Missing in the Text Book: Lester Beall

Lester Beall should be included in the next edition of Graphic Design: A New History. I know I’ve spoken a ton about him by now, after choosing the advertisement poster he created for the Rural Electrification Administration. I wanted to talk about him again to discuss why he should be included in the next edition of our textbook, and this opportunity to showcase a different piece of his work rather than continuing to focus Radio – Rural Electrification Administration.

As I’ve said before, Beall’s influence on the profession of graphic designers was immense. During his career throughout the 1930’s and 40’s, Beall helped shift how companies viewed designers. At the time designers were seen only to fulfill a mundane and boring role. Beall changed that view into one where designers are far more important during the branding process. Beall had thought that the role of the designer was not to simply create one thing and move on, but rather an ongoing involvement. The involvement of a designer begins with the development of a trademark, and on to the application, and finally the protection of the trademark.

Taking a look at his piece included in his series for the Rural electrification Administration, which is considered to be one of the greatest American posters of all time, a photomontage of an American boy and girl looking towards the future in front of a pattern reminiscence of the American flag. Lester Beall’s frequent combination of photos in his posters, coupled with his precise execution of typography and bold colours placed him a head of his contemporaries in North America. Beall found inspiration in the works of both students and teachers of the Bauhaus school in Germany. His bold use of colours, perspective, and photomontage can be traced back to his Bauhaus contemporaries.

I feel that a designer who’s work and attitude to the field of graphic design should be included in the textbook, regardless of how well known or popular his or her work was, should be studied.

Design In The Wild – “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT” Tour Poster

So I want to start off with how much I absolutely LOVE Rage Against The Machine. With their last reunion tour being back in 2007, I thought Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk would EVER take the stage again to absolutely rock out. A few months ago the band announced that they were going to be playing 5 shows in a few states. Again, I was bummed that they would not be coming to Canada. However, on February 11th, a post on the band’s Instagram announced that they are going on a world tour in 2020 alongside rap duo Run The Jewels. Run The Jewels is a rap group whose name is slang for a stick up or robbery. The duo’s music is similar to RATM’s, often political and very critical of capitalism.

Abloh, Virgil. "Public Service Announcment" Tour. 2020.
Abloh, Virgil. “Public Service Announcment” Tour. 2020.

The tour poster, designed by fashion designer Virgil Abloh (OFF-WHITE and Louis Vuitton) reveals the name PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TOUR, as well as 40 shows across the globe. The name of the tour reflects the reason why the band is touring again; Rage Against The Machine has always had radical political views – often criticising corporate America. It seems that with the current political landscape of America with Trump’s presidency as made the band want to tour again – with some fans feeling that their music is now more relevant than ever. The typography used on the poster (and will presumably be used on merchandise) is vastly similar to the typeface that is used displayed on American televisions in times of emergency by the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The use of this typeface draws on the nature of emergency broadcasts, which are rarely ever used (save for the Hawaiian Missile scare in 2018)  tries to, and successfully, evokes the same panic and alarm. The use of the font further cements the band’s tour to be a wakeup call for people not only in America, but around the world. The use of a bold red colour is meant to grab the attention of the viewer, just as an emergency public service announcement does across television and radio, and now on mobile devices. The designer’s (Virgil Abloh) use of texture in both the copy text of the tour dates and locations, as well as the visual are very dirty and coarse. The combination of colour, typeface, and imagery create an eye catching poster while also maintaining the theme of the message that the band intends to communicate through their music.

Works Cited

  • Abloh, Virgil. “Public Service Announcment” Tour. 2020.
  • Becker, Rachel. “CDC Confirms That Hawaii’s False Missile Alarm Was Scary.” The Verge, The Verge, 21 Feb. 2019, www.theverge.com/2019/2/21/18234901/cdc-hawaii-false-missile-alarm-reactions.
  • Absolutely. “National Emergency Alert System Test (November 9, 2011)” Online video clip. Youtube, Nov 9, 2011. Thursday, February 13, 2020,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF4BCMs-8BE.