A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image: Observatory: Design Observer


Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design uncovers the presence of an alternative tradition in graphic design. The Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 1930s focused on literature, painting, photography and the object, and the Surrealists’ publishing activities provided only hints of what a fully conceived Surrealist graphic design or typography might look like. Many of the most suggestive early examples came from Czechoslovakia, where Surrealism would become a lasting influence. Subsequently, Surrealist ideas and images had a profound impact on image-makers in every sphere of art and design, and by the 1960s the effects of Surrealism were widely felt in international graphic communication. Uncanny traces this intermittent line of development up to the present.

It would be mistaken to describe this lineage as representing a movement. Surrealistic design is not a group activity, it has never cohered into a dominant tendency within graphic design, and histories of design have said little about it. Work showing a strong debt to Surrealism emerges only when a graphic artist or designer appears who is attuned to this way of thinking, dreaming and imagining.

Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and professional good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs in Uncanny break free from these bureaucratic restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.”

via A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image: Observatory: Design Observer.

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