Book Look

Preliminary Knowledge

The Art of Noises, written by Luigi Russolo, originally published in 1913, is a Futurist manifesto written in the form of a friendly letter from Russolo to the Futurist composer, Francesco Balilla Pratella after he had attended one of his orchestras performances. Russolo credits Balilla Prantella’s genius for his own discovery and immediate appreciation of an entirely new and complex art form, the art of noises, hence the title of the book (Russolo 23). Through this informal letter, which is currently available for purchase on Amazon here, it becomes evident how deeply immersed in the Futurist movement Rossolo is. His writing calls for new innovations in the music industry and describes his desire for a technological revolution in music production. He dreams of a future similar to ours today, where there will be over thirty thousand different noises that man can make and combine in limitless variations for the individual’s own artistic satisfaction (Russolo 29).

The Covers Graphic Design Elements

The Art of Noises by Luigi Russolo, originally published 1913.
Figure 1. The Art of Noises by Luigi Russolo originally published in 1913.

Upon first glance of the original book cover (Figure 1), with no prior knowledge of the subject matter, I would never assume that it would have any relation to the futurist movement, or any other Avant-Garde movement for that matter. This blew me away because after actually reading the text, it becomes evident how passionate Russolo is in regards to the Futurist movement. It also becomes clear how well his manifesto aligns with other published Futurist manifestos that were written by significant supporters of the movement. Unfortunately, Rossolo’s passion for the movement was not effectively displayed through the original, lackluster and generic, graphic design of the book cover. The cover features a bland sans serif font that lacks dynamism, a crucial signifier of Futurist designs. The result is a cover that is quite dull and sluggish. I felt that the abstract concepts discussed in this letter, paired with the unique writing style which even includes the use of onomatopeias that were further emphasized through typography, deserved an equally abstract and Avant-garde cover to complement its context, so I decided to tackle this task. (Russolo 99).

Elements of The Redesigned Cover

When analyzing the original cover, it becomes clear that none of its fundamental elements aided in visually relating the book to the Italian Futurist movement, so I started from scratch (Figure 2). The variation in type size, along with its angles, was very important as I feel it was crucial to effectively demonstrate dynamism. This resulted in the letters appearing to be fast and energetic. I decided that the accent color would be red, to symbolize the violence that was admired by the Futurist movement. The loud, competing geometric forms of red, black, and negative space are somewhat obnoxious. This contrast allows the cover to further represent the aggression and intensity of the movement. I made sure to include diagonal lines of force in an attempt to further demonstrate energetic movement.

Redesigned cover for The Art of Noises, written by Luigi Russolo 1913. Designed with influence from the style of the Italian Futurist art movement.
Figure 2. Jordan Cesarone, redesigned cover for The Art of Noises, written by Luigi Russolo 1913. Design influenced by the style of the Italian Futurist art movement.

Inspiration

woodblock font
Figure 3. Louise Fili, Mardell. Hamilton Wood Type and P22. March 2016.

The typeface that I used, called Mardell (Figure 3), is designed by Louise Fili. Although the typeface I used was released fairly recently, in March of 2016, it was created in traditional woodblock style using bold Italian futurist letterforms. The typeface has precise angles and closely follows the standard type style for the futurist movement at the time of the publication of the book, which is why I felt its use was appropriate.  The geometric forms that I incorporated into the cover’s graphic design were heavily influenced by Depero Futurista (Figure 4), or better known as “The Bolted Book,” by Fortunato Depero and the DinamoAzari publishing house (Eskilson 150).

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Figure 4. Fortunato Depero, Depero Futurista, 1927. Book. Depero Archive, Rovereto.

This book’s graphic design was considered innovative at the time of its publication due to the complexities of its print and design elements. It featured bolts to bind it, intending to have the book appear more machine-like, this is just one example of how overtly this publication fell in line with futurist manifestos. I have heavily borrowed my use of positive and negative space, along with overlap in the typeface and geometric forms from Depero’s Futurist book cover. In doing so I was able to create visual stimulation that demonstrates the restlessness of modern industrialized life, often featured in Futurism.

Works Cited

CAMILLINI, Gianluca. The Bolted Book. bia.unibz.it/bitstream/handle/10863/2255/Camillini_pp26-31_pp109-110_Bullonato.pdf?sequence=2.

Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: a New History. Yale University Press, 2019.

Riechers, Angela. “Louise Fili’s New Wood Type Font Is an Homage to Italy and Women.” Eye on Design, 16 June 2017, eyeondesign.aiga.org/louise-filis-new-wood-type-font-is-an-homage-to-italy-and-women-typetuesday/.

Russolo, Luigi, and Jeanne Moran. Barteaux. The Art of Noises, 1913- 1931. 1978.

Russolo, Luigi. The Art of Noise English Translation. www.o-p-o.cz/links/Russolo,Luigi%20_The_Art_Of_Noise_EN.pdf.

Russolo, Luigi. “The Art of Noises.” Amazon, Pendragon Press, www.amazon.com/Art-Noises-Monographs-Musicology/dp/1576471144.

WebCite Query Result, www.webcitation.org/5uY3woYNG.

 

 

Analyzing Ideologies from the Age of Enlightenment Through A 19th Century Pears’ Soap Advertisement

When learning about the history of graphic design it has become evident to me that many advertisements from the 19th century include highly problematic underlying ideologies. I’m going to be discussing a couple of underlying ideologies that are presented through an 1886 advertisement for Pears’ Soap (Image 1). The text and illustration work together in this posters Graphic design to target an audience of racist, upper-class women.

An advertisement for Pears' Soap from 1886, marketed towards women. "Healthful skin, good complexion and soft, white, beautiful hands. Pears' Soap prevents redness, roughness, and chapping. Pears' Soap. The purest and most durable toilet soap. Hence the best and cheapest. PEARS SOAP - The great English complexion soap - is for sale throughout the United States and in all other parts of the world, and its praises are heard and echoed everywhere." Jones, Edgar R. Those Were the Good Old Days: a Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1930. Simon & Schuster, 1959.
Image 1. An advertisement for Pears’ Soap from 1886, marketed towards women. Reads, “Healthful skin, good complexion, and soft, white, beautiful hands. Pears’ Soap prevents redness, roughness, and chapping. Pears’ Soap. The purest and most durable toilet soap. Hence the best and cheapest. PEARS SOAP – The great English complexion soap – is for sale throughout the United States and in all other parts of the world, and its praises are heard and echoed everywhere.” Jones, Edgar R. Those Were the Good Old Days: a Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1930. Simon & Schuster, 1959.

When reading the text on this poster it becomes clear that Pears’ Soap was promoting popular racist ideologies from the 19th Century. The text reading “the great English complexion soap,” insinuates that the soap will give you the complexion of someone of English descent. This was to be desired because during this time scientific racism and slavery were common, and fair-skinned people had more privilege. In 1735, during the age of enlightenment, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus described Europeans very highly, as being inventive and governed by laws, while oppositely describing dark-skinned people in a very negative tone, as negligent, unpredictable and volatile people (Camarillo 56). We also see these racist ideologies promoted through the text reading “white beautiful hands,” whereupon first read it may simply seem like another way of saying clean or free of dirt since the advertisement is for soap. After analyzing literature from before the publication of this poster it becomes clear that it was directed to a fundamentally racist society (Camarillo 56). Lighter skin earned people more respect in society and often represented wealthy people from the upper-class, hence why the advertisement was worded with a racist tone.

We can tell the soap is marketed to women primarily due to the simple fact that there is a woman illustrated in the ad. She has very pale skin and is dressed in a (then) modern outfit, making it clear that it was more specifically targeted to an upper-class group of women. During the 19th century women were held to high beauty standards. It was expected of them to have a good complexion and wear modern, flattering clothes, but this could usually only be achieved by upper-class society. In this advertisement the women are shown with an impossibly tiny waist that promotes unhealthy and unrealistic body standards, similar to how most women were illustrated at the time of its publication (Image 2). It would be common for a woman to view this ad and be more likely to purchase the soap because she desired to be like the ideal woman who is depicted. This is a classic marketing technique. This advertisement is illustrated in a way similar to fashion plates, which were a promotional tool that promoted the idea of self-improvement and class passing. Her look is one that many lower and middle-class families would strive for in an attempt to appear in the same social class as their wealthier peers.

Image 2. Design for a Ball Gown by Pierre Numa, French, 1836. Depicts the tiny waist and puffy sleeves common for the period. The same cinched waist is apparent in Image 1.
Image 2. Design for a Ball Gown by Pierre Numa, French, 1836. Depicts the tiny waist and puffy sleeves common for the period. The same cinched waist is apparent in Image 1.

The following link is to a Journal published by the MoMA that includes a variety of fashion plates (Bryne 141-150). They often depict women with idealized proportions, further promoting beauty ideals similar to the ones in the Pears’ Soap advertisement and the central figure of Humphrys illustration (Image 3).

Image 2. 21 of the ladies' book improved fashion plates, F. Humphreys, 1842.
Image 3. 21 of The Ladies’ Book Improved Fashion Plates, F. Humphreys, 1842. The central figure has a tiny waist and all figures are pictures with pale, porcelain skin.

When applying a critical lens to The Pears’ Soap advertisement it’s clear that it uses effective messaging to perpetuate scientifically racist ideologies. The illustration used in this graphic design also promotes unrealistic beauty/fashion standards on female viewers who desire to take an active part in upper-class society.

Works Cited

Byrne, Janet S. “Fashion Plates.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 26, no. 3, 1967, pp. 141–150. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3258882. Accessed 22 May 2020.

“The Rise of Modern Racism(s): White Supremacy and Antisemitism in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.” Racism: A Short History, by GEORGE M. FREDRICKSON and Albert M. Camarillo, REV – Revised ed., Princeton University Press, PRINCETON; OXFORD, 2002, pp. 49–96. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvc779fw.7. Accessed 22 May 2020.

F. Humphreys. 21 of the ladies’ book improved fashion plates. 1842 December. Artstor, library-artstor-org.ocadu.idm.oclc.org/asset/LOCEON_1039796139

Index of Advertisements, www.people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam312/adsindx.html.

Jones, Edgar R. Those Were the Good Old Days: a Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1930. Simon & Schuster, 1959.