History of Graphic Design- Art Deco and DeStijl

Historyof Graphic Design- Art Deco and DeStijl

Historyof Graphic Design- Art Deco and DeStijl

TheObjectives of the Movement

TheDe Stijl originated in The Netherlands (Heller&ampPettit, 2000).Artists began to communicate abstract ideas throughaesthetic andvisual means that applied geometric forms. Primary colors formed thebasis of design and visual effects for the early movement. The mainobjective of the movement was to bring together artists that had thesame revolutionary ideas in the precincts of spiritual harmony in theaftermath of WW I(Arntson, 2011). The artists considered theirmovement of art as a symbol of inspiration to rebuild communities,urban centers, and bring back the arts that had been destroyed duringthe war.


Themain visual feature of the De Stijl artists was the use of thestraight lines, asymmetrical shapes, irregular distribution of colorswith particular attention to finding a visual harmony with thesurface, and the use of primary colors. In this inception period,basic geometric shapes dominated visual arts and they set the stagefor future visual designs that incorporated other shapes. However,there are two main features that defined the De Stijl era of visualart: neo-Plasticism and elementarism. The former was developed byPiet Mondrian earlier before the movement gained traction, but waspromoted and matured during the movement while the later wasdeveloped by Van Doesburg(Dilnot, 1984). Neo-Plasticism entailed onlyusing straight lines and primary colors to make a visual presentationwith a deep message. The idea went beyond the traditional emphasis onperspective and representation. Elementarism introduced the idea ofthe diagonal, which was a also a slip from traditional art.

Observations:trends and styles in present-day visual communication

Inthe spirit of the revolutionary ideals of its founders, De Stijl hadboth social and aesthetic features that characterize modern-dayvisual communication. The aspect of universality and aestheticharmony in today’s visual communication is a style that beganduring the De Stijl movement. The same is common in modern graphicarchitectural design. Designers of modern-day visual communicationtook the same attitude of aesthetic harmony and universality from DeStijl. Some of the visual communication products are logos, websitefeatures, the face of operating systems on mobile devices, and evenbillboard ads.

Exampleof trends

Anexample of a modern design trend that largely borrows from De Stijlis the way Microsoft designed the grid of windows operatingsystem. The way it appears on the screens of ipads and smartphones followsthe traditional guidelines of De Stijl based on minimalism. Acomparison of the following windows design and another design of theDe Stijl era reveals a few similarities listed and differences aswould be discussed below.



Theabove traditional and modern designs show that the minimalist idealof visual communication is a principle that has passed the test oftime. Modern-day 3-D designers use it just as much as the artiststhat first took it from its inception during the De Stijlera(Raizman, 2003).Minimalism implies that the artist is keen keeponly features that are essential for the design. This explains whyuser interfaces, house designs, and website designs have only fewvisible features that are appealing to the eye.


Theabove two designs have similarities that originate from the De Stijlmovement. They include

  1. The extensive use of vertical and horizontal lines

  2. Use of rectangular forms

  3. Use of primary values: grey, black, and white

  4. Use of primary colors: yellow, red, and blue.

  5. A majority of design elements do not overlap each other


Thesecond design has some differences with the first, design, but not onprinciple but in the benefit of technology as follows:

  1. Modern materials create more aesthetic affect (steel and glass plates)

  2. A more minimal structural orientation

  3. A lot of open space

Communication:How layouts and styles communicate with the intended audience


Stylesand layouts of modern visual designs such as the windows design abovecreate a familiar imagery and metaphor through 3-D technology. Byadhering to the principle of minimalism, the user treats all theelements as different objects that require specific attention. Theintended audience in this case, is the computer who clicks on eachitem for a specific use.


Withthe advancing technology, there are less negative elements indesigns. Have the many individual elements create a crowding effectthat makes the user feel, it is complicated to use. This explainsmore mobile devices coming to the market have less elements on thescreen, with user-friendly operating systems.


Visualdesign through the De Stijl movement, therefore, aimed to create asense of aesthetics in urban planning, fine art, topography,industrial design, and architecture. The aspirations to change thepost-WW I art tradition changed the philosophy of art to date.If onewas to make a visual aid such as a poster the same philosophy wouldlead to success. Fewer elements that obey aesthetic value attractmore viewers. De Stijl founders believed that art and design has toincorporate visual simplicity, elements of tension among differentfeatures, and amicable space that is balanced between solid pictures,the grid, and space.


Arntson,A. (2011). Graphic design basics. Cengage Learning.

Dilnot,C. (1984). The state of design history, part I: mapping the field.DesignIssues,4-23.

Heller,S., &amp Pettit, E. (2000). Graphicdesign time line: a century of design milestones.Skyhorse Publishing Inc..

Raizman,D. (2003). Historyof modern design: graphics and products since the IndustrialRevolution.Laurence King Publishing.