During the 1960s, many independent graphic design firms sought to establish a new style of graphic design, perhaps as a way to find alternatives to the rigid International Style. The Push Pin Studio was a highly influential firm that was part of this new wave. Originally found by Reynold Ruffins, Edward Sorel, Seymour Chwast, and Milton Glaser, the Push Pin Studio explored of a vast range of visual styles by borrowing from many different art periods, combining both popular culture and the fine arts. Glaser and Chwast took the role for artistic direction at the firm, embarking a new perspective of design and style. While the International Style represented seriousness, the designers of the Push Pin Studio played with humour and caricatured drawings (Eskilson, 2012).
Seymour Chwast, cover for The Push Pin Monthly Graphic, 1959
One major approach Glaser and Chwast took on their work was looking back to historical designs and adopting styles that appear dated or obsolete to see them in new light. For example, Chwast created a cover for the 1959 The Push Pin Monthly Graphic issue. The cover takes inspiration from an earlier work by Dada artist Tristan Tzara, Bulletin Dada (no. 6), a periodical produced in 1920. Tristan Tzara was a French-Romanian poet. He edited and published the journal Dada, with the intention to spread the revolutionary Dadaist views in Zurich and other European cities (Eskilson, 2012).
Tristan Tzara, Bulletin Dada, no. 6, February, 1920
The top half of Tzara’s Bulletin Dada is taken up by the extremely large grotesque text ‘DADA’ and the bottom half is occupied by relatively smaller text and with more context and information. Some texts are overlapping each other and some texts lie diagonally across the page; it illustrates Dada’s nonsensical characteristic and a sense of improvisation and is realized here. The contrast in weight and different orientations of text create a sense of hierarchy. This in turn makes it easier to read the text in the disorganized and eccentric style Tzara depicts. He also used six to seven different typefaces, which also alludes to the dramatic and wackiness of the Dada aestethic.
Influenced by Tzara’s design, Chwast’s 1959 cover uses wooden type. Chwast differentiates his design from Tzara’s by aligning text in a narrow, vertical layout. As a result, a definitive hierarchy exists that leads the eye from top to bottom; the direction the artist intended for reading. The elongated and stretched letters ignore the rules of typography but coincide with the absurdity of Dada.
Dada was a social protest in response to WWI, as well as the European culture that cultivated it. It questioned bourgeois society and opened doors to a satirical style (Russell, 2012). In a similar way, The Push Pin Monthly Graphic was an investigation of different forms of graphic design to in a way, protest against certain schools of thought. As a matter of fact, The Push Pin Monthly Graphic was not a real periodical, but a platform for the studio’s artists to explore new styles. Rather than committing to one artistic movement or style, creative decisions were made based on what looked inspiring to them as artists of such bewildering expression.
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design A New History. Yale. 2nd ed. New Haven, Connecticut. Published 2012.
Russell, C. “Dada.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, edited by Roland Green, et al., Princeton University Press, 4th edition, 2012. Credo Reference, http://ocadu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/prpoetry/dada/0?institutionId=4079. Accessed 03 Apr. 2019.