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Art History

AHIS 211A: History of Design - Jane McQuitty

This course surveys the history of design from the 19th century to the present, with a particular emphasis on media, practices, and concepts relevant to fields associated with visual communication design. Grounded in analyses of artifacts and episodes drawn from the history of design, this course will explore a number of thematic topics, including: the parallels and contrasts between premodern and contemporary design practices; the intersection between design, industrialization and Capitalism; the impact of 20th century cultural and social revolutions on design; the professionalization of design as a practice in the period after 1945; the role of design in the early histories of digitization; the contemporary challenges to design of globalization and sustainability; the shifting relationship between design, ethics, and social justice.

Featured Library Resources

Sustained Research Creation Project

World fairs, also known as international expositions or universal expositions, have historically played a significant role in influencing cultural change. Introductions that have had the power to revolutionize society, reshape lifestyles, and pave the way for cultural change such as the telephone, the Ferris wheel, the Eiffel Tower, and the television were all showcased at various world fairs. In addition, world fairs have been used as platforms for promoting specific ideologies and social causes. For example, the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago highlighted advancements in women's rights and provided a platform for suffragettes to advocate for gender equality. 

As part of the work assigned to this 2nd year course students were asked to produce a creative research work and accompanying reflective paper. The project began with students identifying an emerging sustainable technologic innovation and familiarizing with the positive impact on sustainability claimed as well as the potential user, beneficiary, consumer. The students were then asked to conceive of a functional graphic design communication for this client within the parameters of using a selected historical graphic design style and, if possible, its technology. As this was a summer term offering print shop as well as digital technologies were available.

The functional graphic design communications were shared in an end of semester exhibition titled AUArts World’s Fair, showcasing emerging services, technologies, and social justice interventions likely to be beneficiaries of a sustainable and equitable or “just transition” future. As a World’s Fair would require, all companies, technologies, and organizations showcased are genuine and already exist in the real world. All are innovative. Many are in an early stage of operations with little positive and recognizable image or reputation in the minds of everyday consumers and potential stakeholders. 

Reflecting on the effect of a historicist approach to the establishment of brand identity for the very new has provoked some exciting reflections. As one student graphic designer and participant observes, “by embracing new environmental movements with historical graphic designs, it comes to an experience that can allow the general public, people whose reception of environmental approaches is that they are uninteresting or irrelevant—to be more open and ‘see for themselves,’ clear any misgivings, and offer a “nonjudgmental visual reimagination of environmental [and societal] endeavoring.”

Cole Lovstad: Polar Night Energy

Poster for Polar Night Energy Sand Thermal Storage
(Tampere, Finland, founded 2018)
Plakatstil and Sachplakat style 

Cole Lovstad is an artist currently living in Calgary, Alberta, aspiring to create comics, character designs, and animations, always with a focus on trying to tell an interesting story. Cole is consistently inspired by traditional pen and ink artworks, most notably those by Kentaro Miura and Junji Ito, but with a contrast in style inspired by modern Western animation and Studio Ghibli, as well as the artwork of Finnish illustrator Heikala. He's always looking to make something new compared to his previous work, experimenting with different mediums to tell a story in a different and unique way.

Polar Night Energy is a project started in Tampere, Finland, as a means of creating renewable energy via heat storage. In this case, sand, which is abundant and can work even if it is low-grade. The sand battery stores energy produced by solar panels and wind turbines to create heat that is then distributed to homes. The battery can also be used in industrial heat provisions, substituting fossil fuels. The battery, located at Vatajankoski Power Plant, is cost-effective and environmentally friendly and might serve as a vital replacement to lithium-ion batteries, considering their rarity, high price, and negative impact on the environment.

I created a poster in the style of the German and Swiss schools of poster design, Plakatstil and Sachplakat, respectively. The poster was inspired by several advertisements made by Lucien Bernhard, the pioneer of the Plakatstil style, consisting of simple shapes to advertise a product, demonstrating what it is with the fewest possible elements. Limited colour palettes, reductive designs suggesting objects, and flat colours are all hallmarks of the style. The image I created is representative of the battery’s function, rather than what it looks like, by showing it as a simple battery in a pile of sand. Here I used a single-coloured background--another frequent practice—and the large text with single-line border that Bernhard often used. I have made the text with the same font that is used on the battery’s logo.