By Jens Müller; edited by Julius Wiedemann
480 pages, hardcover, $70
Published by Taschen
Graphic design history is such a massive subject that author Jens Müller said, “When Taschen approached me with the idea of producing a general book on the international history of graphic design, it seemed like a virtually impossible task.” Yet, the beauty, breadth and depth of History of Graphic Design: Vol. 1, 1890–1959 makes Müller’s work look completely effortless. This image-heavy resource sets itself apart from similar books through the sheer volume of historical design artifacts presented. With more than 2,200 images representing 40 countries, it serves as a visual wonderland of inspiring design, typography, illustration and innovation of bygone days. While the classics are duly represented, there are enough lesser-known treasures that even the biggest design history buff will discover something new.
The book is divided by decade, beginning with a brief introduction of the era and a timeline that weaves cultural, political, social and historical events in with key design milestones. Design is often a response to society, so this approach helps relate context to the beautifully organized content. Each individual year, from 1890 to 1959, features its own miniature annual review, replete with images, design tidbits, quotes, and text about relevant designers, movements and products. The author could have had more detailed text—Bauhaus only gets four sentences, and Saul Bass gets a scant two—but the plethora of visuals more than compensates for the brief studies. This book is an indispensible addition to any design collection. I’m looking forward to Volume 2. —Denise Bosler