Graphic Sign Designer for Business Advertising.
The economic interdependence of business signs for buildings, advertising digital signage and website advertising can be reflected in the similar design of their outdoor business signs and other advertising mediums. Each particular unique business sign can have the same headlines, text and the same kind of illustrations. As graphic business signage and advertising depended increasingly on images – the ‘art’ element – their reproduction and the layout as a whole became the responsibility of an ‘graphic sign designer’.
In America, graphic art direction preceded the profession of graphic design for company signage. The Graphics Arts Directors Club of New York was founded in 1920. The yearly exhibition and the publication of its Annual helped the recognition of graphic designers whose work was not in itself advertising, such as letterheads and signage display material.
If Europeans admired America’s dynamic commercial signage designs, Americans looked to Europe for modern culture and sophistication for design concepts. Scouting for talent in Europe, the New York publisher Conde Nast found these qualities embodied in one of his own staff, the Russian-born Mehemed Fehmv Agha, who was at that time working for the German edition of Vogue in Berlin. In 1929 Conde Nast brought him to America as art director for Vogue, House and Garden and ‘the Kaleidoscope Review of Modern Life’, Vanity Fair. As art director, Agha took control of the magazines, even contributing photographs and articles himself.
Image by markus spiske via Flickr
He introduced Parisian chic and German experience, ‘bleeding’ photographs off the edge of the page and using ‘duotones’ (black-and-white photographs printed in two colours). In 1932 he used a full-colour photograph in Vogue for the first time. He had a complete understanding of photographic and sign printing techniques, and was aware of the avant-garde, He encouraged his designers to plunder the treasures of ‘the temple of Constructivism’.
He introduced the double-spread grid sheet and dummy type so that accurate pasted-up layouts could be produced instead of rough designs drawn in pencil. He was also the first to see a magazine as a series of double-page spreads rather than a sequence of individual pages. He introduced ways of setting text to echo adjacent photographs and of using some consistent device to link the pages of a single feature to make a distinct unit within the magazine. He would plan the issue before any pictures were taken, and employed the best photographers of the period, including Edward Steichen, George Hoyningen-Huene from Germany and the young Cecil Beaton from England.
The covers of Vanity Fair were usually the work of painters, including Raoul Dufy, and business design illustrators, notably Paolo Garretto. For the July 1934 issue, Garretto represented intellectuals in government by placing an academic cap and spectacles on the Washington Capitol. Such juxtaposition of symbols has since become a convention of graphic sign design. The masthead (the title on the front of the magazine) rarely departed from bold sans-serif capitals, but was varied to appear in outline only, with shadows, or in lights, flowers or flags.
Full-colour photographic covers identify Agha as the original modern art director. The graphic tone of the image had to represent the magazine’s contents, but the artifice behind the elegance of the image, the attention to every detail so that it contributed to the total effect, needed, and then applied to all future business sign designs.
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