Sunday, December 11, 2011

Graphic Art and Design / Robert Stacey

Robert Stacey, "Graphic Art and Design," The Canadian Encyclopedia.


Stacey begins his Canadian Encyclopedia entry by explaining that both graphic art and design are different kinds of visual communication. They are related to other fields such as commercial art, publication design, typography, and type design, all of which are considered "applied arts" rather than fine arts since their primary aim is to express a predetermined message rather than a message determined by the artist. They are also related to industrial design, the main purpose of which is to create physical objects which fulfill a particular purpose. Furthermore, graphic design is sometimes referred to as being a part of "visual communications" or "information design," in that they are designed graphic elements which communicate specific information.

Formal training in graphic art and design did not begin in Canada until well into the twentieth century. Up until the 1870s and 1880s the only art which was taught in Canada was either technical drawing, required for the conception of products, and watercolour painting. Following 1867 the fine-art colleges in Canada's larger centres added classes in commercial art, lithography, engraving, lettering and illustration. These classes provided the country commercial artists, typesetters, printers, and engravers who could fill the need for such tradesmen in the printing and publishing trades, as well as the art departments of advertising agencies, the first of which was opened in Montreal in 1889. Prior to the introduction of training in these skills the printing and advertising industries had to rely upon the skills of often self-taught craftsmen. However, their ability to keep abreast of the latest and best technologies, as well as how to properly use them, became increasingly difficult with the industrial revolution and the numerous subsequent technical developments in printing technology. These developments included the introduction of lithography (which had been invented in 1796, but was brought to Canada by the 1840s), chromolithography, photographic line and halftone plates, and steam-driven rotary presses. All of these innovations sped up the printing process and/or allowed for the printing of images and text in ways which were previously not possible.

In the case of lithography - a printing process which involved etching images and text into a wax-coated smooth plate - Canada's first lithographers were often immigrants from Germany, where the technology had emerged. In contrast, the country's line engravers were often from Britain. Stacey suggests that one of the more notable line engravers was John Allanson, who immigrated to Toronto in 1849. Allanson had been a student of the British wood-engraver Thomas Bewick. He was followed in 1873 by Frederick Brigden, who had been taught in Britain by another of Bewick's former students, W.J. Linton. Brigden started the Toronto Engraving Company, which eventually changed its name to Brigden's Limited. Followed in the business by his son, Frederick Brigden Jr, the company hired numerous local Toronto artists who would create drawings which were later engraved by the company's engravers on boxwood or on metal plates through photo-engraving. A second office in Winnipeg also hired several local Manitoba artists for the same purpose. Other prominent engraving and lithography firms included Alexander and Cable, Barclay, Clark and Co, the Canadian Photo-Engraving Co, and the Thomson Engraving Co.

The establishment of several illustration reproduction firms and the arrival of numerous immigrant lithographers and engravers caused the publishers of Canadian newspapers and magazines, as well as advertising firms, to begin to experiment with the technology. This started with small illustrations and decorations which grew in size during the 1870s and 1880s. This was followed by the introduction of artist-reporters at some newspapers. These were journalists who would not only describe what they saw in words, but would produce accompanying illustrations. The newspaper which first made use of these illustrative elements was the Toronto Globe. During the 1880s the Globe, working with the Toronto Lithographing Company, then the country's largest and most advanced lithography company, produced advertising posters as well as illustrated special publications. These special publications included The Canadian War News which reported on developments in the North-West Rebellion.

The Toronto Lithographing Company's artists included Octave-Henri Julien, a painter and illustrator from Montreal, who would create illustrations for the Canadian Illustrated News before becoming the art director for the Montreal Star in 1888. He was particularly well known for his cartoons of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Another was Charles William Jefferys, who had emigrated from Britain. He eventually worked for the New York Herald before becoming chief illustrator for the Toronto Star (1905) and then art director for The Star Weekly (1910). Leaving the Star to work as a freelance illustrator, he also taught at the University of Toronto's School of Architecture (1911-1939). Jefferys is often recognized for his illustrations, or "visual reconstructions," of historical, and pre-historical, Canadian scenes. Toronto Lithographing also employed the brother, William, of the political cartoonist John Wilson Bengough. John Bengough founded the satirical weekly publication Grip in 1873, and the magazine eventually produced an off-shoot commercial art firm, Grip Limited. The commercial artists who worked for Grip Ltd. during the 1900s and 1910s included Jefferys, future Group of Seven members Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, and J.E.H. MacDonald, as well as the group's associate Tom Thomson. In addition, several of the artists working for Grip Ltd. eventually followed the Grip art director, A.H. Robson, to go and work for Rous and Mann Press Limited, also of Toronto. Rous and Mann specialized in commercial typography work for newspapers. Others from Grip Ltd., including Carmichael and A.J. Casson (who replaced Franz Johnston in the Group of Seven in 1926), went to work for the silkscreen printing company Sampson, Matthews Limited.

The Toronto Lithographing Company's main competition in engraving and lithography during the late nineteenth century was Rolph, Smith and Company, established by the British-born watercolour painter, J.T. Rolph. Rolph, Smith and Co. eventually merged with another firm, Stone Limited, to form Rolph-Clark-Stone in 1917. In the case of Grip Ltd., it also underwent mergers, becoming Rapid Grip and Betten, and then Bomac Batten before being taken over by the Laird Group.

Stacey claims that Montreal was not as developed as Toronto during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in terms of lithography and commercial art production. While there were lithography and engraving companies, they tended to be English owned and run, typically only employing English-Canadian illustrators and designers. Most other Canadian cities would have graphic art establishments by the start of the twentieth century. However, Stacey stresses that these were typically not independent studios, let alone advertising agencies. Most of the time they were sections of printing companies, department stores, or serial publishing companies such as newspapers and magazines.

Stacey notes that at the beginning of the twentieth century much Canadian graphic art and design was still being influenced by the Victorian trend towards conservativeness and overdecoration. Younger artists and designers working for the country's printing and lithography firms, designers who were familiar with newer European and American approaches to design, began to challenge accepted standards by creating designs which reflected the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau design. As Stacey notes, Arthur Lismer and F.H. Varley at Grip Ltd. had both been trained at the Sheffield School of Art and were very familiar with these styles, while others had received training from teachers who had immigrated from abroad, had travelled to the United States and/or Europe where they were exposed to newer styles, or were seeing such styles reflected in imported publications. For example J.E.H. MacDonald, while born in Britain, had immigrated to Canada in his youth, attending the Hamilton Art School in his teens. However, he eventually came to study the approach to art and design of William Morris when working for Carlton Studios in London, which had been established by three former employees of Grip Ltd. in 1903: A.A. Martin, T.G. Greene, and Norman Price. According to Stacey, the three founders of Carleton Studios later claimed that its establishment marked the introduction of the design, or commercial art, "studio idea" to Britain. Furthermore, he claims that by the 1920s Carleton had become the largest such design/commercial art studio in the world.

In discussing various uses of graphic design during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Stacey explains that, apart from advertising and news coverage, graphic design was used for political propaganda as of the 1890s. Indeed, the first federal election campaign posters were created by the Toronto Lithography Co. for the Industrial League in support of Sir John A. Macdonald's election campaign. According to Stacey, this also began a history of political parties, and connected organizations, having advertising and graphic art companies produce material for political propaganda. With the defeat of the Conservative government in Ottawa in 1896, the new Liberal Minister of the Interior, Cliford Sifton worked with Canadian Pacific Railways to have posters designed which would help encourage western settlement. This settlement/political advertising arrangement between the federal government and the railway would continue into the 1920s. Furthermore, other transportation companies, including Canadian National Railways  (created in 1918) and steamship lines transporting immigrants from European countries began designing highly visual colour lithographic posters, similar to those of the CPR, in order to compete for both domestic and international customers.

With the First World War the Canadian government further expanded its use of graphic art and design services, as it required visual materials designed and produced to encourage recruitment, sell Victory Bonds, and encourage other forms of support for the war effort. To these ends Ottawa created the War Poster Service. The service coordinated the government's various poster campaigns, hiring various printing and graphic art companies to design and print material, which included colour lithographic posters, newspaper and magazine advertisements, and large billboard advertisements. As Stacey explains, during the Second World War, coordination work was done by the Wartime Information Board. A federal agency, which succeeded the scandal-ridden Bureau of Public Information, the board's General Managers included John Grierson. Grierson was also Commissioner of the National Film Board which produced both propaganda films and posters for the war effort, employing several commercial artists who would later become important figures in the development of graphic design as a distinct field. Designers and illustrators working for the NFB during the war included Leslie Trevor, A.J. Casson, Eric Aldwinckle, Albert Cloutier, William Winter, Alex Colville, Philip Surrey, Rex Woods, J.S. Hallam, A. Bruce Stapleton, and Henry Eveleigh.

As Stacey notes, during the first half of the twentieth century many commercial artists were not individuals who wished to dedicate their lives to communicating the ideas of clients through images and type. Rather, many were fine-artists who had taken up commercial art, illustration, and typographic design so as to finance their fine-art careers. During the 1940s and 1950s English-Canadian artists who supported themselves through commercial art, illustration, and typographic design, and who would eventually be recognized as accomplished artists, included Bertram Brooker, Carl Schaefer, Clare Bice, Fred J. Finlay, Jack McLaren, John A. Hall, Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, and Harold Town. Artists who continued to do such work into the 1960s included Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow, and Louis de Niverville. Stacey claims that in Quebec, many artists found similar supplementary employment working on church commissions and as art instructors at various colleges. He also notes that this need for many accomplished artists to support themselves through commercial art work, art directorships, or positions as editorial artists was only lessened in the 1960s with the creation of the Canada Council for the Arts and various provincial arts councils. These councils provided grants to assist artists to dedicate their time and energy to their fine-art careers. Significantly, as is noted by Stacey, with the release of many artists from the need to work in the advertising and design field, a new community of professional designers, whose primary interest as visual communication, was able to develop.

In discussing graphic design during the post-war years, Stacey notes that the 1950s and 1960s were marked by the arrival of numerous graphic designers and design school teachers from Europe, often bringing with them the revived modernist movements which had begun following the First World War with the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements, the typography of Jan Tschichold, the grid system, and the preference for sans-serif fonts, all of which were especially popular amongst designers of German, Dutch, and Swiss extraction and training. Hired by design departments, advertising agencies, commercial art studios, and typesetting agencies, many of these immigrant designers also taught at Canada's art schools, thus further spreading the influence of the rigorous, rational, and essentialist International Style. Often working in Ottawa and Montreal during the 1960s and 1970s, prospering from contracts with a federal government which was attempting to adopt a new, modern look; the high-tech manufacturing and pharmaceutical industry; as well as from the large-scale design projects of Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games, European immigrant designers such as Peter Bartl, Horst Deppe, Gerhard Doerrie, Fritz Gottschalk, Rolf Harder, Walter Jungkind and Ernst Roch came to heavily influence the government and corporate designs of the era. Furthermore, given that many of those designers, as well as many of the large-scale design projects, were based in Montreal, Quebec also produced a number of native-born graphic designers who were steeped in the International Style, including Georges Beaupré, Laurent Marquart, Pierre-Yves Pelletier and Jean Morin.

Stacey claims that in contrast to Montreal, Toronto was heavily influenced by the British typographical tradition. More restrained than the International Style, and heavily informed by the history of typography and type design, the Toronto graphic design community was led by figures such as Carl Dair, Allan Fleming, Clair Stewart, Leslie Smart, Carl Brett and John Gibson. While Carl Dair is often portrayed as the most conservative of these designers, believing that good design could only be achieved with a thorough understanding of the history of printing, typographic design, and type design, the most prominent Toronto designer during the 1950s and 1960s was Allan Fleming. First working for typesetting companies, by the late 1960s Fleming was in charge of design for University of Toronto Press, radically altering book design at the press, giving careful attention to overall book design, ensuring that designs compliment and enhance the written text. Similar attention was given to book design by Frank Newfeld and V. John Lee at McClelland & Stewart, Peter Dorn at Queen's University Press, and Robert Reid and Ib Kristensen at McGill University Press. While known for his book designs during the later 1960s and the 1970s, Fleming was most well known for his influential 1960 redesign of the Canadian National Railways logo. Not averse to modern design (the CN logo being very geometric and essentialist in appearance), Stacey notes that Fleming believed that a single style should not dominate in design, and that both humour and humanism were positive qualities found in Canadian design that should be maintained.

As a distinct group, Toronto's uniformly English speaking graphic design community was the first such community to try and professionalize graphic design as a distinct field. In 1956 four of the city's English-born designers established the Society of Typographic Designers of Canada (TDC). The aim of its founders (Frank Davies, John Gibson, Frank Newfeld and Leslie (Sam) Smart) was to exhibit what was understood amongst the leaders of the community as quality works of design so as to both celebrate the work of their creators and to inspire other designers and encourage them to aspire to match or exceed such levels of design. In addition, as is explicitly stated in the annual catalogues of the society's annual exhibit/competition, the TDC was also created to legitimize the field of typographic design (or graphic design) as a profession which was distinct from the advertising, printing, or publishing industries. Significantly, the first meeting of the TDC was held at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, which had been the meeting place of the Group of Seven, as well as the group's artist and designer colleagues.

The first exhibition and competition of the TDC was held in 1958 and was sponsored, as were all subsequent TDC exhibitions, by the Rolland Paper Company. The competition was divided into three sections including book design, business printing design, and magazine design, and the results and the entries were documented in Typography 58. Similar exhibitions were held and annuals published until 1964. Stacey claims that through these annuals, "the increasing professionalization and internationalization of graphic design in Canada can be traced." It was also during the first year of the TDC's annual design exhibition and competition, 1958, that the society was legally incorporated and in 1960 it began a fellowship program which granted a fellowship to the designer who had made the greatest contribution to design during that year. In addition, the TDC pressured the federal government to support Canadian design, resulting in the establishment in 1961 of the Design Council and Design Canada. The council and its activities wing were to encourage Canadian design, design education, and cooperation between designers and industry through publications, exhibitions, as well as research into necessary design standards.

Stacey notes that, as a good indicator of the development of different styles and approaches to graphic design in Canada during the late 1950s and early-mid 1960, the TDC's Typography annuals are a good means by which to judge tensions and disagreements within the Canadian design community. While noting the increase in the influence of the International Style upon the entries to the annuals, Stacey also notes that the publications' accompanying commentary often provided views which contradicted position which the large number of Swiss inspired entries suggested. For example, in his written contribution to Typography 64 Fleming argued that, while the European immigrant designers had contributed to Canadian design, Fleming "also cautioned that this 'international style', characterized by the ubiquitous use of sans-serif types like Helvetica and Univers and the pursuit of an impersonal 'corporate' or 'institutional' look, militated against the emergence of a specifically Canadian design identity." As mentioned above, Fleming called for a mixture of regulated and humanistic, serious and humourous approaches to design. He believed that this eclectic mix was the most appropriate means of ensuring a healthy Canadian design community. Others (whom Stacey does not identify), however, saw the apparent lack of an established graphic design tradition in Canada, and the arrival of the newer European styles, as an opportunity to borrow only those elements of older approaches to design which were seen as useful in the creation of a new Canadian style. Yet, throughout the 1960s and 1970s different designers used various means to communicate visually and an overarching "Canadian" approach to type and layout design was not developed.

By the late 1960s, it was becoming increasingly apparent to designers that type was only one element of graphic design. Stacey claims that this was made clear through the success of many different kinds of visual design prepared for Expo 67, and, as one might also suggest, the visual designs created for other centennial year celebrations. Furthermore, regardless of various attempts to present itself as a bilingual organization through the later additions of Typography, the TDC was still a largely Toronto-centric, English speaking organization. In an attempt to change its image so that it conformed more to the dominant notions of two-dimensional visual design, as well as Canada's national linguistic makeup, the TDC changed its name in 1968 to the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada/Société des graphistes du Canada. In 1975 various national chapters were established, and in 1976 legal documents were filed and a national charter was granted.

As is indicated by the TDC Typography annuals, while largely dominated by Torontonians and other English-Canadians, the TDC had, by the 1960s, attracted numerous French-Canadian graphic design participants to its yearly exhibitions, as well as many of the prominent immigrant designers who had settled in Montreal. (This last fact is overlooked by Stacey.) However, by the early 1970s Quebec graphic designers had formed a separate professional organization to accommodate their increased numbers and prominence, largely resulting from the large amount of local graphic design work created by both Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games. Formed in 1972, the Société des graphistes du Québec represented a more closely knit design community than the GDC, but, as Stacey notes, it was still heavily influenced by the European immigrant designers, several of the most prominent of which had settled in Montreal, including Rolf Harder, Ernst Roch, and Fritz Gottschalk.

While the many Quebec-based designers had been hired to work on Expo 67, the exhibition also employed several designers from outside of the province. The director-general of graphics and for the fair was Georges Huel of Montreal. While he also designed the official Expo poster, Guy Lalumiere created the posters for the cultural pavilions. The "Man and his World" symbol for Expo 67 was designed by another Montrealer, Julien Hébert. Yet, apart from these Montreal-based designers, others from outside of Quebec were also hired to play significant roles in the design of signage, publications, and identity programs, including Paul Arthur and his Ottawa design firm, Burton Kramer, Frank Mayrs, and Neville Smith.

In the case of the 1976 Olympic Games, Stacey argues that the design of all of its elements was not only strictly controlled by the design team, but that it was thoroughly modernist in style, a fact which he suggests may have arguably harmed or benefitted the games. Adrian Frutiger's Univers typeface was selected as the typeface of the games and many of the events graphic, fashion, and physical elements were coordinated by a team of eight full-time designers and over one hundred freelance design consultants. The director-general of design, Georges Huel, designed the games' signage, furniture, uniforms, and other elements. P.-Y. Pelletier was the deputy-director general and was in charge of all printed materials. In addition, Fritz Gottschalk was in charge of the Design and Quality Control Office. In the case of the Italian-born Montreal designer Vittorio Fiorucci, he submitted poster designs to the head designers of the games, only to have them rejected. In reaction he silkscreened his own posters.

In discussing the organizational relationships and working conditions of Canadian graphic designers Stacey notes that the 1960s and 1970s saw the establishment of a number of influential partnerships and studios. Those in Montreal included Rolf Harder and Ernst Roch's Design Collaborative, Penthouse Studio, and Studio 2+2. Those in Toronto included Gottschalk and Ash, Graafiko, Fleming and Donoahue, Burns and Cooper and Eskind-Waddell. Ottawa was host to Paul Arthur & Associates, while Winnipeg was home to MacDonald, Michaleski and Associates. Yet, in the 1980s and 1990s the trend amongst designers was away from agencies and more toward flexible arrangements which allowed individuals to specialize and/or work in a number of different areas of graphic design. However, many older and establish firms did continue to flourish, especially as the result of lucrative government contracts. Smaller firms and freelance designers have often tended to concentrate on cultural commissions, such as those offered by exhibition brochures, exhibition catalogues, reports, posters, and books. In addition, with the advent of computer-based typesetting, photo-manipulation, printing, and other related digital tools, smaller designers do not require the resources which only larger firms could provide in the past. Yet, as Stacey also notes, "the 'democratization' of type and print through desktop publishing software and hardware, and the attendant access of thousands of typefaces, increases rather than decreases the need for taste, discernment and restraint to be brought to bear on the management of textual and visual materials."

Further discussing the professionalization of Canadian graphic design, Stacey suggests that the legitimacy of the claim to the field being a distinct profession gained credence in the 1960s and 1970s with both the public's increasing awareness of the prevalence of graphic design in Canadian society, and with the introduction of design programs at various Canadian universities and arts colleges. In addition, Stacey notes that changes in "communications technology and consumption" from the 1970s and 1980s has seen a decline in the number and influence of Canadian art directors' clubs. The yearly competitions of the Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver clubs were designed to encourage innovation in and quality of design, commercial illustration, and photography.

The rise in the public's consciousness of design, which allowed for the decreased importance of the various directors' clubs was partly the result of efforts by Ottawa during the 1960s and 1970s. Through government departments such as Information Canada and Design Canada, the federal government attempted to not only highlight the importance of design, but it tried to use design to both improve the public's perception of the government, as well as Canadians' recognition and understanding of the information provided by the Ottawa. Yet, Stacey claims that these agencies were marred by both the indifference of officials who did not appreciate how they did, or could, affect the public's understanding of the government or its messages, as well as by official opposition to the agencies as being unnecessary and wasteful expenses. However, the head of Information Canada's Federal Identity program, Ulrich Woodicka, and his colleagues were able to develop and implement standardized signage and identity programs in many different federal departments during the 1970s. When Information Canada was dissolved in the mid-1970s responsibility for the identity program was adopted by the Treasury Board. Stacey also notes that while many of the provinces also developed identity programs, they only did so after the federal government's lead. He argues that such programs, if developed with "intelligence and sensitivity," can serve as models for the private sector in that they enhance public recognition of government departments and agencies, while also clarifying the messages those organizations may wish to communicate to the public. Yet, he also argues that the successful implementation of such identity programs requires "the removal of duplication and confusion at the bureaucratic and administrative level."

The rest of Stacey's encyclopedia entry is dedicated to discussing developments since the 1980s and 1990 in Canadian graphic design, or what since the 1990s has increasingly been called visual communication design. He concludes the article by mentioning the lack of material, published and unpublished, dedicated to tracing the history of Canadian design. He believes that a thorough understanding of the history of the profession is necessary for its members to be able to confidently and authoritatively direct the development of design in the new computer-based media of the 1990s and 2000s, rather than have technicians, accountants, and sales people choose safe and unchallenging computer, website, and program designs.

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