Design Inspiration: Volkswagen – “Think small.”


Doyle Dane Bernbach, Volkswagen ads, 1960

In 1960, Volkswagen put out an ad for their new car, the Lemon. In a world where every car at that time was competing on becoming bigger, “better”, and flashier, Volkswagen decided to advertise their car’s qualities of simplicity and authenticity with the slogan “Think small.” The ad was printed in black and white and used a photo of the car, making it a sort of “anti-ad” compared the colourful illustration advertisements of their competitors. The car’s differences were featured and the simplicity in lack of colour and detail suggested it was showing the unvarnished truth. It communicated the company’s message and it was “big idea” advertising as it not only advertised the product but also created brand recognition.


Apple “Think Different.”, 1997


iMac “Chic, Not geek.”, 1998

Apple used the slogan “Think different” in 1997 to advertise their apple products. While maybe not directly inspired by Volkswagen’s ad, Apple’s slogan and subsequent advertisements show clear influence of “big idea” advertising. Their unembellished, but effective message gets across their brand identity while maintaining a sense of authenticity through its directness and simplicity. Apple’s ads show their products often on a blank white background, giving it a clean, uncomplicated look and making them stand out among other advertisements which often use colour and busy backgrounds to grab attention. Their products appeared as a pop of colour on the plain background, a big difference their competition’s products which were quite dull and beige at the time.

In the same way Volkswagen was, Apple also presented a sort of “anti-ad” in postmodern design.

Works Cited:

Hamilton, Mark. “The Ad That Changed Advertising.” Medium, 20 Mar. 2015,

“The Evolution Of Apple’s Brand Identity.” Team Wired, 20 Dec. 2015,

Design Inspiration: Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk – Ian Keeler


Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk by Paula Scher of Pentagram, 1995


Handbill for an excursion train, 1876

Mass media in 19th century America consisted primarily of handbills and posters. Literacy rates were rising and technology at the time limited the printing of images, so these handbills relied on text. (McCoy) In order to effectively grab the attention of a passer-by and communicate a message, the type was often large, bold, and crisp. From 1828 to around 1900, during which the handbill shown above was produced, wood type was the favoured printing method. Wood type was invented for advertising purposes, as large scale typography was necessary and casting letters that size in metal was expensive and problematic. (Kelly) Though wood type was ideal for display text in advertising at the time, it quickly became overshadowed by newer technologies, its contribution to the evolution of headline typography is forgotten. (Kelly)

The poster on the left was designed by Paula Scher of Pentagram for The Public Theater, making use of The Public’s typeface: wood type. The Public is one of America’s first nonprofit theaters, and is built on inclusivity, accessibility, and the “by the people, for the people” attitude. (About The Public) The Pentagram’s poster was meant to align with these values, advertising Bring in da Noise to the public in an easy to read, and yet enticing, manner. The arrangement of the various creates a fun, graffiti-like impression in keeping with the Public’s brand. (The Public Theater – Story.)

Both designs targeted large audiences, use predominantly text to communicate a message, and fill the page with large-scale type. The Pentagram’s poster incorporates not only the wood type lettering used in the handbill, but also the method of communicating through text: headline typography, all capitals, prioritizing impact and readability. Both designs also use a selection of weights and widths to create variation and fit the design. One can even see the parallels in the way letters of the same word are sized differently to emphasize the word, or fit a certain space. Also consistent is the  use of solid-coloured block letters and solid backgrounds arranged in geometric divisions, although Scher takes the idea a step further, orienting words vertically, horizontally and diagonally. These blocks fill the entire page in both designs, creating a rich and detailed design.

The poster was hugely successful, and advertised the show all over New York. The style also quickly became popular. Though it wasn’t solely used in the theater scene, wood-type block lettering was adopted by theater advertising, proving it’s continuous influence. (The Public Theater – Story.)

Works Cited

Kelly, Rob Roy. “American Wood Type.” Design Quarterly, no. 56, 1963, pp. 1–40. JSTOR,

McCoy, Katherine. “American Graphic Design Expression.” Design Quarterly, no. 148, 1990, pp. 3–22. JSTOR,

“The Public Theater – Story.” Pentagram,

“About The Public.” The Public,

Design Inspo: Schreibkunst Poster


Josef Müller-Brockmann: Concert Poster for the Zurich Town Hall (1951)

Swiss International style gained traction after WW2. It emerged from earlier design styles like De Stijl, Constructivism, Bauhaus, and The New Typography, except unlike those movements, International style didn’t come with the historical contexts.


Exhibition poster, 2011

This poster is influenced by the earlier one, as it is based on a grid and can is very legible. Both of these designs are very neutral, which was a trait of International style as Switzerland was a neutral country. This poster is reliant on font weights, sans serif, and asymmetrical composition which is inspired from the first one in terms of design movements. Both of these are exhibition posters, which require clear and legible information which is why the second poster is suited to be done in international style.

How has historical graphic design influenced later design?

  • aspect of american art deco
  • streamlined pencil sharpener/streamlined objects in general
  • (idea that the future is fast and sleek)
  • influences ideas of what we find “retro” today
  • inspires 21th century designers to incorporate “speed whiskers” and rounded objects when trying to invoke dated ideas of the future

An aspect of American Art Deco was the streamlining of letters and objects.


Later design uses these aspects when trying to invoke dated ideas of the future. In the 21st century, when interior designers want to make an “old-fashioned” area, they use a lot of the same techniques, such as adding “speed whiskers” and making objects that don’t need to be aerodynamic more streamlined. These techniques are used today to create nostalgia and can be considered an interesting novelty when selling an item/house/area.

ie. Retro-futuristic Cafes incorporating rounded corners and chrome colours



Design Inspiration – Dada and Punk, by Elain Zhao

The Art Critic 1919-20 Raoul Hausmann 1886-1971 Purchased 1974

Raoul Hausmann, The Art Critic, 1919-1920


Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen, 1977

Dada was a European avant-garde art movement began in the early 20th century in Switzerland since it was neutral during WWI. Dada was the artists’ a response to WWI, they reject the logic, reason and aesthetic of modern capitalist society, see the world as nonsensical and irrational.

Punk was born in the 1970s, almost 60 years after Dada. The subculture was centered by a loud and aggressive genre of rock music. It was a rejection of mainstream, corporate mass culture and its values. A common attitude in the punk subculture is the opposition to selling out, which means to adopt a more mainstream style and value in order to gain profit or popularity.

Dada and Punk had similar messages, they were both born out of social outburst. Dada was a fight against traditions of art, they believed that anything could be art. It’s been known as an Anti-art and Anti-war movement. Punk was a fight against the government, it was about Anarchism, rebellion and individual freedom.

The work of Jamie Reid was influenced by the image and type collages of the Dadaists. Both works are stylistically similar, they are consist of cut and pasted images, and a mixing of fonts and size. They used ransom note and newspaper clipping style, photomontage and collage. The idea of using existing resources to create new art was born from the Dada movement, it is shown in Raoul Hausmann’ work with things such as pictures of faces and suited man. Similarly, Reid used defaced image and ripped up flags in her work for the Sex Pistols.

The Influence of Walter Lippmann’s book “Public Opinion” on Raoul Marks’ title sequence for TV series “True Detective” (2014)


Walter Lippmann’s book “Public Opinion”, 1922 (1943 edition)


Raoul Marks’ title sequence for TV series “True Detective”, 2014

The first image is Walter Lippmann’s book “Public Opinion.” It is a very historical influential book about human communication. The design of its cover might have served as an influence to some later works, including Raoul Marks’ title sequence for TV series “True Detective” (2014). Marks masking technique is remarkably similar to that used in the cover of Walter Lippmann’s “Public Opinion,” they both take architectural structures and mask them into a person’s silhouette as a way of communicating to the viewer what that person is thinking about or what is important to them. The use of the negative space is also similar. They both benefit from the flatness of the background. All this white space allows for a clean placement of the type outside of the image area, making the viewer go back and forth between the two. In both designs, the masks allow for the inclusion of multiple elements without overcrowding the canvas, allowing for lots of white space.
Marks does take it to the next level by showing parts of the person’s face. The man is no longer unrecognizable. Now the viewer can identify a protagonist, which works well for the proposes of setting up the mood of the cinematic piece.

Design Inspiration: Bauhaus & Dr. Dre Beats









Historical graphic design has left an impression on modern designers. Certain styles have been adapted and transformed however, there are elements contained in these modern designs that clearly indicate that they have been influenced by historical graphic design.

Bauhaus was an art school in Germany that was known for its iconic designs in architecture and fine arts. It was at Bauhaus where they had developed a modern, geometric, sleek typeface. Bayer’s Universal, the famous sans serif typeface that is seen in Bauhaus graphic design, originated from Josef Albers’s Stencil. This in itself had Art Deco elements, being highly stylized (Eskilson 230). Multiple experiments later, Bayer’s Universal was created in 1923. Some of the key features of this sans serif typeface were its strokes of uniform thickness and it consisted of perfect circles and horizontal and vertical lines. This type was created with the intention of being printed by machines which would be the perfect gateway to modern design.

An example of Bauhaus’ graphic design can be seen in the logo for Dr. Dre Beats. Heavily inspired by Bauhaus, the letter b consists of a perfect circle with a perfectly vertical ascender. An interesting point that can be made here is that Bauhaus typeface was created for functionality as well. In the logo for Dr. Dre Beats, the letter b mimics the side profile of the product that Dr. Dre Beats are creating which are on-ear/over-ear headphones. The simplicity of this typeface has had a great impact on design all the way up until this day and age as Dr. Dre Beats is one of the most popular luxury headphones on the market.


Works Cited

Eskilson, Stephen John. Graphic Design: a New History. Conn., 2012.


Design Inspiration: Barbara Kruger & Shepard Fairey

ss35436_35436_19550994Starting in the 1980s, Barbara Kruger can be said to have pioneered a certain kind of design aesthetic that has gone on to find use in many sectors of the art world, as well as commercially. Kruger’s work Repeat After Me follows a convention common to much of her work: a black and white photo collage among text carrying a message that informs the viewing of the image, and communicates political commentary concerning it or concerning a broader narrative that the image fits within. Kruger often produces designs which support and elucidate Feminist ideology, or aim to bring about questioning of Capitalism or status quo.

In this work, Kruger uses her convention of bold oblique Futura type in white against a red background. The image displays a sort of puppet holding an optical illusion, possibly meant to hypnotize the viewer. The phrase ‘Repeat after me,’ matched with the puppet imagery can be read as a skewering of social expectation, in that a capitalistic society expects us, the viewer to be like puppets who repeat the behavior of the past to the benefit of some other party.

ss35436_35436_19383200Much in the same vein, and borrowing not only aesthetic style but also common themes in their content, is graffiti artist and designer Shepard Fairey. The inspiration from Kruger’s work can especially be seen in his most popular work, first proliferated in 2002 but repeated often since then, Obey Giant. The most obvious inspiration from Kruger is the use of oblique bold Futura. While Fairey’s usage is typically in all upper cases versus Kruger’s mix of cases, his work also hold in common convention the frequent use of compositions restricted to white, black, and red.

Fairey doesn’t stop short of reference to Kruger simply in aesthetic style though. The theme of his quintessential work is also similar to much of Kruger’s, and especially Repeat after me. While Kruger’s work displays a puppet trying to hypnotize, Fairey’s work shows a stylization of Andre the Giant in Big Brother fashion imploring us to ‘OBEY.’ The message is similar in both pieces: give in to the status quo and obey. Both Kruger and Fairey use similar design conventions to turn the obfuscated messaging of the status quo into overt statement through satire. Another inspiration Fairey draws from Kruger is the use of the figure as an element looking out at you. Kruger’s work often shows people looking out to the viewer with messaging that can either be viewed as being communicated by the person or seen as a comment on their situation in the design. Fairey’s work, especially the Obey Giant has itself gone on to become a commodity in apparel, stickers, or other ephemera. In this way, Fairey’s work can be seen as carrying the torch that Kruger lit, not only criticizing a Capitalist status quo through satire, but becoming a deeper part of that narrative through commodification of the satire into product.

Works Cited & Referenced:

Kruger, Barbara (American conceptual artist, designer, and writer, born 1945). Repeat After Me. 1985-1994. Web. 28 Mar 2018.


Fairey, Shepard (American graphic artist, active late 20th-early 21st centuries). Obey Giant. 2002. Web. 28 Mar 2018.

Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: A New History. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn, 2012.

Design Inspiration

The Bauhause was an influential German school of design from the 1919-1930. The design aesthetics that were derived from its teachings have inspired many modern-day designers to take aspects of Bauhause design and implement them into their own designs. Herbert Bayer, Notgeld emergency currency notes created in 1923 and the new $10 Canadian bank note created in 2018 is a prime example of how modern-day designers are taking inspiration from the past and bringing it into the present.

The new vertical design of the 2018 Canadian bank note is reminiscent of the design of Herbert Bayer, Notgeld emergency currency notes created in 1923. The bank note that features Viola Desmond on the front is the first vertically designed banknote in Canada, this vertical design is reminiscent of the emergency currency notes, although these notes are horizontal they do have some vertical aspects. The designers of the 2018 $10 Canadian bank note have taken inspiration from these vertical aspects that the Bauhause designer has implemented on the right side of the emergency currency notes. Other aspects of the design that seem to be inspired by the emergency currency notes is the clearness of the amount. The number ten is large and located in 2 areas, the larger ten at the top of the bill and smaller ten at the bottom of the bill make it clear that the bank note is worth $10. This new $10 bank note is clear and organized when in comparison to the old bank note. Although the new bank note still has icons and bar codes it is designed with hierarchy in mind which is inspired by emergency currency notes.


tumblr_mjvkdg0tes1rpgpe2o1_1280 viola-desmond-10-billWorks Cited

“Design-Is-Fine.” Design Is Fine., 19 Mar. 2013,

“New $10 Bill Featuring Nova Scotia Civil Rights Activist Was Unveiled Today | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada,

“New $10 Bill Unveiled, Featuring Civil Rights Icon Viola Desmond.” Vancouver Courier, 8 Mar. 2018,

Design Inspiration – Nabila Roshd

Robert Bonfils 1926 Catalog of the Touring Echibition of Objects from the  1925 Paris Exposition
Robert Bonfils
Catalog of the Touring Exhibition of Objects from the 1925 Paris Exposition
Closure in Moscow  2018 First Temple - Vinyl Remaster
Stéphane Casier for Closure in Moscow
First Temple – Vinyl Remaster

The American Art Deco movement was similar to that seen in other countries – it often featured delicately drawn women, centralized in the composition and accompanied by various fauna or other decorative elements. This piece by Robert Bonfils in particular, Catalog of the Touring Exhibition of Objects from the 1925 Paris Exposition, depicts a woman accompanied by an antelope, holding a basket of roses above her head. I believe that this piece and the Art Deco style was the inspiration for the cover of Closure In Moscow’s 2018 re-release of their album, First Temple, done by Stéphane Casier. You can see this in several instances within the design.
First, the colour and composition of First Temple resemble that of the American Art Deco style. The image focuses on a great contrast between the bright orange background and creamy white dress that drapes off the woman in the middle. The woman and the two astronauts stand on a surface covered by various plants that spring up from the ground and surround them. They are all constrained within three decorative shapes that frame them. The woman in the middle is the only one large enough to break through and serves as the focus of the image. They are surrounded by three circular orbs with a striped pattern within them. This connects back to the Art Deco movement as it implements the use of pattern and shape to further the composition. Furthermore, it is an example of Art Deco and not Art Nouveau as it rejects the overly curved ornamented style and rather carries on geometric shapes such as circles and rectangles to implement in the design. When comparing Bonfil’s piece, it offers a similar composition – red and white are used as the two main colours, and decorative geometric elements work to frame the woman in the middle. Both pieces are quite similar in subject matter and depiction and offer a similar feeling.
The artist might have chosen an Art Deco style for this album cover to create a new looking, elegant representation of the music. The music in this album is a technical yet sweet post-hardcore, shuffling through themes of romance and revenge. However, it ends sweetly on the note of love being put to rest through nature. I think this is complimented well with imagery inspired by Art Deco and uses the inspiration well to sell their concept.