Graphic Design

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A New History
First Edition

Stephen J. Eskilson

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $65.00
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Out of Print

An innovative new look at the history of graphic design from its emergence in the late 19th century to its global challenges today

This exciting new history of graphic design explores its evolution from the late 19th century to the present day. Organized chronologically, the book illuminates the dynamic relationship between design and manufacturing as well as the roles of technology, social change, and commercial forces on the course of design history. The layout of each chapter reflects the unique style of the period it describes, and some 450 illustrations throughout the volume provide a visual record of more than one hundred years of creative achievement in the field. Under the influence of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th century, a new era began for design arts. Fueled by popular Art Nouveau advertising, the work of graphic designers became central in the growing consumer goods economy. This book traces the emergence of varied modernist design styles in the early 20th century and then examines the wartime politicization of regional styles through American government patronage and revolutionary Soviet ideas. Richly contextualized chapters chronicle the history of the Bauhaus and the rise of the International Style, followed by the postmodern movement of the 1970s and '80s. After highlighting recent developments in graphic design around the globe, the author discusses the impact of inexpensive, powerful design software and the challenges facing designers now.

Stephen Eskilson is associate professor, Art Department, Eastern Illinois University. He is coauthor of Frames of Reference: Art History and the World and publishes frequently on contemporary art and design.

Click here for the companion website to Graphic Design: A New History, which includes comprehensive discussion questions, essay topics and quizzes.

Read the author's blog, which offers an informational forum for instructors of graphic design history.

"So ubiquitous is graphic design . . . it generates much of the texture that defines culture and daily life. To awaken greater appreciation for both the creativity and the impact of this often-discounted art form, art historian Eskilson has created a uniquely comprehensive, discerning, and vital history. . . . Eye-opening on many levels."—Booklist

"Eskilson looks at design from the art perspective more than the others do, which is valuable because design does indeed intersect with art movements."—Steven Heller, New York Times Book Review

"A weighty and extremely accessible history of graphic design. . . . What this book does and does very well, is help us look back and trace our roots with the rigour that our discipline very much deserves and needs. . . . This book is very simply a story of graphic design: its roots and its progression looking at cultural, political, and social context while addressing recurring themes throughout the decades. . . . I liked this book very much."—Anna Gerber, Plus ca Change (Pick of the Month)

"This is a very well-produced work with the best quality illustrations of any on graphic design. It should be in every higher-education library and in metropolitan libraries as well."—Choice

"Eskilson . . . scrupulously tells the history of graphic design, beginning with the printing of the Gutenberg Bible to today's digital design-it-yourself pages on social-networking Web sites. What makes this history 'new' is the author's focus on the role that technology has played, for better or worse, in the evolution of design style."—Lisa Rossi, Wall Street Journal

"Eskilson’s user-friendly text has excellent coursebook potential for college-level classes in the history of graphic design. The book highlights and defines key terms, visually spotlights central information within chapters, and displays high-quality, detailed images throughout. Graphic Design: A New History will draw students in with exciting imagery and expand their knowledge with an engrossing narrative that presents an evolution of events unfolding as with any captivating plot."—Rebecca Klein Ganz, Savannah College of Art and Design

"[T]he ‘new’ is well surveyed in his substantial final chapter. This examines many disparate aspects of contemporary practice, from the impact of new technologies to the idea of the ‘citizen designer’ and introduces several well known names to the canon, including Fuel and Bruce Mau. There is also a well considered section examining the complex relationship between multinationals and their non-Western consumers, which focuses on Nike’s Asian advertising campaign, which features the basketball player Lebron James."—Mary Ann Bolger, Eye the International Review of Graphic Design (London)


Graphic Design: A New History might well become a new standard in the field of critical graphic design history. A great strength of the book is the author’s attention to the relation of graphic design to larger social issues, especially the formation of national identity. Another is his facility in visual analysis and ability to elucidate the meanings embedded in the formal aspects of design and typography. The book effectively integrates graphic design history into contemporaneous aesthetic debates, and relates the work to fine arts, decorative arts, and architecture. The illustrations are remarkably good, extensive, and well printed. The text has at least a brief discussion of every piece illustrated, which makes it an excellent resource and provides students with a model of how to deal with design analytically. I would recommend this book for college-level history of graphic design courses, and as a general background text for a graduate-level introduction to the field.”—Ethan Robey, Parsons The New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

“Stephen Eskilson’s new book, Graphic Design: A New History, is a comprehensive, thorough, well-illustrated and up-to-date survey of graphic design history. Amassing almost 500 pages, along with hundreds of color images, Eskilson’s new book should most certainly share shelf space with Philip Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, which until now has really been the only complete history of this relatively young but ever more prevalent design field. Eskilson’s book presents visual examples and contextual descriptions of how print, advertising, and design evolved and responded to currents in mainstream social, cultural, and political affairs. Students should find the book accessible, readable, and full of necessary introductory information. This volume offers enormous amounts of useful facts and background, and without a doubt it would be an appropriate book for any student of graphic design.”—Lucinda Hitchcock, Rhode Island School of Design

"An excellent survey of graphic design from the late 19th- to the early 21st century, this book is well written, highly accessible, and demonstrates sound scholarly research. Although the main focus is on the 20th century (unlike Philip B. Meggs's History of Graphic Design), this work compliments the prior with a much expanded contextual and historical framework. The author establishes connections to social, political, cultural, and technical developments that influenced the aesthetic outcome of graphic design work over time. The book is superbly illustrated in full color, which makes for a much better appreciation, understanding, and absorption of the topics discussed, and includes many lesser known samples from within the design discourse. Lastly, the text truly leads up to the most recent 21st-century developments in design, issues with which design students and professionals are currently grappling. Graphic Design: A New History is excellent for use with coursework in graphic design as well as other cultural studies classes, both at colleges and art schools.”—Henk van Assen, Yale University School of Art

"An effective description of the political effects of design…and countercultural influences…supported beautifully by 400-plus large color reproductions. Given the book’s readability and attention to larger historical topics, it is recommended as the best graphic design history for public libraries. It is also recommended for academic libraries.”—Library Journal

“Stephen Eskilson has written an expansive new book on the history of modern graphic design. Rather than reconstruct the typical 'pyramids to Picasso' chronology, he begins with a richly detailed and insightful summary of the later part of the 19th century and assembles a remarkably thorough review of art and communications from the avant-garde and the war years to the international style, post modern design, and digital media. Interspersed with examples of architecture, references to contemporary essays and journals, and both familiar and new illustrations, it is perhaps the most inclusive, thorough, and up-to-date assessment of design available. It will prove accessible to students, authoritative to professionals and educators, and will provide an excellent basis for a comprehensive understanding of essential developments in contemporary visual culture. This is one of the most comprehensive and detailed texts I have encountered and is essential reading for any student or designer studying the history of 20th century design.”—Doug Wadden, University of Washington

"As a 'best of' design collection, Graphic Design is on par in scope and size with H.W. Janson's classic History of Art, except Graphic Design has more anecdotes, more color and better type . . . [and] is more fun than Janson's."—Ruth Hagopian, Communication Arts

"[Eskilson] has done excellent work synthesizing a vast range of secondary literature on the history of graphic design; he has done an even stronger job amassing a body of rich, engrossing, and often surprising visual material presented via top-quality reproductions. . . . Through that mix of established landmarks and fresh finds from the archive, Eskilson goes far in enlarging the history of graphic design. . . . Anyone with a serious design library should consider acquiring Eskilson's new history. It will serve as a reliable reference and a fruitful compendium of visual ideas."—Ellen Lupton, I.D. International Design Magazine

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2012 for Art and Architecture within the Humanities category.
ISBN: 9780300120110
Publication Date: October 25, 2007
Publishing Partner: Laurence King
464 pages, 8 1/2 x 11 1/2
100 b/w + 380 color illus.

Sales Restrictions: US, Canada, Philippines, territories and dependencies, US military bases
Graphic Design

A New History
Third Edition, 3

Stephen J. Eskilson

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