During the summer I was set a brief in which I had to research my chosen discipline (Graphic Design) and identify one particular individual, group or movement that has had a significant impact on the development of my discipline.
At a time of world disorder, political conflict and economic collapse, a new movement was born in the neutral Netherlands named “De Stijl”. The Early decades of the 20th century Europe where testing times, with political upheaval – most notably WW1 (1914) and the Russian Revolution (1917). This played a major part in the transformation and advancements in Art movements throughout Europe.
The movement is widely regarded as one of the keys to modernism. This group of like-minded individuals consisted of a variety of artists which included painters, architects, furniture designers and graphic designers. In 1917 Theo Van Doesburg founded the publication “De Stijl”, in an effort to present their ideas and concepts to a wider audience.
The groups earlier work, especially by painter Piet Mondrian, was heavily influenced by that of French Cubists several years before the war. The Dutch designers ambition was to create a feeling of harmony through the simplification of form, colour and line – whether it be a piece of furniture, painting, poster or architecture.
In 1924 Gerrit Rietveld was given the perfect opportunity to put into practice what ‘de Stijl” symbolised. He was commissioned by Truus Shroder-Shrader to design the interior and exterior of her new home. He considered many aspects such as composition, structure and spatial awareness – while applying the “De Stijl” characteristics such as flat geometric shapes, directional lines and limited colour palette (red,yellow,blue). His designs where not only aesthetically pleasing but where also efficient in their functionality. This was seen by many as a break through in modern Architecture in 20th century.
Unlike the many movements which arose from the birth modernism, De Stijl is one of few that still has a major influence over today’s world – Whether it be through Architecture, Furniture, Fashion, Painting, poster or album design. Many of the groups revolutionary creations are still recognised today as defining moments in the modernist movement. Many of today’s artists and designers are inspired by the simplicity of shape, line and colour.
A perfect example from the new 21st century could possibly be the American Band White Stripes cover design for album named “De Stijl”. Released in 2000, it was the bands second studio recorded album, seen as a cult classic among fans. Front man Jack White had been a “De Stijl” enthusiast for many years, dedicating the album to furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld. The front cover screams Rietveld’ 1924 design “The Schroder House” with the use of geometric shapes, limited colour palette (red, black and white) and directional lines. The minimalist design mirrors the simplicity of the bands mix of Blues and Punk genres throughout the album. The album cover and contents include work from Gerrit Rietveld, Vilmos Huszár and Theo Van Doesburg.
Even if the goal of achieving beauty from simplicity is aesthetically less exciting, it may force the mind to acknowledge the simple components that make the complicated beautiful.
Jack White – The White Stripes(2000)