely dedicated to the pursuit of difficult innovation; neither blindly professional nor avowedly popular; neither narrowly international nor widely local: a truly complex and unpredictable modernism." (page 9) Although, as Donnelly notes, none of the existing (1997) general histories of graphic design discuss Canadian graphic designers or Canadian trends in the field, the country was not the design backwater which one might conclude from this lack of representation. Influenced by many of the same economic, political, and cultural trends as other countries of the era, Canada, like those other countries, developed a unique design community with its own unique solutions to graphic communication problems, solutions which grew into and merged with other styles. However, according to Donnelly, Canada's lack of a large international publishing, printing, and typesetting industries meant that little international attention was ever paid to Canadian modernism, and thus, it had a limited effect upon international design trends. He suggests that Canada's lack of an international reputation for a certain kind of modern design also led Canadian designers to maintain broad and synthetic approaches to design, which might have been more narrow had they had international reputations for certain kinds of design.
In defining modernism, Donnelly explains that as the movement was transported to North America after the war there was a separation between the avant-garde ideal of having art and life be one. Rather, a form of high modernism was developed which was inaccessible to most people. In being inaccessible, modernism changed from being that which is based in, and simply attempts to create, differentiation, to an isolated and autonomous position, removed from the low-arts which are consumed and understood by the masses. However, Donnelly argues that modernism can be saved from this isolation as a high-art through examining how it has been used in mass culture, such as in modern design. Indeed, Donnelly claims that modernism is an artistic reaction to economic progress of mass, modern, technological society (i.e. to modernization), and so exists to challenge ways of understanding the mass-cultural world. Given that definition, he then suggests that postmodernism, in its rejection of there being particular ideas or forms which can arise out of modernization, is simply a continuation of the modernist distain for mass culture. (This is a position which accords with Bruno Latour's claim that We Have Never Been Modern.) Finally, through examining the views of Walter Benjamin and Marxist use-value theory, Donnelly claims that modernism continues to exist in the restlessness of mass culture. Design of the 1950s and 1960s, for him, is a form of popular modernism which inherited the approaches and examples of pre-war and post-war modernism.
In explaining his sources, Donnelly explains that Canadian Art (started as Maritime Art in 1943) is a useful resource in that the articles by designers such as Donald Buchanan, Fred Haines, Allan Harrison, Carl Dair, and Paul Arthur show the beginning of the idea of a field of graphic design in Canada. These articles, which appear from 1945 to 1960, show the relationships and connections between the different fields of typesetting, printing, engraving, illustrating, interior design, product design, and advertising. After 1960 Buchanan no longer headed the journal and it began to focus almost exclusively upon fine art.
Donnelly also used the Annuals of Advertising and Editorial Art (1949 to 1964) of the Art Directors Club of Toronto. These, along with the six catalogues of the Typography exhibits of the Typographic Designers of Canada (1958 to 1964), demonstrate what designers thought about their field and how their own perception of the field evolved from one of typography to one of graphic design.
Chapter One: Carl Dair - In search of design history
Donnelly begins his first chapter by noting that, while printing had been brought to Canada in the late 18th century, it was not until after the Second World War that the design of the printed page was seriously considered as something to be closely analyzed and considered. It was with the writings of Carl Dair during and following the war that typographers began paying attention to how type could be used by designers to say more than just what is said by the text. Dair, born in 1912 in Welland, Ontario, began his design career in 1930 when he was employed in the advertising department of the Stratford Beacon Herald. His first job was designing a layout for an advertisement for a local drugstore. Throughout the 1930s he had numerous jobs as a typographer and printer, often being employed to make hand-lettering. He moved to Montreal in 1940, where he worked as a freelancer and as the art director for several department stores and for Ronalds Printing. In Montreal, Dair was aware of influential trends, including the typographic style which had come out of the Bauhaus and from its teachers and graduates. He was also familiar with the work of Jan Tschichold and his book, Assymetric Typography, which set out the principles upon which modernism in typographic design was based. By the end of the war Dair was working as an illustrator at the National Film Board. The board, along with the Wartime Information Board, had produced much of the government's propagandistic wartime graphic advertising.
Along with a colleague from the NFB, Henry Eveleigh, Dair established Eveleigh-Dair studio in 1947, a unique typographic design business which offered design outside of the traditional advertising industry. They were not a section of a larger advertising firm, but an independent agency which would be hired for specific design jobs, often working for advertising agencies which wanted to use their specific skills and strengths. This would later be the model for many other Canadian typographic design firms, and was a significant step in the formation of typographic (of graphic) design as a unique profession. The firm did not need to worry about selling advertising space or selling concepts. However, Donnelly notes that, at least in the case of Eveleigh, the agency did not view itself as an art studio. Eveleigh believed that avant-garde artists were the explorers of the art world, and that typographic designers used preexisting artistic tools to make a point or express a message. For him, design as more of an applied art. (page 16-7)
The work of Eveleigh-Dair was explained in a small booklet produced by the firm. They explained that they took an "engineer's approach," paying close attention to typeface, format, organization of material, and layout. They claimed that a good design occurs when the final form follows the function of the work. This echoes the rational approach of the pre-war German typographic tradition, and while Dair's redesign of Canadian Business was not as minimalist and structured as the work of his European predecessors, it was still very clean and rational in design compared to the work of many of his contemporaries. As Donnelly notes, other works by Dair from the period offer even stronger examples of the influence of European modernist typography, including the use of bold sans-serif lettering, asymmetrical design, and the strong use of white space. Giving examples of an invitation to a 1951 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, as well as advertisements for the E.B. Eddy paper company, Donnelly notes how they echoed elements of Bauhaus constructivism and the rational, restrictive, and asymmetric work of Tschichold.
However, all of Dair's work was not dominated by typographic modernism. As is evidenced by the trade mark he designed for Cooper & Beatty in the early 1950s, the largest typesetting firm in Toronto, serving many national advertising agencies, he could and would also produce designs which contained older, traditional elements of design that could be used to reference specific ideas. The design for Cooper and Beatty featured the name and description of the firm in Futura (the most popular modern sans-serif, developed in the 1920s) around a centre which contained the firm's initials in a calligraphic typeface. Thus, he used Futura to refer to modern design, while the calligraphic type references more traditional approaches, thus, highlighting the range of work carried out by the Cooper & Beatty. As Donnelly notes, Cooper & Beatty, the eventually employers of Allan Fleming during the period when he would design the new logo for Canadian National Railways, would come to play a significant role in influencing both Canadian typographic design and its establishment as a profession.
Donnelly claims that Dair's openness to using elements from the whole history of printing and print design was emphasized in his later work and writings. He would eventually abandon what concentration he had made upon radical, geometric constructivism in favour of a more complicated, tradition-based form of modernism.
According to Donnelly, the most significant contributions of Dair to the development of the design profession and its education was a series of pamphlets on printing made for the E.B. Eddy Paper Company of Hull, Quebec, and advertised to the printing industry. The design of these pamphlets not only reflect Dair's views on Design, but their subject matter highlight his knowledge of the history of typography and the printing industry. "Type Talks," for example, not only outlined this history, but also Dair's central rules of design, including a need for unity of design, the need for restraint, and the use of static and balance to obtain particular ends. He claimed that the typographic designer, while gaining knowledge through experience, also needs to experiment in his creations to be sure of obtaining the correct balance and unity. As Donnelly notes, this idea of experimentation conflicts with both Eveleigh and Fleming's (see Typography 59) ideas that typographers are not avant-garde artists, but tradesmen. Yet, the extent to which Fleming truly believed this is questionable since, as Donnelly notes, Fleming later admitted to having read "Type Talks" as a teenager and being inspired. Donnelly suggests that this idea of typographers being experimental artists broke with ideas, common among typographers and printers, that typographic design was simply a trade, with no real artistic value. Rather, their work was often seen as to merely reproduce the written word as efficiently as possible. This idea of the field having artistic value likely, according to Donnelly, inspired typographers who worked unnoticed in printshops. It was this revelation which assisted in the professionalization of the field and its separation from both commercial art and advertising.
In addressing the need for experimentation, Dair wrote an influential article for Canadian Art in 1947, condemning the lack of Canadian typographic innovations. Titled "Direction - A Canadian Typographic Idiom", the article was printed in Futura, so as to distinguish it from the more conservative elements of the journal. In the article Dair explains that, while Canada's printing and typographic tradition stretches back to the late 18th or early 19th century, there had only ever been one Canadian typeface developed: that made by the Methodist minister, James Evans, in 1841 for the Cree alphabet. He claimed that this lack of innovation helped to explain the public's almost complete lack of understanding about who typographers are and what they do. He claimed that because Canadian typographers imported their printing technology, including their presses and type, they lacked many of the design skills of type design and being able to manipulate type at the most basic level. This, he believed, showed in the fact that design was not seen by most as a distinct position, but just a set in the print production process, along with illustration and typesetting. Indeed, Dair called design "an abstract art", quoting the former Bauhaus instructor, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Dair believed that particular expertise was required to create good pages, and that one needs to be aware of, and have the skill to manipulate and experiment with, the formal elements of page design. According to Donnelly, this position was one of the foundational articulations of the need to have typographic/graphic design understood as a unique profession.
Donnelly claims that Dair's essays, in which he outlined the formal aspects of design, as well as the history of print and type, were geared to assisting in the development of a new profession. Donnelly believes that this educational approach had come from working under Louis Blake Duff of the Welland Port Colborne Evening Tribune. Duff not only had an extensive knowledge of typography and printing, but he had researched the European traditions upon which Canadian typographers drew, even meeting with Tschichold on one occasion. In 1952 Dair published his Design With Type, a book which was based largely upon his teaching notes from classes he gave at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Ecole des Arts Graphiques, and informal workshops with Montreal designers and printers. Teaching for much of his life, including at the Ontario College of Art after he moved to Toronto, and later in Jamaica, Dair left Montreal in 1951 after his views on the status and role of graphic design began to conflict with those of his partner. Eveleigh wished to turn Eveleigh-Dair into more of an advertising agency, a move which Dair rejected, given that he understood advertising agencies to be institutions under which typographers were relegated to the status of a department carrying out a particular task or trade. Agencies typically treated creative as subordinate elements of the advertisement creation process, often outsourcing such work, and thus, not treating it as central to the communication of particular messages.
Donnelly suggests that Dair's relationship to modern typography was balanced, with Dair abandoning his early enthusiasm for modern experimentation. He recognized that Canada lacked its own typographic tradition and that, if a profession was to develop in the country, it would need to be grounded in the several centuries of international typographic traditions of which most Canadian typographers were ignorant. The isolation of Canadian typography, as well as the lack of proper training, meant that, without a thorough education in the traditions and history of the field, most Canadian typographers would remain ignorant of what could be done in the field, and thus, would harm its development into a unique profession.
In Toronto, Dair continued to both teach, work, and influence the development of typographic design in Canada. In 1956 he participated in the Liber Librorum competition to redesign the first page of the Gutenberg Bible. Displayed as a show at the Royal Ontario Museum, along with the other entries, James Evans' Cree bible, and other examples of early printed work, Dair's design was another example of his mixture of new and old elements of typographic style. His design made use of the modern Palatina font in a manner which made reference to a late fifteenth century typeface. The show was accompanied by a text by Allan Fleming, in which Fleming gave an overview of the history of printing and typography that concluded that Canadian typography was at the stage of English typography in the mid-nineteenth century, "not a period of bad taste, but of no taste at all." (page 28)
Donnelly suggests that Dair's mixture of emphasis upon experimental and contemporary graphic design, and the field's long history, helped to encourage an eclectic approach among Canadian designers. For him, as arguable for much of the rest of the Canadian field, what was important was effective communication, not style. Thus, any style could be employed if it was well used, communicating not just the meaning of the words, but also not taking away from that meaning or the reader's ability to understand it.
In 1956-7 Dair obtained a grant from the National Gallery to study type design at the Joh. Enschedé en Zonen foundry in Holland. During that year Dair chose to learn how to hand punch dies, an antiquated and time consuming process. Donnelly suggests that through his choice of subject, Dair was trying to singlehandedly gain at least some of the typographic design experience which was missing in Canada. In addition, this experience of the details of punch making informed his eventual design of the Cartier typeface, which he released in 1966/7. Historical in style, and highly detailed, Cartier was ironically first released, not for metal typesetting machinery, but as a phototype font.
Donnelly notes that Cartier and Dair's writings mark a transition point in Canadian typographic design. Those who had come before, such as Clair Stewart, Eric Aldwinckle, and Allan Harrison, had primarily been illustrators. Dair, however, caused the post-war generation to focus upon type and the role it played in print design.
While in Europe during 1956 and 1957 Dair met with Tschichold, whom Dair found had abandoned his New Typography of the interwar era. As the art director of Hoffman-La Roche, Tschichold refused to return to Germany, believing that many former Nazis still held positions of power in the new federal republic. He had come to identify the asymmetric and angular typography which he had championed before the war with Nazism and the military machine of the Third Reich. This contrasts with other designers who had suffered under the Nazis, such as Hurt Schwitters, who believed that the experimental typography of the Weimar period was anti-Nazi since its use was often suppressed by the Third Reich. Dair, however, did not completely agree with Tschichold. He agreed that the experimental German typographic modernism of the 1920s was not the final development in typography, but he did think that it could play a role in typographic design. According to Donnelly, Dair's modernism was not fundamental, but eclectic.
Returning to Toronto in 1957, Dair organized another show at the ROM, this time featuring rare printed works which he had collected in Europe. The show was designed to mark the second anniversary of the TDC. Entitled "Type Today" the show drew the TDC's members Dair, Paul Arthur, Leslie (Sam) Smart, the President of Cooper & Beatty, Jack Trevett, and the agency's chairman, Frank Davies. All of these members sat on a panel organized for the show, and as Donnelly notes, they all shared similar views about typographic design in Canada, wishing to improve the quality of the field rather than propose any radical breaks with the past. In fact, the all believed that a more thorough understanding of the field's past was crucial to ensuring that it developed maturely. While some were pessimistic about the state of the field in Canada, while others emphasized that it could be brought up to the standards of other countries with proper training programs, they all admitted to, at the time, following the then current trend of using decorative Victorian typefaces, as well as old-fashioned engravings and illustrations. For his part, Dair, who gave a lecture on hand-punching type, called for Canadian typographers to take up the trade of making their own type. He believed that such a skill would allow a typographer to get in touch with classical printing standards. Donnelly claims that Dair envisioned the new TDC being more of a closed guild than a national professional association for an evolving field. However, Dair had not been part of the establishment of the TDC, which had been founded while he was in Holland. Eventually, his vision for the TDC was more closely realized through the Guild of Hand Printers, which Dair founded in 1959. This organization was composed of a handful of enthusiasts who owned their own hand presses. Their skill and intentions varied, and, apart from a few impressive and interesting works, the organization, based upon old technology, did not become a centre of innovation.
In 1960 Dair won the silver medal at the Leipzig International Book Fair for "A Cry From An Indian wife," and Sam Smart won the bronze for his printing of "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." That Canadians won two of the top three prizes showed that Canadian typographic design was achieving international standards. Neither of the winning works could be described as being experimental. Their only truly modern element was the sparseness of their designs. Referred to as the "dean of Canadian typographers in the 1960s", Dair was acknowledged for his emphasis upon knowledge of the field being necessary in order for it to evolve into a real profession. Dair had been one of the main members of an advertizing agency in Toronto, Goodie Goldberg Dair Ltd., in the early 1960s. He also designed annual reports for Rio Tinto Zinc Co., and was a typographic consultant with the printing company Cape and Company. In early 1963 Dair received the Royal Canadian Academy medal from the Art Gallery of Toronto.
Between 1963 and 1965 Dair performed, what he called, "missionary work" when he taught at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts, covering many of the topics he had focused upon in his writings and lectures during the 1940s and 1950s. This included "Gestalt psychology and optics, basic design elements, symbols, letter forms, problem solving, the art of seeing (pattern, texture, and detail explored by photographic assignments), vision in motion, techniques of reproduction". (page 36) As Dair explained in a letter to Gem-Moses, he believed that Jamaica was evolving from a preliterate culture to television, without developing a literary and printing tradition. This, according to Donnelly reflects Dair's conviction that it was necessary for one to develop/experience all of the steps of printing and design in order to have a full understanding of what it does and what it can do for the client/producer and for society.
Dair's contract to teach in Jamaica was not renewed after two years because his communist politics led him to sympathize with the anti-colonial sentiment sweeping the country by the mid-1950s. Donnelly does not believe that Dair was ever a full member of the Communist Party of Canada, but he does suggest that his communist leanings were partly responsible for Dair's desire to work in a developing country, as did his understanding that typographic design could further political change if used appropriately.
In Dair's final lecture, delivered the night of his death in September 1967, he stressed that, regardless of the advancing typographic technology, which was removing constraints from the typographer and allowing him/her to try different styles and experiment with his fonts, how he used them, how he placed them, etc, he claimed that the best typography should be invisible and subliminal. He called for a standardized typography, where practitioners would be constantly searching for perfection in their invisible and subliminal design. Dair believed that the best of such design would constitute a modern art form. It was individual invention, guided by history and tradition, and judiciously making use of available technology.
According to Donnelly, Dair's modernism was not simply the adoption of one of the European modernist formulae. Rather, he recognized that all of these approaches were limited. He moved beyond them, to suggest an inclusive and historically informed form of modernism. He was postmodern in that he was open to borrowing from all traditions, historically situating each. However, he was still moving towards a modern, and thus, an ideal, form of typography. As Donnelly suggests, younger designers, including Allan Fleming, would provide a contrast to Dair's historicism in that, while the long printing tradition can enrich a designer's approach, good design does not necessarily need to make use of traditional sources or historical references. Rather, whereas Dair viewed everything through what had come before, others saw there to be advantages in breaking with the past.
Toronto of the 1950s saw the entrenchment of a British design tradition brought to the city by four men in particular. they had been trained as typesetters, through technical college training and apprenticeship. Design had already begun to emerge in Britain as designers began to take over control of the complete look of the printed page. They defined design as a distinct profession, one the practitioners of which were acutely aware of the power of type and how it could be manipulated and used to accomplish specific ends. Donnelly claims that it was their understanding that design could constitute a visual language that made their work modern rather than classical.
These four English emerges (Leslie (Sam) Smart, John Gibson, Frank Davies, and Frank Newfeld) were responsible for the establishment of the Society of Typographic Designers of Canada in 1956, what Davies identifies as one of the most important steps in the professionalization of the field.
Leslie (Sam) Smart
Smart, born in 1921, had been trained at the Portsmouth college of Art, but after graduating, he recognized that the post-war economic depression in Britain was harming his chances at employment. Thus, he immigrated to Toronto in 1954, obtaining a job at the MonoLino Typesteeing Company, and teaching art at Ryerson College in the evenings. Within two years he was working full time at MonoLino while also fulfilling freelance work. By 1966 he had established his own design business, Leslie Smart and Associates.
Some of his early freelance work was for Oxford University Press. Smart had turned down work in advertising agencies, believing that such work would restrict his freedom to design. Instead, he concentrated on book design, an area which had been identified as lacking in Canada. Book design was also more closely related to his training as a typesetter and an area where he could have more freedom to experiment. He began his experimenting by copying the approach of popular Scandinavian interior design by minimilizing all elements of his work. In the late 1950s Smart began writing a regular column for Canadian Printer and Publisher in which he outlined his minimalist approach. In reviewing Carl Dair's own stationary, Smart noted that four key guiding points: 1) any superfluous elements should be removed, 2) the physical condition of the print is important (paper, printing), 3) that the type should not just be set, but that attention should be paid to the shape and form it took, and 4) that one should recognize when typeblocks can be seen as abstract elements, and not just letters, and thus, when they can be simplified, or moved, to form a single unit or shape (thus helping to divide the page into different parts). Smart's suggestions and criticisms of Canadian typographic design was not always welcomed by organizations such as the Toronto Art Directors' Club, which Donnelly describes as a self-congratulatory organization. However, Donnelly argues that Smart was encouraging those involved in typographic design (the typesetter, the layout artist, or the art director) to pursue a logic and an originality in their designs, and not to simply copy the styles or approaches of others. He believed that by applying his principles of simplicity in a logical way, new and original designs would emerge where the form followed the function, and where no superfluous elements which took away from the purpose were present. His work was praised by Dair in that he was not committed to extreme simplicity, but he made use of traditional approaches in ways which avoided unnecessary use of traditional elements.
Born in 1928, Gibson received his training in typesetting at the London School of Printing. Following his graduation he taught at the school, while also following a seven year apprenticeship with a hand compositor and acquiring skills in photograph composition at the time the technology was becoming more widely available. Moving to Toronto in 1952, and then again in 1953 after a brief move to Calgary, he was employed by Howarth and Smith, establishing a distinct design department. At the time Howarth and Smith was one of the main typesetting companies in Toronto, along with Cooper & Beatty and MonoLino. In 1956 he was hired by Cooper & Beatty and sent to help establish a new office for the company in Montreal. In Montreal focused upon the interpretation and specification of the requirements of clients, and not so much design composition. This involved very precise specification of work to be done for CN. Such specification allowed for the creation of designs which fulfilled his desire to simplify designs, so that the product expressed the specified needs (the form completely fulfilled the function) as much as possible. This close specification work continued after his return to the Cooper & Beatty Toronto office in 1964.
Gibson stayed at Cooper & Beatty until 1969, often working as the organizing and guiding influence on many projects, in the background, and not taking credit for the final designs himself. He played a similar role in his direction of Typography 64, the last of the TDC's Typography exhibitions. Not only organizing the exhibition, but also the accompanying catalogue, Gibson was given the project by the TDC's president Dem-Moses, who was preoccupied with organizing Typomundus 20, the exhibition of the International Centre for the Typographic Arts, which was to be held in Toronto that year. In the catalogue, which was actually designed by Tony-Mann, but credited to Gerhard Doerrie, Gibson was not credited for his organization and guidance. Rather, he orchestrated the event and the publication from the background.
In the TDC Gibson played a major role in developing the professionalization of the field. He was voted president of the TDC in 1967, just before it altered its name to the Graphic Designers of Canada. He was again elected president for 1976-8 when the GDC was reorganized as a truly national organization.
While Gibson did not produce a large amount of work in the 1950s and 1960s, but rather, worked largely behind the scenes, one example of his work is that for trade publications such as The Printing Review. Working for a typesetting firm such as Cooper & Beatty, which frequently did work for advertising agencies, any other work for clients could have caused a conflict of interest. In comparing his redesign on The Printing Review and Ernst Roch's Alcan News, Donnelly notes that, while Gibson's design is also sparse and clean, it is less geometrically based, and more rooted in traditional typographic practices.
Davies arrived in Canada before both Smart and Gibson, but he had also gained more, and varied experience before leaving Britain. He was born in Nottingham in 1923 and had trained at the Nottingham College of Art. Unlike Smart and Gibson, Davies had not apprenticed as a typesetter, but first worked in London as an exhibit designer for the Royal Navy, including work on an exhibit concerning radar which was taken to Canada. He also worked for large London advertising agencies as a junior, and then as a senior designer and art director for a music magazine called Tempo. He also worked on several publications produced by the Royal Opera House.
Davies moved to Montreal in 1951, using contacts he had made at the NFB during the radar exhibit tour. He worked for the Herald Press, a subdivision of the Montreal Herald. However, after a year he moved to Toronto to work at Rolph Clark Stone, where both Clair Stewart and then Ted Morrison worked. Stewart and Morrison would go on to found the design agency Stewart and Morrison in 1960. In 1954 Davies was made the art director of a sister magazine to Saturday Night, called Liberty. While Davies did not like the work he was forced to do at Liberty, through the magazine he made numerous literary and intellectual contact within English-Canada. Among these contacts were Sam Smart and Frank Newfeld. Discussions between Smart and Davies eventually led to the idea that they should establish a Canadian type society to help typographic design grow as a profession in the country.
Tired of his work at Liberty, Davies applied for a position of being in charge of design for the trade publications produced by McLean Hunter. Given the job in 1956, Davies was in charge of design for all 47 of the companies trade publications. Each trade publication had its own unique design, and thus, its own format. Davies changed all of the publication to have the same size and arrangement of columns of type. While he admitted to Donnelly that this approach was purely logical, it did result in increased productivity at McLean Hunter. While seemingly not a modern approach, in that uniformity ignores the subject matter of the various designs, Davies argued that uniformity of column and type size led to efficiencies. Such efficiencies could then allow for the introduction of design elements which were well thought out. By beginning with a clean template, the company's designers did not need to expend a great amount of time and effort on altering content for the various publication formats. This left them the time and space needed to develop good design elements for the various publications.
Modern type design was not widely employed by many Canadian type designers in the mid-1950s, and the need to improve how printing and publications thought about what they produced was encouraged by international pressure, including an article in the Manchester Guardian which likened Canadian book design to that of the Soviet Union. This comparison, as well as a 1956 exhibition of Soviet book design held in Toronto, that led Davies, Newfeld, Smart, and Gibson to have the first meeting of the TDC at the Arts and Letters Club in 1956. Their initial ideas was to organize one exhibition of Canadian design so as to both unite the Canadian design community and showcase the best of Canadian design, hopefully encouraging others to aspire to similar high standards.
Donnelly notes that while some of Davies designs did make use of European modernist approaches, following the dictates of Sandberg or others, many Canadian typographic designers of the period avoided modernist approaches if the work was to be used to communicate with non-designers. Indeed, Donnelly notes that many Canadian designs which did make use of a European modernist approach were aimed at other members of the design community, such as much of the promotional work done by Allan Fleming for Cooper & Beatty.
Remaining at McLean Hunter until 1960, Davies also taught at the Ontario College of art, first as a substitute for Carl Dair. He was creative director for Cape & Co. printers and founded his own design company, the Design Unit, in 1962. Working with Carl Dair, Davies produces several graphic identity programs for Cape & Co. to be used for a number of Canada's new universities, including Trent, Laurentian, and York. Davie continued this corporate identity work throughout the 1960s, working on programs for Clairtone, and the Bowring retail store chain. Increasingly his work was focusing upon corporate identities, signage, and related real-estate identity design. All of his work reflects the modernist notion that design should be rational, organizing ideas and concepts in a visual, and almost subliminal way.
Newfeld was born in the Czechoslovakia in 1928 and was taught art at the Brighton College of Art in Britain, where he concentrated on illustration, painting and design. Immigrating to Canada in 1954, and while he did continue to produce paintings, he was not confident enough to show his work in public. Instead of producing works which required him to provide both the subject and the content, he was more comfortable designing, where he had the task of communicating a given specific idea. Newfeld did not follow the trend of the time and produce realistic images for his designs. Rather, his approach was more expressive, a fact which the clients for his first commission did not appreciate. Charged with producing the cover for the Dec. 1954 issue of Farmer magazine, the magazine did not appreciate the design they were given. However, the design did win the Toronto Art Directors' Club's black and white illustration of the year award. Newfeld went on to work as an illustrator for Maclean's magazine, illustrating stories for the week in only a matter of hours.
In 1954 Newfeld opened his own studio in 1954, which became a local gathering place for local fine and commercial artists, including Michael Snow. At this time, Newfeld also began to form friendships with other British designers in Toronto, including Sam Smart, Frank Davies, and John Gibson. Also, by the later 1950s, the amount of illustration Newfeld was producing had shrunk as he increasingly concentrated upon book design. Given that, as the time, book publishers rarely had full time designers on staff, Newfeld was able to get a significant amount of freelance work. While working for publishers such as Nelson and Gage, in 1956 Newfeld began to do work for McClelland and Stewart. While he only did under ten books in 1957, by 1967 he was working full-time for McClelland and Stewart and designing up to 200 books every year.
Donnelly also points out that the small Toronto-centred design community, as well as the Toronto-centred TDC, allowed for professional connections which helped designers, such as Newfeld, build their careers. As an example, Donnelly notes that when Allan Fleming was asked to design a new corporate identity for the Royal Ontario Museum, a conflict of interest caused him to give the job to Newfeld. He told Newfeld just not to tell the ROM that he had ever done such a project before. As a result, Newfeld ended up designing several catalogues and publications for the ROM. The first such publication won an award at the 1960 Toronto Art Director's exhibition.
Like in the examples of his work for the ROM, Donnelly notes how Newfeld was determined that books not be overdesigned. In the case of his books, he often spent the first several pages developing a feel or setting a tone for the work, that were often referred to as his "prelims." He was dedicated to removing all clutter and unnecessary ornamentation. When images were used, he ensured that they did not conflict with, or take away from, the type.
Also in 1960 Newfeld designed the catalogue for the TDC, as well as that for the Toronto Art Director's Club exhibition. Larger than all previous yearly catalogues, the 1960 art director's annual, the design marked a break with the rather conservative approaches of the past. Newfeld's use of bold, often oversized, fonts on a larger format book with a tinfoil cover marked a radical break with what had come before. The exhibition also marked a change from the dominance of Allan Fleming, which was obvious for the years 1957 to 1959, to include a growing number of designers who recognized how to make the greatest possible impact through design.
In 1963 Newfeld and his studio were bought out by McClelland and Stewart, which wanted Newfeld to be its permanent art director. This was the first time that a major Canadian publisher had hired a designer in such a way, and it represented a new commitment on the part of Canadian publishers to achieving good book design. Newfeld stayed with the company until 1970. In the 1960s and 70s Newfeld also did catalogue work for both the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Donnelly concludes the section on Newfeld by noting that his work did not have a characteristic style. However, like his other British colleagues, he was dedicated to employing type in a distinctly modern way, recognizing how its arrangement and form can be used to emphasize a print or publication's message, not just through words, but also through type's visual dimension. His use and knowledge of illustration, patterns, and other visual elements allowed him to synthesize the usefulness of newer developments in typography which marked a break with the past, and older traditional elements of the field.
The Establishment of the TDC
The TDC was, according to Donnelly, largely born out of the earlier design societies of which the British design emerges had been members back in England. Sam Smart had been a member of the Society of Industrial Artists, as well as the Royal Society of Artists. Frank Davies had been a member of the Royal Society of Artists, while John Gibson had joined the London Society of Compositors. Now in Canada, these three, along with John Newfeld, believed that such a society would be worthwhile in Canada. It would allow them to emphasize what they viewed as the important place which design played in their work. They viewed themselves as being quite distinct from the advertising art directors who were represented in the Toronto Art Directors Club, and whose focus was not upon the art of communication, but enticing the public to purchase particular items. A professional organization would also allow them to encourage members to attain certain levels of standards. Holding is first meeting at the Arts and Letters Club in 1956, the organization was a success, gaining support from Carl Dair, who was in Europe learning punch making at the time. However, Dair did encourage Fleming and Franklyn Smith, both at Cooper & Beatty, to support the ideas of the new British arrivals. Dair particularly liked the idea of an organization which would raise standards of design. He also noted that, not only were a growing number of people describing what they did as design, but the profession lacked any kind of code of ethics or opportunities for professional development. In the case of Fleming, Dair suggested that the formation of a professional society might also ensure that Fleming was not interpreted as an anomaly, but as someone who influenced and inspired others.
Initially the society considered imposing fixed prices for the services offered by its members. However, this appeared to its legal advice as being akin to price-fixing, a practice which was illegal and subject to fines. Instead, the society settled on holding regular exhibitions of members' work so as to inspire others and establish standards which other would attempt to meet or exceed. The society also organized meetings, lectures, and publications, all with the same goal of inspiring designers and others, and further growing the field.
Additional supporters of the TDC were the Globe and Mail art critic, Pearl McCarthy (who believed it was one of the healthiest developments in Canadian art) and Robert Fleming, who both knew Fleming and wrote several articles on the TDC, Fleming, and design in Canada. Furthermore, in May 1960 Canadian Art dedicated a special issue to the TDC as part of the journal's attempt to expand the definition of Canadian art beyond simply painting and sculpture, to include architecture, interior design, and graphic design. According to Donnelly, by 1960 the TDC had succeeded in creating enough interest and participants in the field of graphic design to claim that it could be legitimately be considered a profession in Canada.
The "Typography" Exhibitions, 1958-1964
Carl Dair was responsible for using a contact at Rolland Paper to convince the company to sponsor a juried exhibition of design works in 1958. The first of the catalogues indicated the small size of the graphic design community in Canada at the time, with half of the entries having been typeset at Cooper & Beatty and many of the award winning pieces by Allan Fleming. The 1959 catalogue was similar in content.
The Typography 60 catalogue differed in that it contained a number of essays by founding members of the TDC, as well as others. These included a paper by Frank Newfeld on book design, one by Keith Scott on magazine and newspaper designs (all of which he found lacking except for trade publications, which he believed were given more design liberties in helping them establish an image as modern companies), and Jack Birdsall, who argued that design was becoming increasingly more important for the general public. The main article of the catalogue, Davies' "What's all this fuss about typographic design?", explains the existing situation for typographic designers in Toronto at the time. He explains that Canada is not a centre for type design, nor was it a hub of book design or new graphic arts trends. However, he notes, all of those international forces were influencing Canadian graphic design and Canadian culture.
Importantly, Donnelly questions, with the establishment of the TDC and the growth of the graphic design community in Canada, why were designers, both in Canada and throughout the rest of the world, focusing upon "typography" when they were increasingly involved in many different elements of design. According to Davies' Typography 60 article, the Canadian typographers were still only beginning to examine the context of the text they designed. They were only starting to recognize that, they could use, or design, the type to reflect, emphasize, or add to the content of the texts for which they were designing. Thus, they were realizing that their job was not just to decorate or reproduce the text in a pleasing manner. Donnelly argues that, "Typography became design when it began to exploit the potential of visual means themselves to enhance the message, and in so doing, to fashion a new, more powerful message, rather than (in traditional craft practice) making at best a cursory stylistic reference to an historical period through the choice of a typeface designed in that period." (page 60) According to Davies, there may have been various schools or styles of design, including the rational and measured Swiss/International style, the "dull and ethical" British style, or the, what was seen as, exciting and stimulating American style. However, Davies argued that the job of the designer was not to uncritically follow one of those schools, but to use his (and they were all male) reason and creative abilities to synthesize the various design solutions offered by all of these styles. According to Donnelly, Davies' article shows that Davies viewed to top Canadian designers as being conscious of all of the influences available to them and borrowed from all of them to make the best designs possible. Indeed, Donnelly suggests that Davies' article offers a good definition of the expanded version of modernism which was evolving in Canada at the time, "simultaneously aware of stylistic innovation and typographic tradition; visually yet consciously and critically eclectic; socially rooted in the professionalization and organization of design". (page 60)
As Donnelly notes, Davies also mentioned in his essay that, while increasingly important, many Canadians, including many of the country's typesetters, commercial artists, and printers, were not exposed to the latest developments in graphic design. The lack of resources, such as public libraries and proper design programs, which could expose them to such developments and explain what they meant, was hindering both the field's use of and involvement in such innovations, as well as the public's acceptance of them. Carl Dair voiced a similar concern in 1959 when he made a submission to the Canada Council, arguing that fellowships, scholarships, publications, and design education needed to be funded by the government to ensure the visual and graphic literacy of Canadians and Canadian designers. Donnelly argues that the poor support for design in Canada helps to explain the slow growth of the profession, as was evidenced by the membership of the TDC. The 1961 version of Typography only listed a membership of approximately 50, including only six student members. While the number of submissions to the exhibition for that year was almost three times that of the 1958 exhibition, the prizes were dominated by a hand full of established Canadian designers, several of which had moved to Canada during the preceding decade. Yet, Donnelly also notes that the winners of the three sections - Allan Fleming's CN logo, Frank Newfeld's design of a Leonard Cohen book of poetry, and Ernst Roch's design for the Rolland Paper annual report - illustrated that Canadian design was moving in a minimalist direction and that, despite the limited number of Canadian designers, design was increasingly affecting numerous elements of Canadian life. The radically minimalist CN logo graced the trains of a crown corporation from coast to coast; book design for popular writers was now being carefully considered so as to reflect elements of the text itself; and traditionally conservative resource companies were allowing themselves to be portrayed as sleek, modern enterprises. A Donnelly writes, these prize-winning designs, showed that design "was capable of critically adapting typographic tradition; that it was fully a part of the shifting flow of the international modernist current; and finally that, even when producing work more obviously based in traditional solutions, styles, or typefaces. Modern graphic design was defining itself as such by its critical, innovative responses and
systematic manipulation of older approaches." (page 61)
Typography 62 was staged as a travelling exhibition, visiting destinations across the country before ending at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in October 1963. As Donnelly notes, it was again an expression of just how Canadian designers were modern in their approach to design, borrowing useful elements and design solutions from various schools of design. If Canadian graphic designers were following the modern ideal of having form follow function, it was, as Donnelly notes, there was no universal agreement on what particular form(s) could support particular functions. Referring to a 1963 review by Gilles Héneault of the 1962 travelling exhibition in Canadian Art, Donnelly notes that it was by 1963 that Canadian critics began to note how Canadian designers were taking this eclectic attitude and not falling universally into one, or a hand full, or limited styles. While lacking a large graphic design community, Canadian graphic designers were still part of an, "international, critical, and intellectual discourse in contemporary, modernist issues." (page 62)
The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada
Donnelly begins this section by noting that, as the speaker for the luncheon celebrating the 1960 Typography exhibition, Marshal McLuhan had the skills being developed by Canada's typographers were part of a wider communications revolution. Donnelly notes that by that point the members of the TDC had revolutionized the profession by moving beyond the traditional approaches of page design. Following the modernizing trend in the field, they had acquired new skills not held by typesetters, and had absorbed elements of the new modern trends in typographic design. Furthermore, by exploring new ways that type could be used, transformed, and arranged, Canadian typographic designers were expanding the potential of printed material design. In so doing, they were increasingly moving beyond type alone as means by which the function of printed material could be supported, emphasized, or enhanced. As type increasingly came to be seen as just one element in the form a design would take, the president of the TDC began canvassing members to give their opinions on what constituted design, and whether they saw their work as including much more than typography. This inquiry, launched by John Gibson in 1967, received a range of responses. Carl Dair agreed that other elements of print design were playing an increasingly large part in the work of Canadian typographical designers, and that that concerned him. He believed that this lessening of the focus upon type was partially the result of admitting members into the TDC, and thus the profession, who had little knowledge of the printing and print design tradition, or different typefaces, and of the traditional methods of typographic design. For Dair, other kinds of design was more the realm of communications and media studies. Thus, he suggested that a separate typographic society might need to be formed, which was be solely dedicated to the study and execution of type design. Others, however, including Frank Newfeld and Tony Mann, suggested that the TDC's mandate to deal with type design was out of place in a time when printing was far from being limited to the use of small number of fonts and the insertion of the occasional image. Indeed, Mann called for a new, more inclusive organization which was interested in all elements of print design and which placed more emphasis upon educating new designers.
Following what appeared to be the majority opinion of TDC membership, the organization renamed itself the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) in 1968 so as to reflect all elements of graphic communication. While still sharing the TDC's original focuses upon improving the technical abilities of its members and uniting the profession together, the GDC recognized that the members of that profession were interested in using type as only one of several tools which could be employed to communicate particular ideas.
In celebration of the renaming of the society, and the official change in its focus, an exhibition was held at the Design Canada centres in Toronto and Montreal. Eight years later, when the national organization was legally incorporated, there already existed a number of regional chapters across Canada. The organization, founded by the British immigrant designers in 1956, had helped show Canadian designers that one could creative and skillful modern variation to traditional ways of printing so as to enhance publications. Furthermore, as evidenced by the winners of its competitions, especially after 1960, it allowed designers and others to recognize the growing importance and influence design was having upon society.
In contrast to the eclectic modernism of the TDC, Donnelly notes that the 1960s also saw the spread within Canada of focused and rigorously analytical style of graphic design which had been developed in continental Europe. This style offered a much more precise definition of modern design.
CHAPTER 3: The European Modernists
In 1959 a new design Journal called New Graphic Design was started in Zurich. It was edited by three Swiss graphic designers, Hand Neuberg, Joseph Müller-Brockmann, and others. The publication concentrated upon a specific kind of modern design, one which was minimalist, geometric, and rigorously analytical. This Swiss, or international, style was different from the modernism which had been advocated by Carl Dair and the British immigrants who had started the TDC. Whereas they had advocated a critical adaptation of different elements of international modern styles, the international style advocated by Rolf Harder and Ernst Roch, both immigrants from German speaking countries, was much more strict and tied to a specific school of thought. However, as can be seen in the contributions to the later Typography competitions, their approach was increasingly influencing the work of other Canadian graphic designers. Indeed, Donnelly begins his third chapter with a quotation from a 1959 article in the Swiss journal Graphis by Hans Neuberg in which Neuberg argues that, while the "austere and almost puritanic form-language" of international design had only been embraced by a limited number of American graphic designers, it had almost become a dominant influence in Canada. However, Donnelly argues that this is only partially true, and that in Canada international modern design was adopted in a similar manner to other modern styles, in that it was not adopted wholesale, but a critical and complex way.
born in German-speaking Yugoslavia in 1928, Roch was influenced by the work of his father who was a printer, print maker, and designer. Roch Attended the State School of Applied Arts in Graz, Austria between 1948 and 1952. Arriving in Montreal in December 1953, Roch soon found work at the Rapid, Grip, and Batten art office. This office provided layout, lettering, illustration, and photography services. However, these services were not offered in a manner akin to a creative graphic designer, but rather in a production-line fashion. The creation process was directed by a "layout man", who saw to it that the artists working under him would produce works that would faithfully follow proven artistic formulae which were approved by the company salesmen and art director. Remaining at Rapid, Grip, and Batten for eight months, Roch was eventually included in a round of layoffs which forced him to take up freelance work which, according to Donnelly's interviews with Roch, included "doing labels for socks, retouching photographs, and other 'boring tasks'." (page 67)
In 1954 Roch joined the Y & M studio run by Gerard Caron, Yolande Delorme-Cyr, and Tancrède Marsil. All of these designers had trained at Montreal's Ecole des Beaux Arts, and both Marsil and Caron had previously worked for the Eveleigh-Dair studio. In the case of Delmore-Cyr, she had been a fashion designer, the typical form of employment of female designers at the time.
Roch stayed at Y & M until 1959, believing that it was one of the most progressive and demanding studios in Canada at the time. Having a maximum staff of 10 people, including its senior partners, Y & M offered Roch a level of creative freedom which he could not have had at one of Montreal's large advertising or commercial art agencies. As Donnelly notes, in the late 1950s Roch had encouraged Caron to attempt to get the contract to redesign the logo for Canadian National Railway, a contract which was eventually given to the New York industrial designer, James Valkus. While Valkus then hired Allan Fleming, in Toronto, to work on the design, Fleming was not willing to move to Montreal, which was necessary to ensure that his new, modern minimalist design was applied throughout the crown corporation. Roch believed that the commitment to the modernist project which was implied by the new design required its complete application across the company, regardless of pressure from company executives to retain more traditional visual elements of the company. Under Valkus, Roch pressured that the design had to be employed consistently throughout the corporation, so as to give the impression that CN was a thoroughly modern, well organized, and efficient organization, a message which was implied through the simplicity and clarity of its new logo.
Donnelly argues that Roch's experience working on the CN account inspired him to thoroughly embrace the modern approach of the international minimalist style. Between 1960 and 1965 he ran his own studio in Montreal, consciously applying his Swiss-influenced style to work and influencing others to follow his approach. That approach included a renewed interpretation of constructivism and rational functionalism, reduction to minimal forms and the representation of essential elements in the simplest ways possible. However, this approach was not always appreciated or understood by the public, and even Roch's work in 1960 was not devoid of other approaches. However, Roch was able to increasingly move towards a version of the international style as he gained increasing design freedom in increasingly small studios. His transition was also aided by the kinds of clients he was able to attract. One early example was the in-house corporate newsletter of Alcan. Headed by a Swiss-educated editor, the Alcan Ingot was plagued with loose layouts, many illustrations and decorative elements, and highly subjective organization. Roch was asked by the publication's international style-friendly editor to transform it into a logical and rational looking publication which would project the idea that the company embodied such traits. Roch renamed the publication Alcan News, tightly cropped photographs, emphasizing geometric lines in the images; employed sans serif type throughout; narrowed the margins; established a set horizon on the cover and each page which was never to be breached; minimized headings to the same size as the text, making them as standardized as possible and only identifiable as headings by their being in bold and at the beginning of articles; and, most importantly, Roch divided up each page into a geometric grid which directed the placement of images and text, giving the publication a highly organized and planned look.
Donnelly argues that there were close parallels between the international graphic design style of the period and the international architectural design style. Like a modern office tower, surrounded by large, open, and empty plazas, the international design publication made use of large areas of white, or negative, space so as to increased attention to the main structure of the design. A modern office tower was a grid of windows and floors rising into the sky, while the designed page of the international style imposed a grid which dictated where elements of the page could be placed, even confidently placing them close to the edge of the page with the assurance that they were correctly positioned and held in place by the grid. Furthermore, the regularity of the design layout, like the facade of a modern tower, ensured that all of the available space is incorporated into the design. Also, as with a building, where there is positive space, or designed areas, there is a lack of ornamentation, but instead rational horizontal and vertical regularity, furthered through the use of standardized column widths and sans serif type.
Roch won an award from Typography 61 for a similar design of the Rolland Paper annual report, thus demonstrating that, while disliked by some, his approach to design was winning support within the Canadian design community. In an untitled essay in the 1970 publication, Graphic Design Canada, Roch argued that he viewed the job of graphic designers as "stripping down a message" and striving to use "minimal means" to obtain "maximal clarity." In 1962 Roch was able to apply this approach to the very public realm of postage stamp art, winning the competition to design the five-cent "definitive" stamp. The stamp featured a minimalist profile of the Queen surrounded by negative space. The only other elements of the design were the necessary type, which was placed at the extremes of the grid which dictated placement. The resulting design gave the desired image of simplicity, strength, and even authority. As Donnelly notes, while only a very small item, this new, minimalist stamp, was the first example of the federal government's policy of using clear, minimalist, and simplistic design in order to communicate with the public. As Donnelly explains, this minimalist, geometric approach to graphic design was to dominate government and corporate design for the next two decades.
"Over the next two decades the use of geometric logos, simplified, gridded layouts, and the systematic (if not always inspired) application of aspects of the style Roch and others developed were to dominate the design of government and corporate communication, as surely as rectangular geometry dominated in architecture." (page 72)
Donnelly argues that, while following the style of the rational international design school, Roch was also expressing a personal taste and approach. His work, while removing all decorative excess, also highlights his own design strengths. The international style, while building upon the modernism of Tschichold and of Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union of the 1920s, was also very different from those styles. Donnelly argues that those differences emerged both in Europe and in Canada during the late 1950s, with designers such as Roch using their own tastes, and not some kind of internationalist formula, to create their designs. Yet, Donnelly also notes that the popularity of the approach is ironic in that, while claiming to liberate design from traditional approaches, the style offers an alternative of strict conformity to geometric simplicity, the removal of unnecessary elements, and the use of sans serif type. It was also being adopted at a time of considerable social and political change, including a countercultural movement which balked at authority and top-down control. Indeed, the success of the approach in Canada marked a move away from domestic, emotional, and fanciful imagery of the 1950s. However, Donnelly also implies that this move away from tradition, sentimentality, and fanciful imagery could have been part of its appeal. In addition to stressing the authority, control, and success of governments and corporations in a time of economic success, the international style also offered an image of objectivity and clarity. At a time when the public was increasingly calling for increased citizen participation in government and corporate decision making, the international style gave the impression that such institutions had nothing to hide and they were communication to the public "without sentiment, fantasy, smoke, or mirrors." (page 73)
Donnelly also notes that, originally, the international style was largely unpopular, both with the public and designers. However, as its elements became increasingly understood, it became very popular and was employed by the majority of Canadian graphic designers at one time or another to solve particular communications problems. By the early 1960s it had become the signature style of Canadian graphic designers, a development which allowed the public to become increasingly comfortable and familiar with it was it became ubiquitous. the style was popular because it was functional, effective, legible, and easy to understand. As it became ubiquitous, it was also adapted and mixed with other approaches. Its familiarity also led to designs in the style also became recognizable and tied to ideas and experiences, thus imbuing such modernist designs with emotional meaning, conjuring up ideas of progress and prosperity. As Donnelly notes, this emotional connection, or traditional connection, to designs made in the international style was exactly the opposite result of what had been originally intended, a move away from the "smoke and mirrors" or traditional irrational meanings which were attached to domestic, fanciful, and sentimental designs of the 1950s.
Harder was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1929, attending the National Art Academy in that city for four and a half years. At the academy he was trained in typography (drawing, metal and woodblock typography) and printing technology. He was then employed at a Hamburg advertising agency from 1953 to 1955 as something akin to a designer, employed to do illustration and produce other visual and textual elements to enhance advertisements. With the dream of coming to work in North America, and New York in particular, Harder came to visit and work in Montreal for two years, 1955 to 1957. In Montreal, Harder briefly worked for Y & M, where he first met Ernst Roch. However, Harder soon lost the job after he unsuccessfully produced an illustration of a refrigerator for an advertisement. (He was unfamiliar with what North American refrigerators were supposed to look like and the kind of advertisement illustration which was expected at the time.) Following his time at Y & M Harder did some freelance work and also travelled around North America, returning to Hamburg from 1957 to 1959, where he continued to work and got married. Returning again to Montreal in 1959, and only intending to stay long enough to secure a work visa to the United States, so that he could work in New York, Harder soon developed a large client base in Montreal. Assured of work in Montreal, Harder stayed. His clients included the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche, Alcan, the Royal Bank, Inter City Papers, and International Paints. In the case of Hoffman-LaRoche, the company's Swiss-educated design-buyer understood the importance of effective advertising and packaging design, and had seen how other pharmaceutical companies were using trends in German and Swiss design to portray themselves as innovative, scientific, and rational. As Harder explained to Donnelly in interviews, the establishment of his thirty-year relationship with Hoffman-LaRoche was abnormal in the late 1950s and early 1960s as design was typically attained by such companies through larger advertising agencies, not through freelance designers.
While often borrowing from the internationalist design school for his works, Donnelly argues that Harder was not formulaic in his designs. He would use elements of internationalist design, including sans-serif type, type and images which are cropped close to the edge of the page, and abstract geometric shapes which were often presented in flat or solid colours. However, his work could also make use of historic or traditional images (such as Victorian woodcuts), as with his 1959 Hoffmann-LaRoche "Vous Pouvez" booklet, or give the impression of there his not using a design grid, as in the case of his 1962 annual report for International Paints. As Donnelly notes, many of these elements of Harder's designs are discussed in a 1961 article on Harder in International Advertising Art (issue 31). Other works, such as the "Librium" advertisement, make use of singular cropped, perfectly staged images presented in a field of white with bold sans-serif type. This approach, which was starting to be used regularly by New York City art directors, was designed to offer a "big idea" with emotional impact. It stood in contrast to copy and illustration-heavy ads which were still dominant in the advertising of the early 1960s.
Harder's approach made use of geometry, abstraction, and simplicity, and, like internationalist modernist architecture, it made use of all of the available space, even interlocking images so as to make the most of available space, but confining those images to a strict, measured, and rational grid. However, according to his interviews with Donnelly, Harder did not formulaically apply the tools of international design. Rather, he always started with a central visual idea. He would then use the tools of international design to offer structure and to filter out noise and unnecessary details. The result would be a measured and rational presentation of the original idea. However, Harder noted that without a good original visual idea, any design would become boring and uninteresting. Furthermore, Harder stressed to Donnelly that his and Roch's internationalism was not imported directly by them into Canada. While influenced by the international style which was developing in Switzerland and Germany in the late 1950s, and owing much to the geometry of both constructivism and Swiss typeface design, including the publication of the journal New Graphic Design and the introduction of the Helvetica typeface. However both designers had been in Canada since before these European developments had occurred. They had worked for Canadian clients and pre-existing Montreal design firms. They had been exposed to the standards and expectations of Canadian design, and had learned of internationalism while working and living in that milieu. Thus, their internationalism synthesized the new European approach and the traditions and restrictions of Canada.
The last of the TDC exhibitions was widely acknowledged to have been heavily influenced by internationalist graphic design. As is clear from the catalogue, Carl Dair was correct to complain in a letter to Gerry Moses from early 1965, that the exhibition had "gone all Swiss." The minimalist and rationalist trend of the exhibition is apparent from the catalogue, the cover of which consists of black and blue sans-serif text that begins with the full title of the exhibition, Typography 64, and, in a number of steps, removes all extraneous elements of this title, resulting in "T64". However, as Donnelly notes, while Dair may have despaired at the extent of internationalist design in the show, the rise of that style of design corresponded with a general rise in an interest in graphic design. The number of entries in the 1964 exhibition was almost ten times that of 1958. Allan Fleming agreed with Dair in a Globe and Mail article on the exhibition, that it was dominated by "international, modern types of typography." (Kay Kritzwiser, "Seven Artists Win Typography Awards," 1964) In an essay, "An Appreciation," within the catalogue, Fleming condemned the excessive use of Swiss design, claiming that it gave the impression of a "homogenous, safe, society" which was no better than a society of roaches or ants. This continued Sam Smart's argument in Typography 1961 that internationalist design was formulaic and could only be beneficial in that it did introduce some discipline into routine design, and could improve high-volume design creation. Thus, as Donnelly notes, the reaction of the Canadian design community to the rise of the analytical, precise, and rational Swiss approach was mixed. Toronto designers, including Smart, Fleming, and Dair expressed a different version of modernism, one which Donnelly describes as being, "a more immediately synthetic logic, and retained a broader, more inclusive vocabulary." Thus, as Donnelly argues, it is not really surprising that support for the internationalist approach was much stringer among Montreal designers than those in Toronto.
Donnelly characterizes Paul Arthur as something of an anomaly in the development of modern internationalist design in Canada in that he was born and educated in Toronto. Attending Upper Canada College and then the University of Toronto, Arthur did not study typography or art, but English literature. It was his interest in the content of books which led him to work in the printing and publishing industry in England after he graduated from university. It was while working in England that he chanced to meet the editor of the times Literary Supplement, Stanley Morison, who recommended him to the editor of Graphis magazine in Zurich, Walter Herdeg. Arthur worked at Graphis from 1951 to 1956 during which time the publication was beginning to focus upon the simplified, constructivist-influenced style of design emerging out of Switzerland and Germany. Arthur also wrote articles for Canadian Art on the development of design in Europe. In his 1952 article "Advanced Design - As Seen from Europe" he claimed that North American advertising of the period was too complex and strove to be earnest while making use of many superlatives. In contrast, European design was becoming more sparse and direct. He also suggested that there was a difference between advertising and design, where advertising was interested in using the more effective marketing and style so as to sell products, while design strove to communicate essential ideas as clearly as possible. He suggested that Canadian designers should not learn about the developments in European design through immigrant designers, but by travelling to Europe and learning first hand.
Arthur returned to Canada in 1956, becoming the director of Publications at the National Gallery of Canada (1956-1967). In a review of the eighth annual exhibition of the Art Directors Club of Toronto in Canadian Art, Arthur noted that while interest and participation in the country's design community had grown, but still conscious of the adjectives and earnestness of North American advertising, he wondered it the products of the field had only become louder and not more precise and effective in communicating ideas to their audience. In particular, Arthur was very critical of government publications, which he viewed as very ineffective in using anything other than the written word to communicate ideas or information to the reader. In another Canadian Art article from May 1960 Arthur compared much Canadian promotional advertising to "litter," a sentiment which was shared by the English immigrant designer Tony Mann, who worked at Cooper & Beatty and who would come to design the internationalist cover for Typography 64. Mann complained in a letter to Dair in 1965 that Canadian advertisers and agencies continued to demand earnest advertisements which were full of superlatives while Canadian designers were attempting to develop approaches which lacked these gimmicks and focuses upon effective communication.
Using both his position at the National Gallery, as well as his position, as of 1958, as managing editor and designer for Canadian Art, Arthur was able to promote his vision for the field of graphic design, including a call for higher standards and for the field to be recognized for its distinct qualities, and not just seen as commercial art or glorified typesetting. In the case of Canadian Art he not only increased the publication's content concerning graphic design, but also revised its layout, borrowing heavily from Graphis.
However, while Arthur wished to increase the public's and the profession's understanding and appreciation of design, he also wished Canadian design to follow the European of reducing graphic designs down to their essential elements, making them "standardized, anonymous, and functional." (page 82) However, this ideal which Arthur was trying to encourage was the opposite of the loud and busy imagery which the public seemed to prefer at the time. Yet, one area where Arthur has had a significant influence creating and influencing the creation of designs which were reduced to only their essential elements was in international signage. According to Donnelly, Arthur created the terms "signage" and "wayfinding" in the course of his defining and refining the purpose and approach which should be taken in designing signs which are to be universally understandable, and thus, communicate particular messages to people from almost any culture. Following the a United Nations Geneva protocol of 1949 which called upon countries to design uniform traffic signage, Arthur was hired in the late 1960s to help design a signage system for highways in Vermont. He was also charged with designing signage for the Winnipeg and Edmonton airports in 1962. Then, later in the decade, Arthur was hired by the federal government to design pictograms, directional signage, and even the exterior street furniture for Expo 67. This not only allowed him to employ his experience creating unified signage systems, but allowed him it further the idea, to an international audience, that public spaces should make use of effective, universally understandable signage.
During the 1960s Arthur was operating his own studio in Ottawa. The studio was increasingly busy, largely as a result of the work he was commissioned to do for Expo 67. He also took advantage of his training/schooling in modern European design and his connections and proximity to federal government agencies to land additional work. Many government departments and agencies at the time were increasingly interested in adopting overwhelmingly modern designs. Furthermore, many of the people who worked for his studio during those years would create for him, and then would go on to create, significant Canadian government and corporate designs. These included Gerhard Doerrié, Burton Kramer (CBC), Fritz Gottschalk (stamps, Royal Bank Logo, etc.), and Jean Morin (Quebec Hydro and Bell Canada). However, the amount of time the studio had to dedicate to the Expo 67 contract led to other clients being neglected. Following Expo 67 several of Arthur's designers left to start their own studios, and Arthur himself moved to Toronto to rebuild his practice. In addition, in 1967 Arthur was asked to produce ten final issues of Canadian Art, which was being renamed artscanada. All of these issues were published on looseleaf and other materials and sold in a transparent paper bag. Not only did this allow the magazine to be produced more quickly, but it also challenged conventions of publishing, as well as conventional ideas of designers being conservative and professional. Donnelly suggests that these untraditional issues of artscanada were a prelude to the influences upon graphic design of the broad social and cultural changes occurring within Canada from the mid-1960s into the 1970s. While the period from 1956 to 1965 had been about creating higher professional standards and placing more importance upon effective communication rather than style, the later 1960s and the 1970s would see an emphasis upon removing constraints upon the profession.
Doerrié was (1997) a teacher at both the Ontario College of Art and NSCAD, known at both institutions as an avid promoter of the international style. Born in Celle, Germany in 1936. Trained as a typesetter in Paris, he was inspired to come to Canada after reading an article by Ernst Roch in a German graphic design journal. Contacting Roch, Doerrié was encouraged by the Montreal-based designer to come to Quebec in 1960 to work on the redesign of the CN identity program with the Valkus studio. Then in 1964 Doerrié moved to Ottawa to work in Paul Arthur's studio. Fond of the international style of design, Doerrié was well suited to work with the former assistant editor of Graphis. In Ottawa he worked on a number of projects for the federal government's Design Canada, all of which used the international design elements of sans-serif fonts and grid structure so as to give government communications a strong, logical look, reinforcing the idea of the federal government being a rational and well organized institution. Noting the experimental nature of his internationalist style, as seen in his entries for Typography 64, Donnelly claims that Doerrié's central concern was solving problems of communication, believing that if framed in the right way the solution would clearly expressed the single, desired message. However, as the international style became ubiquitous, Doerrié became disillusioned with it, seeing it as a tool to attain design perfection, and solutions to problems, which is often used in the absence of a problem or purpose. In the early 1970s Doerrié held positions at a number of studios, and also became head of the department of visual communication at NSCAD. However, because of his perfectionist and demanding temperament, as well as a drinking problem, he was working as a freelance designer again by 1974. He died in 1984, having returned to Germany.
While Mann also eventually taught at NSCAD, his career was considerably less tumultuous as Doerrié's. Mann was educated at the Manchester College of Art and the London Central School of Arts and Crafts. He then ran his own design firm in London for a decade before moving to Toronto in 1962, where he replaced Allan Fleming as creative director at Cooper & Beatty. Unlike Fleming, whose style was eclectic and playful, Mann was an adherent to the increasingly popular international style, with its geometric qualities, preference for sans-serif typefaces, and solid colours. Thus, with his arrival the look of the designs put out by the typesetting firm took on a more "European" look.
After three years, Mann left Cooper & Beatty in 1965 to establish Design Collaborative with Ernst Roch, Rolf Harder, and Alfred Faux. However, as Rolf Harder had noted to Donnelly in interviews, Mann, and the new Design Collaborative, were not simply applying the completed international style formula to the work they did in Canada. Rather, they drew inspiration from the principles of the international style. By applying the international design standards to the Canadian context they were creating a Canadian style. As Donnelly argues, indeed, no style is a finished product. Rather, each is a combination of influences and examples, the application and reproduction of which are constantly evolving and borrowing from the environment in which they are used or applied. This is especially true in the realm of graphic design which uses recognizable references, references which are often more recognizable to specific local audiences than to others, to communicate particular ideas. "The mass, applied art of design necessarily draws on a synthesis of sources, and takes event the most radically reduced approach and coheres it, through familiarity and repetition, into a familiar and evocative style." (page 88) Yet, as Donnelly also notes, the international style was not the only new modern style developing during the 1950s and 1960s which adopted and synthesized references, symbols, and emotions. These are the subject of his fourth chapter.
Donnelly claims that if, as he argues, and as the designers themselves claim, there was a distinctly Canadian characteristic to the international form of modern practiced in Canada, even among émigrés and those Canadians trained in Europe, such Canadian particularity and subjectivity was even more pronounced amongst those designers who were raised and schooled in Canada. As noted above, designers, such as Dair, felt a knowledge or the history and tradition of typographic design was required to have the necessary tools, and knowledge of how to use the, to fashion the most effective designs. Others, such as Newfeld, believed that a wide range of influences was important. However, amongst these influences were links to illustration and the fine arts, given the small scale of the Canadian profession, the lack of proper training programs, and thus, the diverse backgrounds of its membership. In Britain and Europe there existed training programs, art, and printing schools, as well as apprenticeship programs. Yet, these were lacking in Canada. Also lacking was a type founding and type design industry. Furthermore, the printing industry was relatively small. Thus, Canadian designers drew on a wide variety of sources for their education and inspiration. However, this also meant, according to Donnelly, that Canadian designers were synthesizing ideas in a unique way, which he claims is the essential basis of modernism.
Unlike many of his contemporaries in design, Allan Fleming did not have a fine art background. Rather, he had only taken two years of art at a Toronto technical school, which he completed at sixteen. Fleming then found work in the Eaton's mail-order catalogue department, working as an illustrator. Up until 1953 he worked for several small Toronto studios, including Art Associates. At this time Fleming's style was heavily influenced by the graphic design found in American magazines, and he consciously imitated the work of Paul Rand. Through studying these designs, Fleming's interest in illustration eventually gave way to a desire to work with type and how it was presented, or laid out.
With an interest in typography, Fleming began to attend the workshops presented by Carl Dair after 1952. This intensive and detail rich training inspired Fleming to continue his education in printing and typography beyond what the workshops could offer. Following Dair's preference for the British typographic tradition, Fleming did not travel to New York or Zurich to study the newest and most radical developments in typography. Rather, he went to London where he found work at John Tait and Partners. Studying at the British Museum in his spare time, he tried to absorb as much as he could about the British typographic and printing industries, allegedly going so far as introducing himself to Stanley Morrison, the head of Monotype, and one of the leading figures in British typography at the time.
Fleming returned to Toronto in 1955, where he established himself as a freelance artist. According to a 1977 article from Quill and Quire, Fleming also caused some confusion amongst his contemporaries and clients by referring to himself as a graphic designer, a term which was not used at the time. Fleming was one of a few freelance designers in the city. These included Dair, Frank Newfeld, and others, such as Eric Aldwinkle, who had worked in the art and design community in the city before the Second World War. However, Fleming's designs attracted the attention of W.E. "Jack" Trevett of Cooper & Beatty, who hired him as the typesetting firm's creative director in 1957.
At Cooper & Beatty Fleming excelled because, according to Donnelly, of his self-motivation and his willingness to independently research new methods and styles of design. Much of his work consisted of the self-promotional advertising of the firm, designs which radically changed the look of the company and the expectations of its clients. At the time, the firm was doing typesetting work for all of Toronto's approximately thirty advertising agencies, as well other significant clients, including, at one time, all six of the country's major banks. The year after being hired at Cooper & Beatty the annual of the Type Directors Club of New York featured his promotional work for Cooper & Beatty, while he contributed several works to the first annual of the TDC, Typography 58. Furthermore, half of the entries in Typography 58 had been typeset at Cooper & Beatty, and thus, would have at least been affected by the judgment of the firm's creative director. Finally, in November 1958 Fleming held a show of his work and the Gallery of Contemporary Art.
Donnelly notes that in the late 1950s Fleming was at risk of overexposure. He was recognized by many in the design world to be possibly the most talented designer in the field and his work repeatedly took the highest prizes in competitions. As Robert Fluford noted, on various occasions, when Fleming had designed invitations and posters for exhibitions of graphic design his own designs often contained more artistic inspiration than the works in the shows. While often done with metal type punches, which are typically locked horizontally into a frame, Fleming's designs often broke from these constraints, making use of oversized letters, open space, and text placed at angles or inserted into shapes and patterns. To achieve his desired results Fleming had to mix and match the limited metal typesets which were available, printing designs in stages and photographically enlarging characters where needed. Flaming was also quick to make use of what Donnelly calls the "second generation" of typesetting technology, which consisted of photographic and optical distortion methods which were developed during the 1950s and 1960s. (The first generation was metal character presses and the third were the digital systems of today.) Fleming had the advantage, however, of having access to the resources of Canada's largest typesetting company.
The Graphics Man is on the Way Up
Donnelly argues that it was largely because of the playful way in which Fleming placed, mixed, and distorted letters and particular parts of text, graphics were increasingly seen by the Canadian design community as having more potential than previously considered and playing a larger role in contemporary culture. Robert Fulford, a close friend of Fleming, praised Fleming in a 1959 Canadian Art article for his mixing of reserved and traditional English typesetting with bolder and more energetic American styles. However, because many design clients were slow to recognize the potential of what the evolving design profession could offer them, much of Flemings most creative and innovative work was the promotional material he produced for Cooper & Beatty.
Donnelly notes that Fleming was also highly skilled at selling design to businesses as an important part of telling the public what their business was, not as just some marketing ploy. His charm and intelligence were highlighted in a 1961 article in Marketing magazine which uses his justifications to argue as to how businesses could and should embrace design. Central to his strategy, and something which he often employed when working with clients, was that he did not simply present a design to clients, but explained and justified the design, convincing the clients of the logic and soundness of the design. Fleming famously employed this approach in his work on the Canadian National Railways logo.
THE CN LOGO
In 1959 CN conducted a survey of Canadians on their opinions of CN. The crown corporation had spent the previous decade spending over a billion dollars upgrading its facilities and rolling stock, most significantly replacing its steam locomotives with diesel. However, the poll showed that most Canadians considered the company to be "drab" and even "Victorian" in character. The corporation's symbol did date from 1896 and its corporate slogan, "Serves all Canada", only existed in English. Thus, on a chance recommendation and a four a brief proposal, CN President, Donald Gordon, hired the New York industrial designer, James Valkus, to help modernize the company's image. The corporation initially believed that this exercise would simply result in a new trademark, however, Valkus argued that all corporate imagery had to be integrated into a systematic redesign. Given that the corporation was in the midst of restructuring its management structure, finances, and personnel, its management was fairly easily convinced to accept Valkus' complete image overhaul. This consistent design system was even affected the structure of the company. Valkus was not suggesting an image change where old logos would be replaced by a new one. Rather, in proposing a new, modern design image, the company had to take steps to take steps which would reflect the organized, efficient, and modern image the logo was to suggest. While the company's historic locomotives had recently been replaced by diesel, other elements of the railway were complex and antiquated. For example, the redesign affected the format of CN tickets and the more than 200 different kinds of ticket designs were replaced with 9 baring the new CN logo. The redesign also affected the very name of the corporation which, until then, had been Canadian National Railways. It was Allan Fleming, who had been hired by Valkus to design the new logo, who suggested that the organization adopt the bilingual Canadian National, thus helping to remove notions of the corporation being an English-dominated, or English-biased organization.
As Donnelly explains, Fleming was not the only person involved in the redesign of the logo. Valkus, Fleming, and others at their offices made attempts at the redesign. The different attempts show a caution on the part of many of the designers, including Fleming himself, as to how modern or experimental to make the design, or just how experimental or modern a logo the corporation would allow. One example, noted by Donnelly, was by Valkus and was a combination of the letters "CN" that made use of slab-serif characters and arrows. As Donnelly notes, this design is reminiscent of Herbert Matter's redesign of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railway in 1954 which made use of slab-serifs, or of Paul Rand's 1956 IBM logo. The use of such elements, which had successfully been used before, suggests that Valkus was attempting to use a somewhat conventional "modern" approach which could be justified by pointing to other, similar, successful logos. Similarly, one of Fleming's early proposals combines a "C" and an "N", where the C consists of a wide-sweeping arrow and the N is forward-leaning, suggesting motion. As Donnelly suggests, the design has a "popular, organic-modern feel to it." This use of arching curves, arrows, and light, open lines was a very popular illustrative approach in the 1950s. Thus, its fantastic, organic, even modern cartoon-esque qualities were actually quite traditional for the time.
Donnelly notes that the first version of the logo which approaches the final product was not done by Valkus or Fleming, but by of Valkus' staff artists, Carl Ramirez. Donnelly argues that, where as the two senior designers were rapidly sketching out their proposals in chalk drawings other media which would allow for broad strokes, Ramirez was using small pieces of Bristol board using rulers and compasses. With these tools he did not brainstorm, but slowly worked through the problem. Furthermore, unlike with brainstorming, where one's thoughts are inevitably affected by existing trends, Ramirez approach allowed him to carefully consider each angle, the thickness of lines, etc as he deconstructed and reconstructed his evolving design. The result was a much tighter, geometric solution. Furthermore, Donnelly notes that the real credit for the CN design should go to Ramirez since, had the senior designers already settled on an idea, they would have simply asked for variations of their idea. They would not have adopted something wholly new. And while Ramirez shape was not the final product (in that the inside corners were sharp and not curved, and the "C" was elongated, not placing the middle of the logo at the first up-stroke of the "N"), it is undeniably very similar to the final design. Yet, according to Fleming's own telling of the story, he came up with the design in a flash of inspiration while doodling on a napkin in an airport lounge. (found in the Fleming archives, noted in Donnelly p 101)
However, because the design did undergo several adjustments, and because it was the result of a detailed and complex attempt to get the best out of numerous designers, all working together, the final product was a simple design from which all subjective or personal elements had been removed. As Donnelly notes, the central idea of modern design is the pure visual communication of ideas which are not confused or complicated by individualistic or subjective ideas which could be misinterpreted by the intended audience. This is central to all modern design. While not created by designers who were staunch advocates of the international style, one can see definite parallels. The logo is highly geometric - possibly, as suggested by Donnelly, simply a result of the tools and approach of Ramirez. Furthermore, it only contains the absolute essential elements and nothing more, which Donnelly explains was the result of being created through the input of several designers and through a long process which had also considered many other approaches. However, regardless of the source of its genesis, one could argue that the final logo, while fulfilling the modern demand of attempting to only offer pure communication, may have also furthered business, government, and public acceptance of the international style.
While Donnelly suggests that a large, diversified, corporation like CN chose an abstract symbol would be to represent the abstract nature of their activities (they are more interested in making money than in what they really do), he admits that that is not the main reason why such organizations came to adopt abstract symbols in the 1960s. Rather, he explains that Fleming and Valkus were struggling with the idea of modern design and mass appeal. The essentialist modern logic of design pushed towards a stripped-down, rational, geometric, singular solution, or the one "right answer." The problem was not whether the designers could come to such a solution (which would be almost internationalist in approach), but whether should they come to such a solution. This, as Donnelly notes, was a question of both whether the client was modern enough. However, what is not mentioned by Donnelly is that it was also a question of whether a geometric design would identify the two designers as supporting, and possibly fueling the increased use of international design. As Donnelly notes, both designers were familiar with geometric designs, including the 1951 CBS logo, the railway and IBM symbols by Matter and Rand, and Ernst Roch's O’Keefe Fisheries logo. Yet, neither designer was a committed proponent of the developing internationalist school of design. Furthermore, as Donnelly argues, they were also concerned about whether the CN management would accept the design, whether the management would understand that this logo was part of a modern trend towards simplification, and whether the population would be accepting of such as design. As Donnelly notes, while Valkus and Fleming could try, and did, argue that the design was in line with many other new international corporate designs, and that the simplicity of the logo could easily make it iconic, they could only guess at whether the public would accept the design.
As Donnelly notes, not only did opinion polls show that the public both liked the new logo and had changed its perception of CN as being a progressive organization which was efficiently run, but the received praise from designers across Canada and beyond as being one of the best examples of good design in Canada. Others commented that it would lead to a significant increase in similarly minimalist logos and designs being created by Canadian graphic designers, and accepted, if not demanded by Canadian corporate managers. Furthermore, Donnelly argues that the CN logo has created a graphic design myth that the unveiling of that one logo established a particular trend or vision of high modernism in Canadian graphic design and corporate management. It is an internationalist-esque design which implies the worldliness, internationalism, rationalism, and efficiency of the corporation. Similar internationalist-esque designs have been used to suggest the same ideas about other large corporations, and thus, about global capitalism in general.
AFTER CN and COOPER & BEATTY
While influential and successful, Donnelly notes that Fleming's CN logo was something of an anomaly for the designer. It is true that he did design other, similarly internationalist-looking symbols for Ontario Hydro, Design Canada, and Grey Coach Lines, these few designs are very dissimilar to almost everything Fleming designed in the 1950s and 1960s. Fleming, in fact argued against the notion of modernism which the CN logo is often understood as implying, that one can attain a perfect design, from which all extraneous elements had been removed and which will only offer the audience a single message. Furthermore, unlike many of his colleagues, he never joined the movement towards international modernism. While had commented in 1959 in the article "Uppercase 2" published in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Journal that Swiss design was offering a refreshing change from neo-Victorian typography, he also claimed in his essay in Typography 64 that the increasing ubiquitousness of the design style was leading to Canadian design developing an uninteresting and homogenous look, or that of a homogeneous world wide society. According to Donnelly, Fleming even disparaged the CN logo at times as a "tapeworm rampant," referring to his despair at the influence it had upon some designers to adopt the similar style of international design unquestionably. Thus, Donnelly concludes (on page 105) that, while Fleming could make use of an international-esque approach to design when it suited him, he always remained critical of it, and never viewed it as some kind of design panacea.
Fleming left Cooper & Beatty in 1962 and went to work for Maclean's magazine. However, he only remained as the magazine's design director for nine months. As Donnelly notes, while Fleming was very comfortable with producing smart and effective individual projects, he did not perform well under the weekly deadlines of the magazine, and did not create any significant works there. While he did redesign the layout of the magazine, he was not finding the useful single solution to a design problem, but just hastily producing content for a magazine which required content.
Leaving Maclean's, Fleming went to work for MacLaren Advertising, a decision which many of his contemporaries found surprising in that it was a large corporation. Unlike at Cooper & Beatty, Fleming would only be able to contribute to the work produced by MacLaren, not dominate it completely. Furthermore, under the pressure of the advertising firm to please its clients, Fleming’s work became more anonymous-looking and similar to the other visual work produced by the company's designers. As Donnelly notes, in a retrospective of his work compiled by Fleming and displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1977, nothing was included from his five years at MacLaren. Thus, Donnelly suggests that during the mid-1960s, Fleming's influence and prominence in the Canadian design community decreased significantly.
Fleming's version of modernism was eclectic in that it was heavily based in history. As quoted by Robert Fulford in the 1976 Saturday Night article "Notebook: My Letterhead, Allan Fleming, and the Look of Canada", Fleming believed that one needed to know the history of design so that that history informs one's choices, suggesting, almost automatically in the designer's mind, what could enhance a design and what could potentially reduce its effectiveness in communicating a particular idea. However, while similar to Dair, in his history-oriented outlook, Fleming did not believe that one need be constrained by the past. this could explain why, in the case of the CN and other logos, he did willingly make use of a minimalist, simplistic approach. As Donnelly points out in a discussion of a debate with Carl Dair in the pages of Canadian Architect in 1961, while Fleming did agree that the classically-inspired typographic revival in Britain during the 1920s was beneficial in that it ended the excessive "vulgarity" of Victorian typographic design, he did not believe that typographic designers should try to prolong the style of that revival. Rather, as he claimed in the March 1961 edition of the journal, while the approach of the revival was tidy, "tidiness can be a bore." (Donnelly, page 106) Indeed, Donnelly argues that there was no single style which can be attributed to Fleming. While he was extremely knowledgeable about approaches to design, and could convincingly justify the use of particular approaches for his designs, he was more interested in the design fulfilling its purposeful function. His modernism was not based upon a strict uniformity, analysis of the design and approach, or rationalism. However, he did believe that designers could use the various tools at their disposal, including a knowledge of the history of design, to reference ideas in people’s heads, or create new ones. Donnelly argues that this approach was shared by two other designers of the period, Theo Dimson and Gerry Moses.
Theo Dimson, Gerry Moses, and "The Imperial Oil Review"
Born in Toronto in 1930, Theo Dimson was, according to an interview with Donnelly, attracted to commercial art of all kinds when he was young. This included antique Victorian illustrations, comic books, American magazines, and many other available sources. He took a four year commercial art course at Danforth Technical Highschool and then went to the Ontario College of Art, where he graduated in three years rather than four. After graduating he was quickly recognized as a talented new designer, as he won several awards from the 1951 Toronto Art Directors exhibition. He was also hired by Art Associates, replacing Allan Fleming as the junior designer. At the design agency much of the work was for advertising agencies, where, while having some creative freedom, he have to produce designs which would be somewhat similar to the client's wishes. However, the job also would occasionally produce jobs which offered almost unfettered creative license. After staying with the company from 1950 to 1953, Dimson left to pursue freelance work, which, as he recalled to Donnelly, offered much more creative freedom and was much more lucrative.
As a freelancer Dimson developed his own recognizable style, doing work for journals including Mayfair, Canadian Home Journal, and Liberty. He was gaining a reputation as being a specialist in manipulating and integrating period designs and prints within modern designs. However, it should be noted that his version of modernism was not internationalist, but a more eclectic which attempted to achieve the end of communicating one particular message via various visual means, not a particular, analytical style. In the mid 1950s, Dimson's most well known work was his contract to design and illustrate the entire 25th anniversary edition of the Imperial Oil Review. Using woodblock prints with well-integrated text, he was able to give the entire publication a period look.
In 1958 he produced one of eight full page advertisements which were placed in the Stratford Festival program of that year. His ad was an organized collage of antiqued photographs and Victorian engravings and was included with other works by Harols Town, Graham Coughtry, and James Hill. That same year Dimson returned to Art Associates, having been offered a better position and pay. There he further developed his style of combining and manipulating period images and typography to produce eye-catching and somewhat satirical designs. In the case of a trade advertisement for Art Associates, in which Dimson highlights the wide range of services the agency offered, he made use of multiple sizes of antique fonts, including exaggerated Victorian slab-serif and fat face in order to give the impression of a busy and somewhat confusingly designed Victorian hand-bill. However, the top of the design offers the headline for the ad in a distinct band of white at the top of the advertisement, and set in a much smaller modern sans serif. Similarly, his cover for the June 1960 issue of IDEA, which was dedicated to Canadian design, uses a Victorian engraving of a pair of eyes which are partially set in a large area of white space, and partially used as a prop for the title, which again is set in a sans-serif font.
Donnelly argues that Dimson's approach suggests that he was not fundamentally interested in carefully selecting and setting type to communicate a particular message or to create a pleasing layout. Rather, he was more interested in creating a whole picture. His eagerness to combine images and type, or to use type to create an image, emphasizes the growing move of typographic designers away from being fundamentally interested in type, and more towards a general interest in visual print and publication communication, or graphic design. This is seen in both this early work from the 1950s and early 1960s, as well as his better-known later work, such as his poster designs for Toronto Theatre Productions. As Donnelly notes, his approach emphasizes a particularly Canadian relationship with international modern styles. "The eclecticism and edginess, and the illustration-based approach of much of his work (even when he is using only type), underline the way in which Canadian awareness and acceptance of modern experimentation were often enhanced by an engagement with traditional styles (such as Victoriana), humorous and ironic contrast, and a variety of visual styles and media, including illustration." (page 109)
Gerald (Gerry) Moses was Dimson's senior, being born in Toronto in 1913. In 1930 he gained the position of art director at Baker Advertising. During the Second World War he joined the navy, where he received training in photography, leading to an interest in still photography and film. Following the war he made use of his training and his interests at the art director of the Imperial Oil Review, as a member of the Art Directors Club of Toronto, the Arts and Letters Club, the TDC, and the Aspen International Design Conference. However, it is his work at the Imperial Oil Review for which he is best known. The publication was produced in Toronto for the employees and shareholders of the corporation, and during the late 1950s it underwent a period of design experimentation with Moses at the helm. This experimentation began when Moses started using designs by Toronto designers for more stylish covers. However, given the stylishness of the Toronto design community, he soon began using their designs throughout the publication. These included the childlike illustrations by Arnaud Maggs, which emphasized the stress upon bold colours and domestic themes of the 1950s. Other illustrators included Michael Snow and Theo Dimson. In 1961 the typographic designer John Richmond was hired to work on the publication's staff, adding stylish layouts and a use of nostalgic elements to the journal's visual designs, approaches which were similar to the work of Theo Dimson. Like Fleming, all of these designers used many different visual tools, including traditional and mass media references, arranged and combined in new and modern ways, to communicate ideas. Some of these approaches, as with Fleming's work, depended upon new developments in printing technology, while at times also making use of illustration and the fine arts.
At the end of the chapter (page 113) Donnelly notes that the various individual designers he had already discussed each had different approaches to their work, all of which they called, and which are usually viewed as, modern. While each approach was a reaction to the idea of modernism, Donnelly dedicates his final chapters to examining what modernism is as an abstract idea within which the approach of each of the designers he discussed can be understood as fitting.
CHAPTER 5: Defining Mass Modernism
Donnelly begins his fifth chapter by briefly retracing the history of Canadian graphic design. He begins by defining what graphic design is. He defines it as being, "concerned with surface, with the way in which appearance changes and enhances the function of a given commodity." (page 114) Donnelly stresses that the surface in question has traditionally been print, but that with new and evolving media, surfaces have come to include television, exhibits, packaging, public spaces, and even clothing. Furthermore, given the date of Donnelly's thesis (1997), one could subsequently add website design. Furthermore, he notes that the field of design had its origins in printing and typesetting. With the division of labour in these fields, specialists emerged who were primarily concerned with how the final product appeared. This began with how the letters and what images which could be included were arranged. However, with the evolution in printing technology and techniques, they were able to make new demands of style upon the medium. As the field evolved, the experts in design began to see design as something separate from the typesetting and printing from which it emerged. It was not the sum of the typesetting or printmaking process. While heavily reliant upon those trades to create a finished designed product, the trade/art (depends upon whom you ask) of design was understood as a separate intellectual pursuit which could then be expressed through print.
The advertising industry was quick to make use of the skills of designers as graphic design began to develop as a separate field. However, advertising was quite different from graphic design. The main aim of advertising is the successful marketing of someone else's product. In contrast, the main aim of design is enhancing a surface to communicate a particular idea, or particular ideas (implicitly, explicitly, or both). Designers in the printing and advertising industry began to separate themselves from those industries, both figuratively or literally, when they began to realize that the time they dedicated to carefully studying what text and other visual elements should be used, and how they should be arranged, should not be simply included as part of an advertising or printing service. While printing firms concerned themselves with the practical aspects of printing, and advertising agencies came up with overall approaches and how they could be marketed, the selection and arrangement of the best visual elements could not, for those involved in the profession, be considered a subsidiary role. Thus, designers moved from, what Dimson called the supermarket of advertising agencies, or the printshop floor, to the office or studio settings.
Donnelly argues that as designers realized that they could bill for their work separately from printers and advertisers, small design firms which relied upon the specialized approaches of their members began to appear, along with separate design departments within larger advertising and typesetting firms. Designers also distinguished themselves from commercial artists, which included the more high profile professionals of illustrators and photographers who created elements of publishing layouts, but did not combine all of the visual elements of publications.
Donnelly argues that the "differentiation" of design from the industries of advertising, printing, and typesetting is the essential definition of modernism. Modernism for Donnelly is the self-conscious differentiation from what came before. Different from the development of a style, the concept of differentiation can be understood as the Enlightenment project and is identified in the writings of Kant and Weber. In art, modernism is defined, according to Donnelly, as a self-aware and self-critical differentiation of the practitioner as choosing approaches and modes of experimentation which are separate and distinct from tradition. In fine art, the post-war period saw both the increased publicity of fine art, but also the development of a less popular and harder to understand avant-garde. A similar development occurred in design, with the development of new modern forms which were hard to understand and based upon critical examinations of other forms of design. According to Donnelly, it was the prosperity of the post-war period, and its increased consumption which allowed, by the 1950s, there to arise increased division of labour within design itself. New small, professional studios were producing an internally consistent design language and a variety of styles, all of which led to the development of a distinct profession. The success of this language with governments and the commercial world only fed the development of the profession.
In Canada, the economic and intellectual self-differentiation of graphic design (which is the basic process of professionalization) was itself the motivation which allowed designers to overcome the traditions of the printing and publication fields. It was because they saw that they were and could do more than had traditionally been done by printers and typographers that the designers considered their work distinct, and it was because of this distinction that they also felt the freedom to experiment and differentiate themselves from the traditional role of the designer as just a part of the printing or typesetting process. "It is the process of the economic and intellectual self-definition and differentiation of graphic design, its definition as a profession, which compelled artists in the graphic art to overcome previous practice with modern forms, and change the look of our printed environment from the reproduction of traditional forms dictated by conservative craftsmen to a dynamically experimental and rapidly expanding art form. This professional, industrial, mass process is the modernist event itself." (page 117) Thus, modern design was not the result of designers removing the non-essential from design. It was the positioning of graphic design as a self-conscious element of mass media. Modern design was not the development of a single style, but a variety of visual styles put forward by the membership in national organizations, and their conscious use of the design process. Thus, from a Lyotardian perspective (which is not Donnelly's perspective), modern design is the imposition of the narrative that designers have specialized skills through which the designer can visually enhance the layout and arrangement of the visual elements of a print, publication, etc. The notion that one can enhance the printed text was not a new idea. Indeed, one could claim that printers had been doing so since the Victorian era. However, graphic design took this further by separating that skill from the printing or publishing process, and claiming that graphic designers had specialized skills which allowed them to efficiently and effectively communicate specific ideas through visual designs. From this position, different schools or styles of graphic design emerged which claimed that their approach was the most effective means of communicating such specific ideas.
As Donnelly notes, graphic designers such as Fleming and Dimson were the beginning of the differentiation process in Canada. They did not subscribe to specific styles of graphic design, claiming all others to be wrong. Rather, they simply self-identified themselves as designers, and thus, as individuals who believed that they understood and approached graphic design in a specialized way, and that they could communicate specific ideas more effectively and efficiently than the average printer or publisher. They also differentiated themselves from commercial artists and were scornful of those who wanted to create art for arts sake. Whereas many commercial artists were simply artists who had taken up commercial art for economic reasons, the designer is dedicated to advertising art, conscious of all of the visual elements of a design and the message(s) they communicate.
Donnelly explains that avant-garde modernism developed in Europe during the 1920s, primarily in Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union. It focused upon uniting art and life, which would be fully realized through a socialist, working class revolutionary movement. However, as revolutionary movements in both countries were crushed by authoritarian regimes, the influence of the modernist avant-garde of these countries also faded. After the Second World War these avant-gardes were taken in different directions. Following the war the oppositional position of the avant-garde modernism appeared to have failed. Modernism was increasingly identified with the economic and social success of the capitalist west, and any modern opposition to that world view was seen as outside of mainstream society. This resulted in a hierarchy of the arts with the avant-garde restricted to the high arts, and most of society was left with that which is recognizable, understandable, and unchallenging. As Donnelly argues, most designers understood themselves, given the commercial nature of their jobs, relegated to the lower arts, unable to offer clients challenging designs which the public and their clients might not understand or accept. However, as ideas of the avant-garde became more widely understood and accepted, approaches were borrowed by the design community. Donnelly notes how the design annuals of the 1950s contained a large number of references to members of the high-art world, including Calder, Mondrian, Pellan, and Picasso. However, Donnelly argues that because designers necessarily remained part of the mass art market, but were increasingly viewed as professional and distinct from commercial artists, commercial arts studios were increasingly doomed. During the 1950s and 1960s the division of labour in the mass art market increasingly meant that illustrators, painters, and photographers, like designers, would not allow themselves to be thought of as mere "creative" subservient workers who were part of the printing, publishing, or advertising process.
A high-modernist autonomy
That modernism was differentiated from tradition, that it was a critical space for various fields, led to its being isolated from mass society, defined, by itself and by others, as artistic high-modernism. Thus, high modernism was understood as being autonomous from the modern mass culture from which it had originally emerged. Furthermore, high-modernist theory held that high-modernism was necessarily apart from mass culture because it formed an opposition to broader and widely accepted cultural symbols and ideals. While always having been critical of mass culture, the new distance of high-modern art did not allow for it to lead society in making cultural changes. Artistic experimentation was the domain of formal high-art professionals, and any union between art and life would only be on the terms of high-art, and thus, largely outside of the understanding or consciousness of mass culture. High-art also abandoned all popular art forms as of a lesser category, and this included design, which was an undeniably applied art, and thus holding a compromised position concerning pure experimentation.
However, Donnelly argues that the different forms of modern design which have emerged since the war contradict the notion that experimentation could not occur within the design profession. There is no one preferred design vision, but a range of solutions to various design problems. Each of the designers discussed by Donnelly had an understanding and/or training in typesetting and printing and they were all influenced by various media, historical traditions, and stylistic approaches. In addition, the increasing complexity and conscious development of design further challenged the notion of experimentation only occurring in high art. In addition, the role of designers was becoming less that of a subservient artist who responds to the demands of clients, and more that of an integral person in marketing and economic activity, a central figure in the print industry, and an individual with increasing control over the content of his/her work. All of these elements removed the notion that modern art was confined to "higher" art. Donnelly claims that modernism's critical aspect is its ability to challenge and/or reveal ideological elements of traditional practice which need to remain hidden in order to have any authority. (p 122) The ability of modern design to experiment was, however, tied to the investment climate of the post-war era. In a period of economic prosperity, companies, governments, and organizations were willing to risk money on challenging new design approaches which might not yield immediate or safe results. As Donnelly notes, "Culture is not always directly profitable: it involves a certain willingness to invest - whether through government funding, private speculative purchases, or artists themselves willing to take a financial lass - in long-term and often vague goals, such as greater ideological stability; international prestige, and the maintenance of intellectual experimentation generally." (page 122) Indeed, Donnelly ends the section by arguing that, for a period (the post-war period), which had allegedly seen the end of mass modernism, design has actually transgressed the boundary between the high and the applied arts. The professionalization of the applied arts has seen an increase in their stature and the ability of the applied arts to challenge tradition in a variety of ways.
Communication as Inherently Contradictory
If the clearest form of communication is the repetition of patterns which are already understood, then design should not be able to be creative or innovative. Communication would be understood to be fundamentally contrary to modernism. This contradiction points to the tension in modernism between the analytic and the synthetic approaches to design. The first is the search for a single solution through careful analysis of the problem. The latter proposes a number of possible solutions by making use of various influences or design tools. There is a similar tension between professional design conception and its reception by the public. While designs may be designed to be understood in a particular way, how they are actually received may be quite different. Finally, there is a related tension between international design trends which influence Canadian designers and existing Canadian tradition. The existing tradition has and does influence the implementation of international trends. Thus, in the effort to produce effective communication, the graphic designer has to negotiate all of these tensions.
Donnelly notes that the modern aspect of design has always been subject to local or regional design practices, from the manner in which a local newspaper has traditionally designed its ads to traditional design social class distinctions. In order to create acceptable designs, graphic designers have always had to balance such regional demands with more abstract notions of how best to design. As modern design is always attempting to push the bounds of acceptable design through innovations about the best approaches to design, it must typically retain certain traditional visual markers, so as to allow the design to be recognizable and effective.
Modernism's ongoing attack on language
Donnelly argues that in the history of modern Canadian graphic design, the more that designers emphasized that their task was to create objective, or pure, communication, the more that their designs became analytical and geometrically reductive. Other designers, such as Fleming, did not try and reduce their designs down to some form of pure communication language, but used design to synthesize ideas, exploding and experimenting with the language of design. However, in either case (the analytical or synthetic approach) Donnelly claims that Canadian designers "took an aggressive approach in defining and shaping and distinguishing the language of design." He notes that in a modern society, where traditional views are overturned by new attempts at structuring the world, has led to a new elasticity in language. New professions, dedicated to explaining the world in new and unique ways have led to language being used in ways never conceived of before. Modernism, has questioned traditional world views, and thus traditional ways of using language, including visual significations. The signifier and the signified have been separated and are constantly being reordered as new language games are created.
Modernism's basis in Modernization
Many of the different examples of modern graphic design and designers discussed above cannot be easily classified as following one particular style. They even have varying relationships with traditional practices and approaches to design. While some made use of new technologies and completely new approaches to design, others incorporated elements of traditional images, fonts, and styles, and even used old technologies to create their final product, as in the case of Dair who used old printing technologies.
This inability to easily classify modern design as being of a singular style is, as Donnelly argues, the results of modernism being a process and not a fixed style or end-product. Furthermore, this modernism should not be understood as being a complete rejection of tradition, but as an evolution away from tradition. He believes that clarification of this situation can be reached by examining the difference between modernism and modernization.
Donnelly defines modernization by referencing Perry Anderson's paper "Modernism and Revolution" from the book Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Perry claims that modernization is the economic process and expansion of the means of development in a capitalist system. Modernism, however, is the self-conscious artistic response that is provoked by this modernization process. As modernization expanded industry and other practices and activities associated with increased production and the means of production, other elements of society and the modern world were removed and/or destroyed. Often troubling, these modernizing forces and the traditional economic, social, and political relations which allowed them to occur came under increased scrutiny. Furthermore, Modernism is neither politically left nor right. (It was compatible with Fascism, through the futurism movement.) It is caused by one's feeling alienated from reality, and modern art is an attempt to find a new means of identifying with, or seeing that reality, or at least aspects of it.
In terms of visual representation, Donnelly argues that conventions and traditions of such representation are the result of needs and necessity, but they often go unexamined and unquestioned, being conveniently accepted as the correct manner by which certain things should be represented. Modernism, however, is the process of consciously exposing those myths or conventions to public critique. This is accomplished by seeking out and discovering alternative approaches. This involves manipulating, controlling, and transforming traditional ways of representing the world. Thus, modernism depends upon tradition, in that it requires something to manipulate. Usable parts of the past are used in the present, altered and transformed using all available tools, including present technologies.
The Postmodern Discourse About Modernism
Donnelly's argument concerning post-modernism is that it does not represent the denial of modernism, and that modernism still does motivate contemporary culture. This, I argue, is exactly what Lyotard claims in The Postmodern Condition, when he argues that postmodernism does not deny modernism. It simply points out that modernism will necessarily always fail at its attempts to try and expose reality, or some element of reality. However, postmodernism would also recognize that the only means of successfully communicating with other people who have diverse world views is to experiment and attempt by what ever means possible to find new means of communicating. Thus, while doomed to be imperfect, such modern communication is necessary. As Donnelly notes, in this way, postmodernism has affirmed the central arguments of high-modernism and maintained a division between the high and the low arts, taking a rather dim view of mass culture.
Donnelly suggests that postmodernism arose out of the institutionalization and policing of high-modernism in post-Second World War western society. The separation of high-modernism from mass culture emphasized how vastly different the views of most of society are and can be from avant-garde reactions against it. Donnelly argues that postmodernism emerged also partly because of increased study of popular cultural developments, and the persistence, and even reemergence, of low-cultural forms which were rejected by high-modernism. Furthermore, he notes that postmodernism can be understood to be a return to the original avant-garde modernism of the 1920s, where modernism was not separated from mass culture. Referencing Huyssen's After the Great Divide, Donnelly suggests that poststructuralism can be understood as discourse about modernism, and postmodernism can be viewed as a search for modernism without reference to high, or classical, modernism. In referencing Frederic Jameson, Donnelly suggests that postmodernism is a rejection of high-modernism. He writes that postmodernism takes the tools of high-modernism, including eclecticism, the manipulation of the popular arts, and irony, and uses them in the art of mass culture, or at least art directed at and made for mass culture.
However, Donnelly also states that postmodernism continues the project of high-modernism by having distain for mass culture. He argues that postmodernism is only seen as being a liberating position if one views modernism as having its roots in the enlightenment project of imposing a single world view. What Donnelly claims postmodernism misunderstands, or "misses", is the energy and call for change which is exemplified by modern design. Donnelly argues that postmodernism starts from a position of pessimism about the transformative element of mass, modern spectacular, commodified culture. He even claims that Lyotard argues that the consensus which exists in mass culture concerning art is a great evil. However, this is a terrible misreading of Lyotard, who does argue that what often passes for the art of mass culture is the recognizable and the unchallenging, but he does not claim that modernism is evil. Rather, he recognizes that all modern art fails in it project or attempting to reveal new truths about the world, but argues that the modern artist simply needs to recognize that fact, not that they should stop what they are doing or that there is no creativity in modern art. Even Donnelly argues above that modern design is constantly striving to overcome and transform traditional means of representing the world. This is no different from what Lyotard is calling for. Furthermore, as has been seen, modern Canadian graphic design organizations, such as the TDC through its Typography competitions, regularly attacked designers for using clichés or gimmicks and not being creative and challenging traditional views. Design which failed to challenge and only used accepted standards and traditions was often labelled by commentators in the TDC annuals as "bad design." The TDC even introduced an "experimental design" section to its competitions, which encouraged change. Thus, if anything, one could argue that modern Canadian graphic designers of the 1950s and 1960s were somewhat postmodern in their views.
A pronounced fear of mass culture
Donnelly also attacks the Marxist position that commodity production, including that of art, removes the qualitative element between people and things, and replaces it with quantities. Thus, the meaning of modern art is changed from something which is supposed to expand one's consciousness to the production of new commodities which can be sold. Their newness only entices people to buy them, they do not alter peoples' understanding of reality since the public is only looking to buy new things, not to alter the way they look at the world. They are invariably trapped in a commodified world, and the modern art, as an instrument of commodification, fails to challenge that position. Donnelly argues, however, that while mass culture does not often express resistance, it can. This is what he sees in modern design. It takes the form of mass culture but, as he notes above, from high-modernism, "suggesting the possibility of overcoming the fetishizing power which the commodity-form of production exerts on our lives." (p 133) Donnelly accuses Marxist theorists, such as George Lukacs , of refusing to recognize this possibility and continuing to only identify with high culture, seeing mass culture as only being a source of the commodity fetishism and alienating power. Donnelly argues that Lukacs and other Marxists' views of mass commodification fail to see that what they are describing is simply modernization, which brought with it a dramatic growth in commodities of both high and low artistic quality. They fail to see that the artistic drive, such as experimental design, behind much mass modernist culture does have a potential to change people's views of the world.
Use-value, and Benjamin: restoring the commodity's value
This art could be the source of a new world. Lukacs and others fail to see that modern life is not necessarily only based upon a fetish for commodities, where art's use-value has been replaced by an exchange-value. Donnelly claims that this is actually impossible since, in the case of design, one must recognize that the exchange-value of anything is based upon its use-value. The most valuable design, that with the highest exchange-value, is that which is more pleasurable and/or communicates in new and more effective ways. In its continuing relationship with modern, industrial society, modern design is constantly trying to come to terms with it. It is constantly questioning via experimental design. Donnelly argues that it is continually trying to capture the experience of modern life, which, he argues, is the whole point of modernism. As an applied art, design tries to avoid the formalism and distance of high-art. "As a mass modernism, graphic design has become a powerful cultural tool and a valuable commodity form." (p 136)
"The pressure, ubiquity, and seeming lack of individuality in our mass media are the necessary counterpoint to modernization's simultaneous brutality, and to the success of its enormously expanded level of production.
Popular culture has been marginalized by the assumption that a crude, direct relationship necessarily exist between the alienated condition of workers as a mass audience, and their experience of things. But what has been missed is the extent to which an increasing attention to appearance, to image, and to design in our culture, is driven by the mass demand for heightened pleasure and experience. However we may characterize the `quality' of mass culture (borrowing traditional terms of social and class value and distinction), it is impossible to deny that an awareness of design, film, interior and furniture design, and the many other cultural forms of mass modernism has penetrated to the roots of our society." (page 137)
Donnelly concludes his chapter by noting that the constant demand for unique designed goods is a demand for a reaction to modernization. In a world which creates an abundance of similar commodities, or an expansion of production, modern design strives to create difference, or for a better visual experience.
Donnelly ends his thesis by claiming that modern design emerged as a profession with the recognition that design was a conscious, self-critical aspect of the printing and publishing trades. While self-critical design had been claimed by the high arts, and was often confined to galleries and museums, many involved in the print, typography, and publishing industries recognized that they too engaged in design as part of their position in the creation of mass commodities. They thus began a process of differentiating themselves from fields such as advertising and typography, identifying what they did as being quite different from mechanical reproduction, typesetting, or decorative illustration. Through experimentation, analysis, and an understanding of the traditions and history of printing and typography, Canadian graphic designers created new ways, or a new language, of visual communication. Furthermore, through developing professional organizations they not only came to share their ideas, but encouraged the public to understand their work as being significant and legitimate. He also concludes that postmodernism and Marxist theory are wrong to claim that modernism has failed to offer alternatives to a consumption obsessed reality, but that modernism, including modern design, contains the creativity essential to suggest alternatives. This conclusion, however, as I mentioned above, is based on a misunderstanding of postmodernism.