Join Sean Adams for an in-depth discussion in this video The Industrial Revolution, part of Foundations of Graphic Design History: The Arts and Crafts Movement.
- In the middle of the 19th century, new machines were developed that replaced human labor. People were moving from an agricultural to an industrial economy. For the first time in history, average people had access to products previously only accessible to the rich. Sounds good. The Industrial Revolution increased production and provided a wider range of products. It alleviated issues of hunger and malnutrition with new transportation options. But working conditions for the lower classes were often deplorable and child labor was rampant.
Cities became centers of pollution, overcrowding, and disease due to sanitation problems, and quality was often ignored. In the graphic arts, traditional typesetters and printers were replaced by mechanized methods. Paper making shifted from hand production toward a mass produced product that created an acidic paper that yellowed. Books were printed and bound not by hand but by machinery. This reduced costs and gave more people access to books, but decreased quality, skill, and any sense of an individual designer.
Another negative impact on design was the change from typesetting by hand to new printing techniques. Books and flyers that were printed in large quantities adhered to a more rigid system that could be easily reproduced. The role of a designer was disappearing. Illustrations, diagrams, or images, required costly engraving. This limited their use, and we see a change from lavish decoration in book design of the medieval manuscript, toward a grey sea of text on low quality paper.
Like today, the industrial economy was driven by consumer supply and demand. Advertising created demand, and design responded with the introduction of the wood type broadside and lithography poster. This allowed for a larger type carved in wood. The goal changed from refining the craft of typography and creating beauty, to selling a product as quickly and cheaply as possible. The other design arts suffered as well. Ceramics, pottery, glass making, architecture, and furniture design, all shared the same issues of demand, lowering standards in the name of profit.
The goal was not to create something long lasting with the skill of the designer and manufacturer, but to make it fast with built in obsolescence. Why not buy the new curling comb even though the last one didn't work? And again, as we see happening today, part of the design world began to reject the loss of quality and the handmade due to mechanization. They looked for an alternative way of working and making, hoping to improve the quality of life and maintain the highest standards.
This was the beginning of The Arts and Crafts Movement.
Sean reviews the factors leading to the rise of Arts and Crafts, and the designers and companies who led the charge, including William Morris, Gustav Stickley, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Since Arts and Crafts spanned more than print, Sean reviews its impact on architecture, textile and furniture design, ceramics and glasswork, and bookmaking. He also explains what led to the decline of the Arts and Crafts movement , and how its influence on contemporary design lives on.