I always thought that the history of graphic design was on its own, having no relation to the history of art and the different art movements that emerged throughout the years. But through the past few lectures, I learnt that the history of graphic design goes along with the history of art, with each movement influencing the different styles of graphic design and how graphic design isn’t just about the layout but also the type, forms, images and the techniques.
Even though I learnt quite a lot from the lectures, I feel like I spent more time trying to memorise the terms and names rather than understanding the concepts. I think it might be because there is too much content compact into 4 weeks. However, I’m amazed at how much we have learnt and I think it is quite useful to know about graphic design even though I might not be in visual communication. Overall, I think the past 4 weeks were enjoyable and I’ve learnt a lot from Desmond.
Man Ray was a photographer, painter, sculptor and film maker who is well known for his photography. As mentioned in the lecture, Man Ray experimented with different ways of creating a photo. I was fascinated by Man Ray’s experimentations in photography and decided to find out more about the effects he came up with and how they worked.
Rayographs, also known as photograms, were photographic prints created without the use of a camera, but rather with photosensitive paper. Objects were placed on photosensitive paper which was exposed to light. As the objects block out the light, images of the objects appears after the paper is developed.
Solarisation and the Sabattier effect happens when the photograph is extremely overexposed. Because of the overexposure, there is a reverse in the value tones where the darker areas become lighter and vice versa.
I think it’s interesting how the objects and photographs can be manually manipulated to produce different effects that I thought were only possible with digital means like photoshop.
Ukiyo-e meaning “picture of the floating world” is a form of Japanese art which uses woodblock printing. I think it is amazing how the monochromatic woodblock printing technique used for the Diamond Sutra evolved into this polychromatic version. One of the most popular Ukiyo-e works is The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai that was shown in the lecture.
I really like the artwork but I’m also interested in knowing more about another work in the lecture, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Ando Hiroshige. The work is split into four parts — Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. It depicts different sceneries of Edo (also known as Tokyo now). I realized after doing some research that there isn’t any meaning behind the work… it is just a depiction of scenes.
I like that this series of work tells us how Tokyo looked like at that time and the daily lives of people of that period. Although the colours are mostly flat, they tried to express depth by varying the shades of colours. I also like the colour gradients in the background of the works. Overall, I think it is impressive how they managed to achieve this using woodblock printing.
Printing is one of the four greatest inventions of China. The Chinese first started with woodblock printing, but there were a few problems:
A lot of material(wood) was required to print a whole book
The blocks took up a lot of space
Carving an entire page out of wood meant they had to redo the whole thing even with the tiniest mistake
That’s when Bi Sheng came up with the movable type where each character was carved on individual blocks. As the character blocks are small and could be reused for different pages, it was easier to store and less material was needed. It was also easier to replace the blocks if there were mistakes or damages.
Unfortunately, the Chinese characters are too complicated and there are far too many of them so movable type wasn’t really favoured by the Chinese. Even so, Bi Sheng’s invention led to the development of Johannes Gutenberg’s punch and matrix, and also the first printing press. I think that woodblock printing and movable type are impressive inventions and without them, we might not even have our modern printing techniques of today.