African Graphic Design

There is no Wikipedia on African Graphic Design!!!

A history of African art (not graphic design contrary to the title) is:

And interesting websites with artists are:

A Google search for African typefaces tend to be rather kitsch zebras and unusable. Not the typefaces more commonly used in Africa – these are the common Adobe and Microsoft ones. But African designers have used these with colours in slightly different ways that I have yet to properly analyse.

Some examples from an NGO brochure in Kenya (I unfortunately do not know the designer).

Textile design gives possibilities for different colour schemes:

Zulu House Pattern
Zulu House Pattern
Julio Senna, Brazilian inspired by Africa
from 4 Vector free designs

Working with Images

NOTE: I am planning to do a lot more here using also work on Photobooks and Manuals I do for work. Linked to the discussion on grids and layout. Linking back also to the work on Fanzines in Part 1.

The type of book will in many respects determine the sort of images and also the approach used.

Images may be of many different types – line drawings in colour or monochrome, photographs, artwork produced in Digital Software like Illustrator or Photoshop.

Image resolution:  images need to be scanned at high resolution for printing purposes. 300dpi is a general rule of thumb. But the resolution required will depend on the particular printer, print process and also effect required.

Copyright: it is important to ensure that Copyright is available. Large publishing houses usually have a picture research department to deal with this and quality issues, but freelance designers may have to obtain copyrights themselves or use their own images.

Ways of integrating images: Images can be ‘full bleed’ (running over the page), cut-out, treated as a vignette, put in a box.

See Project: Working with Images

Text 1: artistic poem – Jabberwocky

Text 2 Travel article – Venice



What is Typography?

Typography (Greek: typos “form”, graphein “to write”) is:

the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type and arranging that type in physical or digital form to make written language most appealing to learning and recognition.

Many books on typography take a narrow Western perspective looking, apart from an overview of development of alphabets (See History of the Alphabet). In this project I focus on these Western traditions. But other cultures have a rich traditions of calligraphy with vibrant contemporary innovations, including printed typography. I begin to look at these in Assignment 4 (See Islamic Calligraphy ) and this is an important area where I would like to research in future, building on my academic study of linguistics and Asian languages and my interest in Japanese and Chinese traditions.


Type: the name of the individual metal letters used in letterpress printing.

Font: characters in a given typeface – all the uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, numbers and symbols in different point sizes.

Typeface: group of fonts of related design eg italic, bold, upper case, lower case etc.

Typography: design and use of typefaces.

Typesetting: act of using type to create words, sentences, lines of text.

Typeface Design: Typeface design is sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers.


Research: Western Typeface classification

Research: History of Type Design

Project 3.1 : Type Samples Sketchbook


Typography has a ‘specific purpose of so arranging letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid to the maximum the reader’s comprehension of the text. (Stanley Morrison 1928)

Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, clerical workers, and everyone else who arranges type for a product. In modern times, typography has been put in film, television and on-line broadcasts to add emotion to communication. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users.

The arrangement of type involves consideration of:


Research: The language of type: Typography principles pdf 

Research: Modernist typography

Typographers: Joseph Muller Brockman, Jan Tschichold, Massimo Vignelli, El Lissitsky, 

Research: Experimental typography

Experimental typography 

Typographic Art

Typographers: Emigre Magazine, Robert Massin, Kurt Schwitters, Dada,  Concrete poetry, Filippo Marinetti, Wolfgang Weingart, Neville Brody, David Carson

Exercise: Experimental typography: 20,000 Leagues

See also Typography Resources 

International Design Approaches

Design Timelines (Western design only)

33 famous graphic design companies from around the globe

For cross-cultural Street Art from my Illustration course see my post on that blog: Street Art 

African graphic design

See Post on African design

Middle East and Africa–psd-5036

Kenya NGO Design

Uses flags and colours in shape of a country

NGO Report with colour-coded sections with bold colour combinations

Nigeria TV brilliant colours

Ethiopia and Eritrea

Influence of Arab Street Art

EYE Magazine:

More curvy designs from Ethiopia NGO with limited but bright palette


Ibrahim El-Salahi

See also for directory of African designers.

Islamic Design

Islamic Design

Saudi Art

Iranian Art: Geometric

Iranian Art: Modern

Shirin Neshat

Japanese design

Cross between Zen minimalism, off-centre balance and Pokemon playfulness with very crowded collage.

Zen Aesthetics

Toko Shinoda

Koichi Yamamoto

Japanese Woodcut

Yayoi Kusama

For more on my study of Japanese design, art and illustration see my post on my Illustration blog: Japanese Styles

Latin America

EYE Magazine:

European Design

Wine Bottles from different countries

Signs from London

Art Nouveau

Art Deco



Expressionist woodcuts


Filippo Marinetti



EYE Magazine from Greece:


International Swiss Style


Experimental Jetset Lars Muller Norm

Wim Crouwel


edited from Wikipedia International Topographic Style

The International Typographic Style, also known as the Swiss Style, is a graphic design style that emerged in Russia, the Netherlands and Germany in the 1920s and developed by designers in Switzerland during the 1950s. The International Typographic Style has had profound influence on graphic design as a part of the modernist movement, impacting many design-related fields including architecture and art.

It emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity. Hallmarks of the style are asymmetric layouts, use of a grid, sans-serif typefaces like Akzidenz Grotesk, and flush left, ragged right text. The style is also associated with a preference for photography in place of illustrations or drawings. Many of the early International Typographic Style works featured typography as a primary design element in addition to its use in text, and it is for this that the style is named. The influences of this graphic movement can still be seen in design strategy and theory to this day.


The style emerged from a desire to represent information without the influence of associated meaning; i.e.)objective information. In the year of 1896 the Akzidenz Grotesk Typeface was released by H. Berthold AG type foundry as an attempt to capture an objective style, and from this point the International Typographic style evolved as a modernist graphic movement that sought to clearly convey messages in a universally straightforward manner.

Two major Swiss design schools are responsible for the early years of International Typographic Style. A graphic design technique based on grid-work that began in the 19th century became inspiration for modifying the foundational course at the School of Design in 1908. Shortly thereafter, in 1918 Ernst Keller became a professor at the Zurich School of the Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) and began developing a graphic design and typography course. He did not teach a specific style to his students, rather he taught a philosophy of style that dictated “the solution to the design problem should emerge from its content.”This idea of the solution to the design emerging from the problem itself was a reaction to previous artistic processes focused on “beauty for the sake of beauty” or “the creation of beauty as a purpose in and of itself”. Keller’s work uses simple geometric forms, vibrant colors and evocative imagery to further elucidate the meaning behind each design. Other early pioneers include Théo Ballmer and Max Bill.

The 1950s saw the distillation of International Typographic Style elements into sans-serif font families such as Univers. Univers paved the way for Max Miedinger and collaborator Edouard Hoffman to design the typeface Neue Haas Grotesk, which would be later renamed Helvetica. The goal with Helvetica was to create a pure typeface that could be applied to longer texts and that was highly readable. The movement began to coalesce after a periodical publication began in 1959 titled New Graphic Design, which was edited by several influential designers who played major roles in the development of International Typographic Style. The format of the journal represented many of the important elements of the style—visually demonstrating the content—and was published internationally, thus spreading the movement beyond Switzerland’s borders. One of the editors, Josef Müller-Brockmann, “sought an absolute and universal form of graphic expression through objective and impersonal presentation, communicating to the audience without the interference of the designer’s subjective feelings or propagandist techniques of persuasion.” Many of Müller-Brockmann’s feature large photographs as objective symbols meant to convey his ideas in particularly clear and powerful ways.

After World War II international trade began to increase and relations between countries grew steadily stronger. Typography and design were crucial to helping these relationships progress—clarity, objectivity, region-less glyphs, and symbols are essential to communication between international partners. International Typographic Style found its niche in this communicative climate and expanded further beyond Switzerland, to America.

One of the first American designers to integrate Swiss design with his own was Rudolph de Harak. The influence of International Typographic Style on deHarak’s own works can be seen in his many book jacket designs for McGraw-Hill publishers in the 1960s. Each jacket shows the book title and author, often aligned with a grid—flush left, ragged-right. One striking image covers most of the jacket, elucidating the theme of the particular book. International Typographic Style was embraced by corporations and institutions in America from the 1960s on, for almost two decades. One institution particularly devoted to the style was MIT.

Associated movements

During 1900s other design based movements were formulating, influencing and influenced by the International Typographic movement. These movements emerged within the relationships between artistic fields including architecture, literature, graphic design, painting, sculpting etc.

De Stijl was a Dutch artistic movement that saw prominence in the period between 1917-1930. Referred to as neoplasticism, this artistic strategy sought to reflect a new Utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. It was a form of pure abstraction through reduction to the essentials of form and colour, employing vertical and horizontal layouts using only black and white and primary colors. Proponents of this movement included painters like Piet Mondrian, Vilmes Huszar and Bart van der Hoff as well as architects like Gerrit Rietveld, Robert van’t Hoff and J.J.P. Oud.

Bauhaus was a German-based movement that emphasized purity of geometry, absence of ornamentation and the motto ‘form follows function’. This was a school of thought that combined craftsmaking with the fine arts and was founded by Walter Gropius. The goal was to work towards the essence of the form follows function relationship to facilitate a style that could be applied to all design problems; the International Style.

Constructivism was an art/architectural philosophy that emerged from Russia in 1920s. The style develops by assorted mechanical objects that are combined into abstract mobile structural forms. Hallmarks of the movement include geometric reduction, photo-montage and simplified palettes.

Suprematism, which arose in 1913, is another Russian art movement similarly focused on the simplification and purity of geometric forms to speak to values of spirituality.

All of these movements including the International Typographic styles are defined by reductionist purity as a visually compelling strategy of conveying messages through geometric and colour-based hierarchies.


James Goggin

Practice website    archive

It’s Nice That

James Goggin is a Chicago-based British and/or Australian art director and graphic designer from London via Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Auckland, and Arnhem. Together with partner Shan James, he runs a design practice named Practise working with clients across Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North America. James has taught at design schools in Europe, Australasia, and the United States, including Werkplaats Typografie, Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), and at Rhode Island School of Design, where he is currently a visiting thesis critic. He frequently gives lectures and runs workshops around the world, and occasionally writes about art and design practice. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Archive, and he has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale since 2010.

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