Beall’s Booty

Lester Beall was influential in introducing modernist concepts to American graphic design. He created a contemporary aesthetic influenced by avant-garde European design of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by a layering of
words and images, dynamic use of color, photomontage, and clarity of message. He designed some of his most iconic images for the Rural Electrification Administration (below, top and bottom) and other New Deal initiatives. Beall’s special blend of shape and form with photomontage helped define the era’s design and continues to hold sway in many ways. He was also known for distinctive logo designs (below, middle). The up-to-date quality of Beall’s work shines, despite the fact that these images are over half a century old.

If you are in L.A. before May 31, see “Electrifying America: The Posters of Lester Beall” at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), 5905 Wilshire Blvd (3rd floor). The booty for this exhibition comes from the collection of Mark and Maura Resnick. Also see R. Roger Remington’s biography of Beall here.

Beall’s posters promoted the New Deal. Do you have any ideas about how a brand new New Deal campaign could be designed and implemented today?

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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