Herbert Spencer
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004; originally published 1969, English
Nonfiction, Graphic Design
8.5 x 12 inches, hardcover, 160 pages, 161 black-and-white and color reproductions
ISBN: 9780262690812

In this essential reference, Herbert Spencer shows how new concepts in graphic design in the early decades of the twentieth century had their roots in the artistic movements of the time in painting, poetry, and architecture. Spencer examines the "heroic" period of modern design and typography, the beginning of which he traces to the publication in Le Figaro of the Italian artist Manetti's Futurist manifesto. He discusses the work of such "pioneers" as El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. He examines the artistic background of the new concepts in graphic design, and traces the influences of Futurism, Dadaism, de Stijl, Suprematism, Constructivism, and the Bauhaus. His text is profusely illustrated with examples of the new typography, shown in genres that range from posters and magazine covers to Apollinaire's "figurative poetry."

On 4 book lists
Wim Crouwel

Published in 1969, this is an important sourcebook on the development of modern typography. It is an introduction to what led up to the new concepts in graphic design, and makes clear that modern typography does not have its origins in the conventional printing industry but is entwined with 20th-century painting, poetry, and architecture. It is an inspiring book. 


Angus Hyland

The perfect introduction to the subject.

Rick Poynor

Another title that can justly be termed a classic. A critical influence on at least two generations of graphic designers, Pioneers was one of the first surveys to introduce the work of modernist typographers—Lissitzky, Van Doesburg, Schwitters, Werkman, Zwart, Schuitema, Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy, Bayer, Tschichold—to a wider audience, and it’s certainly the best known. Spencer’s first edition (1969) is still collected as a beautiful object in its own right. A reformatted edition appeared in 1982 and this was reissued in 2004 (I contributed a foreword). Spencer’s introductory survey was long ago superseded as a history, but it remains a key text in the historiography of graphic design.

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