Saturday, November 20, 2010

MODULE NINE - Conceptual Illustration

Atelier popilaire poster: a youth disturbed
too often by the future, poster, 1968,
University of California, San Diego

Post World War II, during which electronic advancements were made, set the climate for the emergence of a graphic design form referred to as Conceptual Illustration. This poster art form was about merging words with illustration in the effort to make a succinct statement.

In the poster on the left, we see the integration of word and image to convey the anguish that youth experience when pondering the future.   Along with the integration of word and image, we see the full utilization of space as a key attribute of conceptual illustration used by the artist.

Vostell Wolf, de-coll/age Happenings
Something Else,
University of California, San Diego

What are key attributes of and influences upon Conceptual Illustration?

  • analysis
  • full space utilization
  • word and image integration
  • concept conveyance
Pettibon, Raymon, Pop, 1993
University of California, San Diego

  • cubism
  • surrealism
  • expressionism
  • mass-media

        The poster above by Vostell, emits the style of cubism through its geometric proportions. We see the geometry of the books, matzo bread, and drawer combine to form consistent geometric shapes. The image and the word appear to converge to make a simple statement for the viewer.

        The poster, above, by Pettibon, simply and succinctly messages the view through color and the word "pop". In this work we see the "pure color loosened from natural reference by expressionism" (Meggs and Purvis p. 424) in the reds of the apple.

        Hershman, Lynn, Roberta Breitmore: And Alchemical Portrait, 1975
        The work above by Hershman displays the conceptual style by full space utilization,  integration of words and image.  We can see the influence of pop culture through the depiction of recognizable images such as the Golden Gate Bridge, car, on roller coaster.

        How does Conceptual Illustration compare with the Art Nouveau style?

        William Bradley, The Chap Book 1995

        As I discussed in a previous blog posting on Art Nouveau, some believe that the merging of idea and image to create symbolism is non existent in this art form.  It is thought that art nouveau is a design art form that does not take the view beyond the aesthetic.

        I can see elements of the conceptual illustration in art nouveau.  For example, in the work above, by Bradley, I see the following commonalities with the conceptual art examples discussed above: 1. Poster format 2. Integration of Words and Image 3. Full use of space.  The key difference between this work and conceptual art may be that this work was not intended to convey a deep meaning or symbol. But I suspect that there was some form of message that the Bradley was trying to get across to viewers. The message may have simply been the notation of beauty related to "Chap Book".

        How do we see influence of Conceptual Illustration in commercial advertising today?

        Billboards, internet display advertising manifest elements of conceptual illustration.  This manifestations occurs primarily in the use of space and integration of image and words. The example below demonstrates the use of technology to enhance the look of the bill board in Times Square, New York. Like the psychedelic style, the billboards are placed near a high traffic area. Like the conceptual illustration style, there is a full use of space, integration of words and image, and pop art references., by Matt H. Wade

        In his book, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A guide to Creating Great Ads, Sullivan explains that billboards force one to be simple in their ad design (pp. 73,74).  Sullivan uses the illustration below to explain, Neils French's, writer, idea of reductionism in advertising. He explains that the body portion of copy could be removed by making the headline "work a little harder". This achieves a leaner layout.  I think that this lean layout become important to capture the attention of audiences who are otherwise engaged, walking or driving.


        Meggs, Philip B and Alston W. Purvis (2006). Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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