Craft and Industrialisation

The Art and Crafts movement is generally agreed to have started in 1860 with the work of William Morris in England where it expanded throughout Britain and into North America and Europe enjoying a long eminence as a movement until 1930.




 The lifespan of the movement persisted for such a period because it a genuine reaction to a change and persisting deficiency in culture. The idea of craft, which was viewed by some as a revival of medieval guilds and the notion of the artisan, was developed very much in parallel to the recent industrialisation of means of production.  Some understood craft as an overwhelming cultural force where design and its resultant environment are directly responsible for the harmony of its inhabitants. Importantly much of the movement centres around culture and the changing relationship between man and his work.

Morris a revivalist preoccupied with socialism, viewed craft as ennobling the people. Industrial culture was viewed as a subjugation of the people to the design and aesthetic to industrial methods. The craftsman would have the requisite skills to build a piece, whether a table, wallpaper, printing or a house from beginning to end. Subsequent craft societies that sprung up over the world appear to be centred around the independence of the craftsman and the emancipation from the industrial method where labour is divided according to process. This is consistent with socialist literature where the worker loses connection to his product. He is a contributor rather than a creator.


The dichotomy between man and machine is very much at the heart of the movement whereas initially it was a reaction against industrialisation later on many recognized the utility of industry for the purposes of craft.

In terms of design the movement although renowned for its ornamentation gives precedence to function while ornamentation is secondary. It rejected the excessive decoration of industrial products, the compromising of an objects function, the removal of man from his product and manufacturing’s claim to originality.








Continental Movements 1900 – ?

The above movements represent various forms of avant garde dissatisfaction with the status quo, the need for cultural change and an emphasis on the future rather than the past. The movements are deeply intertwined and only differ in respects such as the coinage of a name originating from a particular country, an aesthetic style, or slight philosophical differences between the groups. As the movements encompass a broad range of ideas and arts within the period there are as many contradictions as there are similarities.


Dada was an aggressive rejection of the past and preoccupied with destroying the status quo in a time of moral, spiritual, economic and political turmoil presumably to make way for a healthier culture to flourish in its absence. It originated in Switzerland and was primarily a philosophical and ideological movement that  was represented in the arts. Over time as european artists moved overseas Dada soon broke its continental levees and was synthesised into various international art groups. Famous examples include Duchamp’s readymade urinal and Schwitter’s poems and collage.


Expressionism is an academic term used primarily for grouping painting from this period but can be expanded to include any medium within the arts that champions free expression. The expressionist whether in film, painting or poetry was concerned with expressing himself and rather than being confined to traditional objective methods of expression. An expressionist’s work is subjective. Members from the other groups could be said to be expressionist or use expressionist methods .


Constructivism originated in Russia and like Dada was an active rejection of the past. Particular to Russia, having recently reintroduced a limited capitalist policy, this included promoting capitalism through new forms of graphic and commercial art. This movement while ideologically runs parallel and was associated with other continental groups was largely preoccupied with issues of national politics.


Futurism came from Italy and was associated with its leader Filippo Marinetti. The movement spread all over Europe and it manifestations in painting, design and architecture became indistinguishable from  Dada, Constructivism and Expressionism. Futurism could be said to represent a more positive emphasis of the future rather than an aggressive rejection of the past in the case of Dada.

Art Deco

Art Deco is the aesthetic synthesis of the above ideas primarily into architecture and design while some artists have been said to be described as Art Deco. Art Deco survived well into the sixties. The idea evolved into the modern idea of functionality.

Cradle to Cradle in Practice: USPS

The United States Postal Service was interested in the Cradle to Cradle philosophy and a movement towards more sustainable business practice. This first stage of the ongoing effort was completed in September 2010. Areas of the USPS business that CBDC looked at include alternative fuels for transportation, greener production facilities, recycling or ‘upcycling’ processes for waste but the predominate focus was on the USPS range of envelopes and packages.

2 years of design research and work on the USPS product range where MBDC established 350 component materials which a further comprise 1800 individual ingredients. An important aspect of the MBDC approach is the recognition that a business is an economical and financial unit and much of its work is the practical integration of sustainable design into the business.

For UPS to achieve the certification on its product range involved working with 20 primary and 250 additional suppliers across the world in assessing and changing the materials that make up the product. Today there are 700 million certified envelopes and packages produced annually. USPS as a business and MBDC as consultants recognize the significanceof an ongoing process and a long term approach. A corporation can’t change its process overnight and would never undertake environmental practice if it were uneconomical. USPS currently has a sustainability department with key areas of focus and an implementation strategy that was developed with and will continue to work on with MBDC.

AdBusters: Graphic Design for Social Change

Adbusters Media Foundation is a Canadian based alternative media group centred around a monthly magazine devoted to socio cultural change and awareness. It describes itself as a ‘CultureJammer’. It doesn’t feature advertisements and relies solely on sales.

 The magazine has a strong visual emphasis on design, photography and art. A large part of this visual content is devoted to culture jamming where an internal contradiction of contemporary culture is made visible for example by subvertising. It also features articles and short passages from writers both published and unpublished. Public submissions of art and text are welcomed.

The group has no definitive political stance but does feature recurring ideas and positions. Among these are an opposition to corporate power, consumer lifestyle, commercial saturation, digital saturation, environmental neglect and globalisation to name a few. Because of its ambiguous position which is decidedly left some have hypothesized that it is an anarchist publication. The non-adoption of a specific position gives it a broader audience where the public can pick and choose ideas with which they agree. Importantly the magazine is an alternative to corporate industrial media. Rather than being consumers the  readership become active participants in organised and underground methods of subversion.

Some of the Adbusters campaigns include ‘Buy Nothing Day’, ‘Blackspot’ an experiment in independent, ethical capitalism, ‘Kick it Over’ a guerrilla protest against economic rationalism, ‘Media Carta’ an organised retaliation against the corporatisation of the Huffington Post and ‘Digital Detox Week’.





Jan Tschichold – New Typography

German-born typographer Jan Tschichold revolutionized the field of graphic design with his bold, asymmetrical compositions, use of sanserif type, and exacting attention to detail.

Tschichold was the son of a provincial signwriter, and he was trained in calligraphy. This artisan background and calligraphic training set him apart from almost all other noted typographers of the time, since they had inevitably trained in architecture or the fine arts. Tschichold, perhaps the most visible proponent of modern graphic design prior to World War II, eventually embraced a more classical sensibility, raising that to a new level of refinement. Today, Tschichold remains one of the most important figures in the history of graphic design. Through his many books andarticles, showing that he was as much an explainer as a designer.



* Born April, 1902 in Leipzig, Germany.

* Tschichold attended the “Akademie for Grafische Künste and Buchgewerbe “in Leipzig from 1919 until 1921.

* 1923 freelanced as a commercial graphic artist.

* From 1926 until 1933, taught typography at Paul Renners Master Classes for Book Printers in Munich.

* 1928 saw the publication of perhaps his most influential work, The New Typography.

* 1933 Tschichold emigrated to Switzerland, where he worked for several publishers in

  Basel and taught at the School for the Applied Arts.

* In 1946 Tschichold went to London, where he was art director at Penguin Books until 1949.

* Between 1955 and 1967 he worked as a design consultant for the Basel pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche before retiring.


– 1928 saw the publication of perhaps his most influential work,

The New Typography.

Materials the Nazis deemed improper during World War Two

all copies of Tschichold’s  books, most likely ended up in the

mountains of burning books .

A better world by design

      WHAT’S THE POINT OF DESIGNING something gorgeous and useful if it makes us feel guilty, because we know that it’s ethically or environmentally irresponsible?
     At this time of unprecedented environmental, social and economic crises, should we be 
creating the deceptions that encourage continuous consumption or figuring out a way to 
help counter it?

     In a world where design has become a recognised corporate asset, designers and their 
clients have the opportunity to use their persuasive skills responsibly and to accelerate 
awareness. Just think of how quickly the plastic bag has become taboo in many countries. 
Designers create much of what the world sees, wants, buys, uses and experiences.
Imagine using their professional power, persuasive skills, and wisdom to help distribute 
ideas that the world really needs: health information, conflict resolution, tolerance, 
technology, freedom of the press, 
freedom of speech, human rights and democracy.
      Studies have found that up to 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are already locked in at the design stage when key decisions are made about materials, production, distribution, operation and end-of-life management.  Design can make an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. Making sustainable design affordable is a huge factor. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the life cycle of the product.
Factors to consider.
* Product need
* Product durability and longevity
* Specification of environmentally preferable materials
* Energy and water efficiency during manufacture and use
* Reduction or elimination of greenhouse gas emissions, toxic and hazardous substances and embodied energy

* Design for straightforward disassembly, reuse, refurbishment and recyclability

* Product stewardship such as take-back and recycling schemes

* Packaging minimisation

* User information and education

Design Can Change . Org ~ Will

Design Can Change is a website based initiative that focuses on Graphic Design and how it can be used for good. The site itself is an example on how graphic design can make a difference, providing interactive and informative articles on world issues such as climate change and sustainability, to help get the message across why it is important to design for change. Design Can Change is filled with info, ideas and articles on how as designers we can produce work that influences the public to think differently about the things we buy and they way we live.

“This site is focused around you, the designer, and why you have to become sustainable. By now, you know that embracing sustainable practices is simply necessary for any designer that wishes to stay competitive. But isn’t there more to it than that?

     Remember the first time one of your designs reached the public? If you are like us, you felt a wave of amazement, inspired by the fact that you could do something substantial with your craft. Suppose you were given the opportunity to regain that sense of accomplishment and delight?

     Perhaps this is the moment we have been waiting for, when we show the world that designers do impact positive change. This is our time to come together, engage in a global challenge, and present real solutions. You may feel differently, but for many of us, that’s the most exciting possibility we’ve ever been presented with.”