The art of visual communication is closely associated with its audience, and, as a result, can closely tie to a local context. When commercialised, such as in packaging and advertising design, visual communication is often tied to local industry, however, when illustration and graphic design are employed, they are often tied to a designers personal experiences within their local context. Yet what happens when this context is dynamic and rapidly changing? When a context is in a state of flux, what are the effects on visual communication?
Germany during the early twentieth century effectively demonstrates the close relationship between design and a local context. The Bauhaus movement, derived from the explosion of creative freedom in Germany after the fall of the German monarchy during World War 1, was tailored by Architect Walter Gropius to help rebuild a country in a state of economic and social crisis (Griffith 2000). Embodying radical experimentation with the material world and promoting a unity of the arts, the Bauhaus reflected a new period in history for Germany, most evident in the field of visual communication, where the Bauhaus style involved a balanced layout, clarity, and accuracy, representing Germany’s diligent reputation. However, the rise of Nazi Party in 1933 began to shift the design landscape. With heavy censorship of radical design movements such as cubism, futurism and dadaism, all disciplines of design began to align, albeit reluctantly, with the goals of Nazism (Hollis 2000). For graphic design, this included “Gothic-looking, traditionally German, Fraktur style” (Hollis 2000) typefaces, allowing articles and posters to convey the values of Nazi Germany through not only their content, but also through their design (Hollis 2000).
Renner, P. 1927 Futura Font
Similarly, Indonesia’s visual communication history has been heavily influenced by its rapidly changing social context. With a heavily emphasis on advertisement to a largely European audience during the Dutch colonization, to propaganda posters during the Japanese occupation, Indonesia’s own visual communication style was not fully realized until 1961, despite the first Indonesian art school, the Bandung Institute of Technology, being founded in 1947. Initially founded by the Dutch colonial government, students of ITB were provided with the opportunity to explore international art movements, however, only through the Dutch academic system. Classes were held in both Dutch and Indonesian, and all resources, such as books and professors, were Dutch as well (HGDI 2009). It was not until 1961, where a confrontation between the Dutch and the Indonesians in West Papua forced many Dutch people to migrate out of Indonesia, providing an opportunity for the institute to cultivate the Indonesian art language. Many Indonesian artists such as Srihadi, Ahmad Sadali, Soemardja, Mochtar Apin, and Sudjoko, Suyadi who received art education in the West, became teachers (HGDI 2009). However, as Indonesia, like many Southeast Asian countries, is still developing, design is often viewed as an industry tool rather than a reflection of the values of their unique culture. As Yasser, a lecturer at Bina Nusantara, explains “Design is about culturally developing a nation. Hopefully, with the IGDA, design can further develop our culture” (Booth 2010).
Written by Sam Watson
Booth, A. 2010 Graphic Award Night to Design Indonesia, Jakarta Post, viewed 29th of April 2015 <http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/05/22/graphics-award-night-design-indonesia.html>
Griffith Winton, A. 2000 The Bauhaus, 1919-1933, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, viewed 20th of April 2015, <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bauh/hd_bauh.htm>
HGDI, 2009. ‘1900s’, History of Graphic Design in Indonesia blog, weblog, WordPress, viewed 20th of April 2015
Hollis, R. 2000 The Party Line, The Guardian, London, viewed 20th of April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/dec/18/artsfeatures2>
Renner, P. 1927 Futura Font, The Red List, viewed 30th of April 2015 <http://theredlist.com/wiki-2-343-917-998-view-type-profile-renner.html>