Pioneers of Modern Graphic Design

Graphic design does not emerge without assistance.  It owes its existence to trailblazing graphic artists and designers.  The modern era of graphic design features an impressive list of innovators and explorers about whom anyone interested in the field should be acquainted.  Here are a few of the modern graphic design pioneers that are my favorites.

M.F. Agha: Agha took the helm as art director at Vogue in 1929.  He pushed to make visuals a primary, rather than a secondary, component of magazines.  Agha advanced sans serif fonts in typography and pushed forward the development of fashion photography.

Steven Heller: Heller works professionally in design, but he’s best known for writing over 100 different books on the topic.  He is widely considered one of the most knowledgeable sources of design information and one of the field’s top critics.

Saul Bass: Bass was a relatively successful commercial artist who became something of a celebrity in 1955, after designing the title sequence for the film The Man with the Golden Arm.  Bass revolutionized the appearance of screen credits and went on to work on scores of films.  Later, he did corporate identity work for the likes of AT&T and Minolta.

Paul Rand: What do Westinghouse, the United Parcel Service and the American Broadcasting Company have in common?  Paul Rand, a designer inspired by European avant-garde movements, created logos for all of them.

Lester Beall: Beall is known for his use of harsh angles, photographic silhouettes and iconic imagery.  He produced countless magazine covers, was a prolific designer in the commercial world.  He has usually remembered for his innovative and arresting Depression era government posters.

Alexy Brodovitch: His years as art director at Harper’s provided him with a platform to increase the significance of photography in magazines and to introduce mainstream publications to design inspired by expressionism and other art movements.  One of the first design gurus to fully make use of the power of white space.

April Greiman: Greiman, who is still actively challenging the way people interpret two- and three-dimensional space, she is often credited for encouraging the popularity of the New Wave aesthetic.  Constantly bucking convention, Greiman makes extensive use of computer graphics in her design work.

This collection of modern graphic design pioneers represents only a small fraction of the group that one could properly name to a design all-star team.  Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geisnar, Bradbury Thompson, Neville Brody and others warrant recognition, too.  These innovators and talents have been the driving force behind the development of modern graphic design.