Design Inspiration – Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau came about in the late 19th century and though short-lived, didn’t fail to make an impact. Art Nouveau posters and graphics, in particular, had a very distinctive look. These graphics were typically highly decorative and used hues such as green, orange, yellow, purple or red. They featured curvy lines and often incorporated an unmistakable typographic style. This poster-style made a come back in the 1960s during the hippie era since its floral, decorative designs tied in with the movement’s focus on nature.

A good comparison where we can see how this historical graphical style influenced a later design is with the images below.


The image to the right titled, JOB was created by Alphonse Mucha in 1897. In the poster, Mucha placed a prominent female character against the JOB monogram as her background. She holds a cigarette with her long hair drawn as flowing lines. The woman’s head is leaning back in a sensual manner as she holds the cigarette. The background colours used are very cool in tonality in comparison to the warmer colours used on the main figure.

Similarly, the poster to the left which was created in 1967 advertising a concert, with Big Brother & The Holding Co. The designer undoubtedly used elements of the movement and Alphonse Mucha’s poster for inspiration. The poster makes use of the same natural female form and similar linear treatment to the hair. It is also very fluid in nature, however, the one stark difference lies in the bright, vibrant colours used which were commonly attributed to the psychedelic 60s.

Imaginary Interview

Saul Bass – The Man with the Golden Arm

Q: How did you start your career in the film industry creating title sequences?

A: It was after my title sequence for “Man with a Golden Arm” that I became widely known and after that I decided to create an innovative work to match the films controversial subject because that’s what had the most meaning and what was the most intriguing to watch.


Q: What was your main goal and intent for this work?

A: My main goal was to try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story you are about to watch. To create a true climate for the story that is about to unfold in front of your eyes.


Q: What was this film about?

A: This film was about drug addiction. The symbol which is the arm is expressive and disjointed which reflects the jarring existence of the drug addict.


Q: What are the techniques you use in your work?

A: I see myself as an employed diverse film maker that has special techniques. These include, cut out animation where I use bits and pieces of film or art work and place them together in a “collage” format. Fully animated mini movies, that include moving pictures. And finally, live action sequence. These techniques are what make my work unique, and act as a trade mark for myself; Saul Bass.


Q: How did you begin to get commissioned by Otto Fleminger and start creating title sequences for the first time?

A: I was creating symbols for ad campaigns and I so happened to be working on a symbol for him, and it was just a random and simple thought that we both sparked interest in and decided to simply “make it move!”


Q: After creating this piece, what advice would you give future designers?

A: LEARN HOW TO DRAW. Don’t ever work around it, you will need it. Drawing is one of the most important aspects to design. It is the communication that connects the intent to what is happening on the page. If the drawing is not up to par, the communication is completely lost. One can ‘get by’ without drawing but will never fully succeed in their career as a designer. And most of all, being a designer is a life commitment. Taking on other priorities or tasks is simply impossible when perusing a career in design. It needs your full and undivided attention.



Q: What are you most proud of as a designer? Especially when it comes to this work.

A: I take pride in the fact that I was the first to realize and acknowledge the importance of the opening and closing credits of a movie. No one notices that those people have a huge impact on the entire film. Creating a dynamic and interesting sequence that people can watch, entice them to pay attention and actually read the names. Once I worked in graphics for a long time I decided to move graphics into images on film and realized the importance of live action.

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Work Cited


Creative Synesthia: Degenerate Art (M. Sharp)

When I look at the 1937 catalogue cover for Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art), I immediately imagine the smell of smoke and decay. This is in part because of the dark palette of the image, as well as the rough, smoky texture of the 1912 Otto Freundlich sculpture Der Neue Mensch (The New Man) which is featured on the cover. The association, however, must also be in part due to the depressing implications behind this design.

The fact that has always stuck with me about the “Degenerate Art” exhibition was that it was actually far better attended and more well-regarded than the concurrent “Great German Art Exhibition,” which was full instead of Hitler-approved works. That it should have been entirely clear to the Nazi regime that the works displayed in “Degenerate Art” were of true cultural significance and value makes it all the more tragic that these works were destroyed, censored and suppressed for years to come. I think this chaos and backwardness is what brings to mind the sensation of needless destruction.

degenerate art
Anonymous, Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) catalogue cover, 1937. Features Otto Freundlich, Der Neue Mensch (The New Man), 1912.


Eskilson, S. Graphic Design: A New History. Yale University Press, 2007.

Ginder, U. “Munich 1937: The Development of Two Pivotal Art Exhibitions.” 2004. Retrieved from <>

Milton Glaser as Sound


I have chosen to write a creative synesthesia on Milton Glaser’s “Bob Dylan” graphic design. When relating this illustration to sound it would be quite easy to say that it evokes Bob Dylan’s early career. Though I do feel that this illustration of Bob Dylan is reminiscent of the way the music that he created during the 1960s sounds, I would like to go a little broader and talk about why.

When translating this illustration into sound it reminds me of the way that a small quiet room sounds like. The silhouette of Bob Dylan and the minimalist way his portrait was drawn is what evokes this. It reminds me of the sound of a clean, bright room with minimal amounts of furniture. As you are experiencing the sound of this room, maybe someone has turned on a stereo. Music is bursting from one corner of the room, flowing out of the speaker and entering your ears, eventually filling up the tiny space with colourful sounds. The sound is both experimental and pleasant. There are many layers and components to it, almost reminiscent of an orchestra but flow-ier and more wonky, less perfect. You can hear the dynamics and the play between the once silent room, now filling up with tremendous sound.

This portrait is part of the psychedelic movement in art. During this movement artists wanted to create posters that made the viewer feel as if they were on psychedelic drugs. I wanted to relate music to this particular poster because, for one reason, music and psychedelic art go hand in hand, and two, because Bob Dylan is an extremely influential folk artist, who I would not champion as an extremely forefront figure in the psychedelic drug scene. This particular graphic design is a little different from typical psychedelic posters, as it utilises the space differently. Psychedelic posters tend to fill the entire page with colour and illustrative text and images that feel as if they are optical illusions. Milton Glaser’s image touches on the psychedelic style in a more minimalist way, due to the silhouetted portrait and the only touch of fluid colour flowing outwards as Bob Dylan’s hair. I think this image is reminiscent of the way that Bob Dylan could fill a quiet room with music, especially music from his protest song career in the 1960s. He could get an entire crowd of people to listen to him with songs that were musically simple, but with a strong and empowering message. This image also reminds me of the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles. The song starts off as if the Beatles are signing in a small room, with good acoustics and an echo, like a bathroom. As the song progresses it builds up to an explosion of sound, dynamic and constantly changing. The song is as layered as the colours in the image and flows into an encompassing sound in a way that is reminiscent of the illustration.

The portrait of Bob Dylan created by Milton Glaser evokes the music of psychedelic artists of the 1960s. This illustration reminds the viewer of Bob Dylan’s folk career, especially of his career in the early 1960s when he became popular for his protest songs. Personally, this image reminds me of the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles because of its dynamics, contrast and booming layered sound.


Works Cited

The Beatles. “A Day in the Life.” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, EMI                  Studio and Reagent Sound Studio,                                                 1967.

Bob Dylan. “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Bringing It All Back Home, Columbia Recording Studios, 1965.

Bob Dylan. “Mr. Tambourine Man (Live at the Newport Folk Festival. 1964).” 1964, Fort Adams State Park. BobDylan TV.

Glaser, Milton. “Bob Dylan.” Offset lithograph. 1966, Museum of Modern Art.

Design Inspiration


The influential historical design I picked is “Job cigarette paper posters” by Alphonse Mucha, which is a typical Art Nouveau poster, which had influenced later designs with its style (Art Nouveau style).

(from lecture PDF)


I found the iconic “I ♥ NY” branding poster done by Milton Glaser that part of it was influenced greatly by the style of Art Nouveau, such as this design done be Alphonse Mucha. There are some major characteristics of Art Nouveau have been used in this modern poster, in which can be reflected by both of the designs. Firstly, the organic lines; Milton Glaser have used organic lines for his poster (left and right part of the poster), in which we can see organic lines are also being used in Mucha’s design. Secondly, Art Nouveau emphasizes the shape of natural elements, and the modern poster shows the shape of natural plants and flowers at the same time, this element can be found within Mucha’s design as well. Lastly, is some difference between the historical design and the modern design. Although we can see some obvious Art Nouveau elements that are used by Milton Glaser in his design, we can see the how design have been changed from the past to today among those posters. The early Art Nouveau design usually apply colour in a harmonic way, but the modern poster shows us a lot different colour in contrast and more eye catching. Maybe our society is now more complex than the past, that strong contrast in colour will better catch the viewer’s attention.


Works Cited

“40 Crucial Lessons From The Most Famous Graphic Designers in History”. Canva. Mary Stribley. <>

Design Inspiration- The Swiss Style

Mid-twentieth century was the time of development of graphic design. The most successful art movement was the Swiss Style or was also called the International Typographic Style. The style originated in Switzerland in the 1940s and 50s, led by Josef Müller-Brockmann and Armin Hofmann. The Swiss Style was illustrated in simplicity, legibility, and objectivity. This is why posters evoke Swiss Style usually favor the use of san-serif typeface, strong structure of grids, and blocky layouts (Eskilson 288).

The style replaced illustration with realistic photos for poster design. Swiss design has a preference for photography and works featured typography. The first sans-serif typeface used commonly in posters was Akzidenz Grotesk, released by the Berthold Type Foundry in 1898. The typeface does not have geometric forms, still able to read and fit well with pictures. On the other hand, Akzidenz Grotesk was criticized as a tedious font and could not get enough attention from viewers (Eskilson 290), but was still chosen by designers as a safe choice for their poster design. With its fame, in 1957 Eduard Hoffmann decided to release a new typeface intimidated similar characteristics like Akzidenz Grotesk but with low weight contrast, which was called Helvetica.

Swiss Style is synonymous with Helvetica, its full name Confoederatio Helvetica means Switzerland in the Latin language. The typeface later was popular during the 20th century, it hit the market in the 1960s and became a hallmark of the International Typographic Style (Eskilson 290). The importance of Helvetica cannot be underestimated, we could see the typeface is used for everything from signage to web pages or logo, and headlines of books due to its legibility. Helvetica was designed to be rigid and consistent, and since it works featured photography, the typeface can’t be distinctly expressive.

One of the important elements in Swiss Style was the asymmetrical organization of content, to make the whole composition in poster look active and dynamic. An example illustrated Swiss Style clearly is “Zürich Town Hall Poster”, designed by Josef Müller-Brockman in 1955. The designer still uses a grid to organize the whole content as it is mandatory. There is no symmetry in the poster, but it doesn’t cause the content is chaotic, and give the greater sense of unity. Poster has two primary colours are white and blue, which emphasized more to the positive and negative space in the design. All these elements and principles applied to the poster has made the “Zürich Town Hall Poster” became simple and minimal in aesthetics.

Josef Müller-Brockman, Zürich Town Hall Poster, 1955. Poster. Zurich









As a student studies graphic design, every design I make that involved with typeface, all have to rely heavily on the use of a grid. Furthermore, the majority of my designs embrace asymmetry. The poster below I designed for a lecture series event in 2017. I did not choose Helvetica as the main typeface, but the concept was inspired by Swiss Style. The poster doesn’t contain too much design or any photos because I want to keep it simple and legible. The whole content is organized based on a grid, however, it doesn’t lack intensity and hierarchy because it evokes asymmetry, which supports the rhyme, movement and dynamic characteristics of the poster.

My Vuong, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art Poster, 2018. Poster. Toronto, ON.

Works cited:
Eskilson, Stephen John. Graphic design: a new history. Conn., 2012.


Constructivist art:


Constructivist art movement was intertwined with the POLITICAL situations in Russia at that time.

Constructivist art INFLUENCED artists such as, Naum Gabo, Vladimir Tatlin, EL LISSITZKY Alexander Rodchenko, Antoine Pevsner, Alexander Vesnin, Liubov Popova, among others. This movement was carried to latter years and was a vital influence of the Bauhaus Movement.

Believing art to have the power to transform society, Lissitzky said, “Art can no longer be merely a mirror, it must act as the organizer of the people’s consciousness.”


El Lissitzky’s political poster, ‘Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge’ is a great example of Constructivism. Constructivism works are mostly ABSTRACT AND BOLD and use symbolic GEOMETRIC SHAPES and experimental type to capture the Russian communist ideology of progress and to establish an acceptance of modernity.

My Own Design:



“Constructivism.” Learning Theories, 8 Sept. 2016,

“Constructivism Movement, Artists and Major Works.” The Art Story,

“Constructivism (Philosophy of Education).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Mar. 2018,

“El Lissitzky | MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art,

Flask, Dominic. El Lissitzky : Design Is History,

Stephen J. Eskilson. Graphic Design: A New History, Second Edition. Yale University Press, 2012.