Graphic designers both draw on and are drawn to paper. Here are some modern artifacts neatly showing different designers’ approaches and personalities, representing a few of the 39 issues of the promotional series “Design & Paper,” published by Marquardt and Co. from around 1935–1950 (the issues are undated).
Each stapled, stitched or thread-bound issue is a small brochure that shows the work of leading, mostly American, practitioners. There were two by Ladislav Sutnar (No. 13, “Controlled Visual Flow,” and No. 19, “Shape, Line and Color”) as well as an issue devoted to cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg. Others focused on themes, like George Loewy’s industrial design, Edward Bernays’ (the “inventor” of public relations) philosophy, and the history of the Art Directors Club. Special features showcased design and typography by Alexey Brodovitch, Erik Nitsche and McKnight Kauffer, and each booklet was custom designed, most with essays.
Together they comprise evidence of the Midcentury American Modern approaches that are invaluable to both scholar and practitioner today.
Despite a few period stylistic quirks, the type, typography and overall design of many of these “Design and Paper” brochures could easily have been conceived and produced today. It is interesting that humor, scale, gesture, simplicity and white space is so contemporaneous. Although the tools of composition and reproduction regularly change, the aesthetic qualities do not.