Surrealism has always played a role in graphic design—though it started as a political philosophy with the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. However, the French art critic Guillaume Apollinaire first coined the term in 1917. French artist André Breton fused forces with artists like Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, first wrote the “Surrealist Manifesto” in 1924, which explored the subconscious world, intuitive drawing and the avant-garde, revolutionizing art and design.
Now, where does graphic design play into this? Well, surrealism was more than just a philosophy with a few French artists, it has grown to be a literary movement, and has influenced theatre, fashion and of course, design. Though it began as an anti-commercial movement, many surrealists made a living as graphic designers on the side to fund their art; they also publicized their work through their own self-designed posters, advertisements and placards. Here are seven artists, illustrators and graphic designers today who are keeping the art of surrealism alive in their own design masterpieces.
The Minneapolis artist and designer Matthew Custar adds a graphic, psychedelic, and even Memphis Group-inspired elements to his digital artworks, which can mostly be found on his Tumblr. Surprisingly, he makes all of his illustrations with iPhone apps. Want one on your wall? Pick up his prints on his Society6 page.
The Cuban art director and artist Magdiel Lopez, who is based in Dallas, has a knack for dreaming up surreal design masterpieces for his daily design series. From spacemen to pop superstars, he uses gradients with magenta and a rectangular, upright frame for portraits that are both iconic and otherworldly.
Flirst, a self-taught artist began making collages while living in Libon a few years back, and has been making them consistently ever since. “Each collage I made is part of a long process of personal study on the perception of shapes, colors and how assembling the piece changes the harmony of the whole,” writes the artist. “My collages express my inner feelings, my deepest thoughts and sometimes, I only understand the work after a long time and in relation to others I have done.”
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The collage artist and illustrator Eugenia Loli, who used to be a filmmaker, is no stranger to using cut-out collages to reveal comical elements of romance. Whether it’s a gold dust woman or a sparkling 1950s-style gentleman, she shows us what divides and unites people in love and relationships.
The Barcelona-based art director and graphic designer Valeria Prada has a fun side project—her collages, many of which shed light on the female perspective. Besides her design work, she has shown at the Art Basel Miami Beach, has won awards for her artwork and also experiments with video, when not compiling books. Check out her work on Behance.
The Chinese illustrator Jin Xingye creates cartoonish compositions that leave a lot to the imagination. With a visual style that looks like it’s from a children’s picture book, he shares both surreal moments, as well as moments of solitude and mystery in his digital drawings. Check out his Behance.
A huge fan of legendary Dadaist collage artists like Hanna Höch and John Heartfield, the Swiss collage artist Julia Geiser has mastered the art of bringing together digital vintage imagery with a new kind of strange symbolism that speaks to a young audience—that said, it still retains its sense of mystery. Geiser, who studied post-industrial design at HyperWerk in Basel, first started working with collage in 2012. “With collage, I can work fast and the pictures I create are more like a sketch of an idea than a finished picture,” she said. “I only use pictures found online.”