Edited from Wikipedia

Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. It glorified modernity and aimed to liberate Italy from the weight of its past.

It was influence particularly by the art movements Precisionism, Rayonism, and Vorticism and also:

Although it was largely an Italian phenomenon, there were parallel movements in Russia, England, Belgium and elsewhere.

The Futurists practised in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture, and even Futurist meals.

Its key figures were the Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, Antonio Sant’Elia, Bruno Munari, Benedetta Cappa and Luigi Russolo, the Russians Natalia Goncharova, Velimir Khlebnikov, Igor Severyanin, David Burliuk, Aleksei Kruchenykh and Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Belgian Jules Schmalzigaug and the Portuguese Almada Negreiros.

Important Futurist works included:

See my post: Filippo Marinetti
Although Futurism became identified with Fascism, it had leftist and anti-Fascist supporters. They tended to oppose Marinetti’s artistic and political direction of the movement, and in 1924 the socialists, communists and anarchists walked out of the Milan Futurist Congress. Futurism expanded to encompass many artistic domains and ultimately included painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theatre design, textiles, drama, literature, music and architecture.
Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti.

Nonetheless the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture.  A revival of sorts of the Futurist movement in theatre began in 1988 with the creation of the Neo-Futurist style in Chicago, which utilizes Futurism’s focus on speed and brevity to create a new form of immediate theatre. Currently, there are active Neo-Futurist troupes in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Montreal.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is a museum in London with a collection centered around Italian futurist artists and their paintings.

The Yellow Book

edited from Wikipedia The Yellow Book

Cover of the Yellow Book by Aubrey Beardsley

The Yellow Book was a British quarterly literary periodical that was published in London from 1894 to 1897. It was a leading journal of the British 1890s and lent its name to the “Yellow Nineties” and the magazine contained a wide range of literary and artistic genres, poetry, short stories, essays, book illustrations, portraits, and reproductions of paintings.

It was published by Elkin Mathews and John Lane, and later by John Lane alone, and edited by the American Henry Harland.

Aubrey Beardsley was its first art editor, and he has been credited with the idea of the yellow cover, with its association with illicit French fiction of the period. He obtained works by such artists as Charles Conder, William Rothenstein, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, and Philip Wilson Steer. The literary content was no less distinguished; authors who contributed were: Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, “Baron Corvo“, Ernest Dowson, George Gissing, Sir Edmund Gosse, Henry James, Richard Le Gallienne, Charlotte Mew, Arthur Symons, H. G. Wells, William Butler Yeats and Frank Swettenham. A notable feature was the inclusion of work by women writers and illustrators, among them Ella D’Arcy and Ethel Colburn Mayne (both also served as Harland’s subeditors), George Egerton, Charlotte Mew, Rosamund Marriott Watson, Ada Leverson, Netta and Nellie Syrett, and Ethel Reed.

It was to some degree associated with Aestheticism and Decadence, but also style. The first issue of The Yellow Book‘s prospectus introduces it “as a book in form, a book in substance; a book beautiful to see and convenient to handle; a book with style, a book with finish; a book that every book-lover will love at first sight; a book that will make book-lovers of many who are now indifferent to books”. The periodical was priced at 5 shillings.

Cover: The Yellow Book‘s brilliant colour immediately associated the periodical with illicit French novels – an anticipation, many thought, of the scurrilous content inside.  It was issued clothbound.

Art separate from text:  Harland and Beardsley rejected the idea that the function of artwork was merely explanatory: “There is to be no connection whatever [between the text and illustrations]. [They] will be quite separate”. The equilibrium which The Yellow Book poses between art and text is emphasized by the separate title pages before each individual work whether literary or pictorial.

Page layout: The Yellow Book‘s mise-en-page differed dramatically from current Victorian periodicals: “… its asymmetrically placed titles, lavish margins, abundance of white space, and relatively square page declare The Yellow Book’s specific and substantial debt to Whistler”. The use of white space is positive rather than negative, simultaneously drawing the reader’s eye to the blank page as an aesthetic and essentially created object. 

Typography: The decision to print The Yellow Book in Caslon-old face further signified the ties which The Yellow Book held to the Revivalists. Caslon-old face, “an eighteenth-century revival of a seventeenth-century typographical style” became “the type-face of deliberate and principled reaction or anachronism”. A type-face generally reserved for devotional and ecclesiastical work, its use in the pages of The Yellow Book at once identified it with the “Religion of Beauty”.

Use of catch-words on every page enhanced The Yellow Book‘s link to the obsolescent. Both antiquated and obtrusive, the catch-phrase interrupts the cognitive process of reading: “making-transparent … the physical sign which constitutes the act of reading; and in doing this, catch-words participate in the ‘pictorialization’ of typography”. By interrupting readers through the very use of irrelevant text, catch-words lend the printed word a solidity of form which is otherwise ignored.

Front covers

The role of the cover

The cover, or dustjacket, serves two purposes:

  • to protect the book: In the Victorian era cheap paper-covered reprints had been widely available.
  • to express something of its contents and nature – to sell the product in a highly competitive market.

Early books were handbound with strong heavy covers. In 19C as books became cheaper to produce, and with developments in printing processes, using colour lithography, the book cover became more than a functional protective device: it was a space to advertise and communicate information about the book’s content. Poster designers and graphic designers of the era began to use it as such.

Aubrey Beardsley’s The Yellow Book (1894–97) is a good example of design to promote a book.

Cover of the Yellow Book by Aubrey Beardsley

The Arts and Crafts movement of the early twentieth century revitalised interest in book cover design and this began to influence and infiltrate mainstream publishing.

In the 1920s radically modern cover designs were produced in the Soviet Union by Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky.

El Lissitsky, book cover for the Isms of Art: 1914-1924.
El Lissitsky, book cover for the Isms of Art: 1914-1924.

In the late 1920s the publisher Victor Gollancz carried out research on busy railway platforms, noticing which colours caught the eye on the book covers that appeared on newstands, as seen through the crowds. Based on his research he designed his publishing ‘house style,’ using what was at the time a very bright yellow, with inventive black and magenta typography. After black and white, yellow and black is the most easily readable colour combination.

Victor Gollantcz book covers

Penguin Books:‘What is cheap need not be nasty’ Britain’s approach to cover design was somewhat more restrained. When Allen Lane approached the established publisher Bodley Head in the late 1920s, with ideas for a new, affordable approach to book design, his ideas were turned down. Lane went on to form Penguin Books and to champion a new publishing model in economically depressed Britain. Penguin’s iconic orange, black and white covers from the same era are a striking example of simple and effective design: clear, uncluttered and an early example of successful branding. In the mid 1930s Penguin formed part of the ‘paperback revolution’, producing affordable books with quality design, and their publishing identity sought to be associated with this approach. Penguin’s designs used classic yet modern typography within a clearly defined structure. The template was set up by Jan Tschichold in 1947 and broadly applied to all Penguin’s books. Penguin’s approach has become a defining mainstay of British book design and an excellent example of successful book branding.

Penguin book covers
Penguin book covers



Typography: the title, the author’s name, subtitle and quotes.


Imagery : As a general rule of thumb, to have maximum effect the cover usually bears a single image. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule; many manuals, non-fiction and ‘how to’ books use multiple images. Dorling Kindersley publications, for example, are recognisable for their crisp colour cutout photographs on a white background.


The cover has been likened to a mini-poster, and in many respects serves the same purpose, in that the design needs to grab the attention of its audience within a few seconds. Sometimes it is a new book. Publishers periodically re-vamp cover designs, to tie in with promotional features, anniversaries of the book’s original publication, film versions and other marketing opportunities.

To spell out the contents:

  • So that you are in no doubt as to what you are buying? This has a tendency to mean that many titles within a particular genre look the same.
  • Sex sells: Twentieth-century American pulp fiction covers often used an archetypal hour-glass figure of a woman (with smoking gun) to entice its buying audience. These covers were printed post-war, using inks that produced vibrant colours.

 Branding for the publisher:  to create a positive association with a particular publisher and to build a relationship with the book-buying audience.

Producing a cover

In publishing workflow, the cover is treated as a separate entity to the main book contents. The evolution of a cover design, from inception to completion, can take as long as the design of the main book itself. For example, a reasonable timespan for the design and publication of a 256-page illustrated book could be nine months. The cover or jacket design for the same book can take just as long,
even though the image and textual material is significantly less. This is due in part to the many requirements that a cover has to fulfil, including commercial and marketing aspects.

The marketing and sales departments within publishing organisations know the importance of the cover with regard to revenue, so often the design of a cover involves considering a great many aspects, to meet multiple needs. This can sometimes confuse the brief. Cover design meetings can turn into ‘design by committee’, with all parties – editor, designer, sales and marketing – having their input, often with different approaches to the project. This inevitably
slows the process and can lead to conflicting messages for the designer.

Whilst it’s important to take on board everyone’s input, and adjust designs accordingly if required, ‘design by committee’ can be confusing. Essentially, the brief for a cover design needs to be clear at the outset, so that the designer has clear parameters to work within. As a designer it can occasionally be your role to argue the merits for what you consider to be a strong cover design, one that has quality and integrity within the various elements of the design.

See design workflow

  • get a feel for the content: read some of the text of the book, or at least a
    synopsis, to get a feel for the content.
  • stick to the design process so that you generate your own ideas and responses
  • in the case of re-designs, be aware of, though not influenced by, already- existing approaches to the cover design.

Research examples

George Orwell 1984   images 

  • the original 1949 version shows a formal typographic design, adhering to Tschichold’s guidelines: simple black typography on the branded Penguin orange.
  • the American pulp fiction style, brightly coloured and showing pictorial characterisations from the book.
  • a later version bears a film still, reflecting the movie tie-in.
  • the nineties cover bears a digital eye, a minimal and conceptual reference, and
  •  a typographic representation of the existing text, highlighting the ‘Big Brother’ reference, a concept that has parallels in contemporary television.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
florid sci-fi colouring with expressive typography, to a much cooler palette,
organisation and layout in the original French.

  • If you walked into a bookshop with no idea what the book was about, what impression would each of these covers give you?
  • Which cover would be most likely to make you pick up the book, and why?
  • Check the date of each image and try to speculate about the historical, political or social context for each one.
  • What approach would you take to the cover design if you were asked to design a new  edition today? Make some thumbnail sketches.



Archaeological motifs

Motifs from perfume bottles found at Tel Abrak
El Hafit tombs
Ceramics at Sharjah museum

Modern Art

Hazem Mahdy Atman 2 automatic art
Hazem Mahdy Atman 3

article Hazem Mahdy automatic art

UAE colours The Drip Artist
National Day lips: Sisters Beauty Lounge is located in five prestigious locations throughout the country: Al Bateen Abu Dhabi, The Village Mall in Jumeirah, The Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Centre, and the Mall of the Emirates.

Islamic geometric design

Islamic geometric patterns derived from simpler designs used in earlier cultures: Greek, Roman, and Sasanian. They are one of three forms of Islamic decoration, the others being the arabesque based on curving and branching plant forms, and Islamic calligraphy; all three are frequently used together.

Many traditional patterns were based on is the division of the circle (as a symbol of unity and diversity) in nature into regular parts. From these divisions a regular grid of triangles and/or other polygons is established, on top of which the design is elaborated. Islamic designers used the full range of Archimedean tilings (comprised of simple polygons) first discovered by the Greeks, but added to and expanded upon these. The underling tiling pattern or ‘grid’ is usually hidden beneath the final design, but this hidden order gives the designs their meditative power.

Evolution of Islamic geometric patterns Yahya Abdullahin and, Mohamed Rashid Bin Embi

Islamic Geometric Patterns Wikipedia

The art of Islamic Pattern by Richard Henry

The earliest geometrical forms in Islamic art were occasional isolated geometric shapes such as 8-pointed stars and lozenges containing squares.

Geometric design in Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia 836 ce
Design from mosque at Yazd, Iran

Persian ‘Girih’ or knot designs: From 1086 7- and 10-point girih patterns (with heptagons, 5- and 6-pointed stars, triangles and irregular hexagons) appear in the Friday Mosque at Isfahan. 10-point girih became widespread. Soon afterwards, sweeping 9-, 11-, and 13-point girih patterns were used in the Barsian Mosque, also in Persia.

Peter Cromwell analysis of Persian Girih design construction Study from Liverpool University

Alaeddin Mosque, Konya, Turkey

Geometric detail Alaeddin mosque, Konya Turkey 8 and 12 point girih designs from 1220 onwards

Girih pattern: Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz, Iran
Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo 879 ce – 6 and 8 point stars

Drawing Islamic Geometric Designs in Adobe Illustrator: see post

Draw freehand

Saudi Art

Saudi Arabian art includes both the arts of Bedouin nomads and those of the sedentary peoples of regions such as the Hejaz, Tihamah, Asir and the Najd. There is also a vibrant modern art scene in major cities highlighting social issues, with a number of prominent women artists.


The first mosque of Islam was the house of the Islamic prophet Mohammed in Medina. It is the prototype of all later sacred architecture of Islam. In it are most important the floor and carpet that are touched in prayer with the head.

Interior Mosque al Nabawi
Interior Mosque al Nabawi

Bedouin art

Tribal symbols referred to as “wusum” were carved by Bedouins during prehistoric times and are found as rock art in the hills and deserts of Arabia.

Saudi Rock art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art

Modern Art Movement

The Art Movement in Saudi Arabia started in the mid 60’s by a group of School Art Teachers and lasted till mid 80’s. Prince Khalid Al Faisal, himself a poet and artist, inaugurated a cultural centre in Asir Province to promote young fresh talent. It was from this project that one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent contemporary artists, Ahmed Mater, emerged. In 1972 Mohammed Said Farsi became the mayor of the coastal city of Jeddah, making the city one of the largest open-air art galleries in the world. Artists incorporated media outlets such as photography and video technology.

Recently, there has been an increase in public galleries exhibiting modern art in Saudi Arabia. This supported by the influx of commercial galleries and a growing grass-roots movement of artists who have acquired international status.

Ahmed Mater Magnetism installation
Ahmed Mater Magnetism 2
Men At Work
Abdulnasser Gharem 2010

Contemporary Saudi Arabian women artists

Women are at the centre of the contemporary Saudi art scene, posing questions on the current political climate and women’s rights.

Alaan Artspace

Riyadh’s first curated contemporary art platform. The name Alaan, meaning ‘now’ in Arabic, is supposed to represent the energy and power of the prevailing art scene in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition shows works entirely created by women, who are both diverse methodologically and in terms of their artistic style. Further, the founder, creative director and chief curator are all women. The gallery also hosts master classes and workshops, organized by Sara Raza (the former curator of public programmes for London’s Tate Modern Museum), teaching prospective artists about contemporary art. Moreover, Alaan Artspace funds its non-commercial exhibitions, commissions new works and offers free non-profit educational arts programming through revenues from its shop, restaurant and café.

Manal Al Dowayan


Manal Al Dowayan (1973) was born in Dhahran, the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Initially she studied Systems Analysis (MSc) and worked as a Creative Director in an oil company. She was working and producing art for 7 years until she became a full time artist in 2010. This was a result of an active art industry that was evolving in her region. Dowayan has rapidly become one of the leading advocates of contemporary artists in the Middle East. She studied abroad in a number of art institutions including USA, London, Dubai and Bahrain. She works mostly with photographs and installations and her work is largely feminist in nature. Her most revered piece is ‘Suspended Together’, a flock of doves made from fiber-glass with stickers on their bodies . The doves are interlocked and made up of permission slips that women in Saudi Arabia must have signed by their husbands or male guardians to have permission to travel.

An internationally acclaimed artist, she has exhibited her work at the Venice Biennial Collateral show “The Future of a Promise” in 2011 and at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of exhibition that showcases their public acquisitions of Middle East Photography titled “Light From the Middle East” in 2013 and the American Biennial Prospect New Orleans in an exhibition titled “Notes For Now” in 2014 where she showed a collection of 20 photographs and 11 videos titled “If I Forget You Don’t Forget Me” she also participated in Fluid Form: Contemporary Art from Arab Countries (2010) in Seoul  at Freedom to Create (2011) in New York  and at Simply Words in Switzerland (2012)

Samiah Khashoggi


Samiah Khashoggi, born 1958 in Abha, is an interior designer, painter, and organizer of Saudiaat, an art exhibition.  In 1982, she graduated from Kingston University in the UK with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, and in 2005 completed her Masters of Fine Arts from De Montfort University. She is an assistant professor of interior design at Dar Al Hekma College. For a few years starting in 1983, she worked as the first female designer at her brother’s furniture and design company.

Working on her MFA required her to interview and organize an exhibit for local female artists. Her exhibition for her MFA turned into a regular exhibition called Saudiaat, featuring contemporary female Saudi Arabian artists. As well as featuring artwork, Saudiaat also supports local female artists and educates the public about the techniques involved in their work. As of 2012, the group has had four exhibitions, with the 2012 exhibition, titled “Directions”, having been held in Jeddah.

Other artists

Important exhibitions


Nabatt: A Sense of Being (2010) is an exhibition of contemporary art from Saudi Arabia. It is presented by the Saudi Arabian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Amongst the artists exhibiting, it features works by Shadia & Raja Alem, Reem Al Faisal, Lulwah Al Homoud, Jowhara Al Saud, Noha Al-Sharif] & Maha Mullah. The show attempts at engaging with the diverse nature of life, notably human relationships and the interactions amongst and within social groups and communities.

Edge of Arabia

Edge of Arabia (2003) is a UK independent non-profit organisation, founded by an artist collective.

We Need to Talk: Jeddah

In January 2012, it organised a 40-piece exhibition entitled ‘We Need to Talk’. More than a third of the works displayed were by women.

Come Together: London

In October 2012, it presented ‘Come Together’ curated by Stephen Stapleton displaying large-scale, multi-media work by leading Arab artists. The name of the exhibition, Come Together was a reference to social networking channels and their influence on individual expression in the Arab World. The show featured the work of 30 emerging artists which included works by Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Al Abdali and Manal Al Dowayan. In addition to the exhibition Edge of Arabia teamed up with The Crossway Foundation, Dar Al Mamûn and Future Shorts to incorporate an education programme comprising workshops, film screenings, topical discussions, and guided exhibition tours.

Soft Power

Soft Power (September 26 – December 10, 2012) was the inaugural show at Alaan Artspace. Soft Power represents an innovative project, looking at the complex domain of a woman’s role and the position of women within contemporary Saudi society. It features three Saudi female artists: Sarah Abu Abdallah, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali and Manal Al Dowayan. The exhibition, rather than being explicitly political, explores the subtleties of the political and social contentions prevalent in Saudi Arabia. Throughout the exhibition, there are references made to the guardianship laws adopted in Saudi Arabia. The female subjects represented are givers, consumers, objects, power-brokers and caretakers. As stated by the exhibitions website, the artists embrace ‘a nuanced and at times humorous approach towards exploring the position of women within contemporary society.’ The name of the exhibition encapsulates this stance, and the subjects of the works themselves, which attempt at reshaping the expected narrative. Moreover, it offers a platform for discussion and dialogue on matters concerning art in Saudi Arabia.


Wadjda, is the first feature film to be made in Saudi Arabia it was directed by a woman. Haifaa Al Mansour, made her debut at the Venice film festival. Her feature film explores the restrictions placed on women in the conservative Islamic kingdom. It took her three years to have the permission and backing to make. It is a Saudi/German co-production, produced by the Berlin-based Razor Film Produktions with support from Rotana Studios. It is the first film entirely shot in Saudi Arabia, documenting the everyday trials and tribulations of a young Saudi Arabian girl, Wadja. It encapsulates her childhood journey opposing social norms and restrictions both at home and school. Al Mansour hoped the film would help to change attitudes towards women and film both within and outside Saudi Arabia. However, the film is yet to be seen in Saudi Arabia until its subsequent television release. Al Mansour claims to have faced a number of challenges casting and filming in a country steeped in conservative attitudes. She aimed to depict the segregation of women in Saudi Arabia. Namely, the fact that women have lower legal status than men, are subject to guardianship laws and are banned from driving.


Contemporary women artists

Basmah Felemban The Hand