Join Sean Adams for an in-depth discussion in this video Victorian advertising, part of Learning Graphic Design History.
- Just like today, technological change was a driving force in the mid-to-late 19th century. And like today, people's lives were turned upside down as new inventions changed the way they lived and worked. It's this rise of society that was more industrial-based than agricultural-based that drove much of the way Victorian design looked. Imagine life before the Industrial Revolution. Most people made their own clothes, or they were custom-sewn for them.
Almost every item in their house was handmade. Their teapots were never identical to those next door. As new machines and mass manufacturing began to make exact duplicates of items that were suddenly available in huge quantities, this all changed. Now people were able to choose between different teapots, and their shirts were available in different colors. This mass production created competition. So now the manufacturers were thinking, "I need people to buy my teapot, "rather than the teapots from a company down the street.
"But how can I make that happen?" This is the genesis of modern advertising and design. In order to compete, manufacturers turned to posters, placards and ads to convince consumers to use their products. What could once be a simple note on a wall now needed to be noticed. At the same time, new machines were invented that could handle finer printing. So suddenly, there were greater possibilities for creativity in advertising.
Victorian advertising reflects these changes, and the values of that period, such as a clear class structure, sexual restraint, and a strict code of conduct. Britain was at the height of its empire, with colonies around the globe. An elaborate ornamentation and mixing of styles from other cultures reinforced the British empire's colonial strength. These forms were paired with images that reflected idealized nostalgia and moral goodness.
This Coca-Cola ad is a great example of a sentimental image representing the goodness of a Victorian woman. And the ornate typography representing the refined and upper-class values of Coca-Cola. The advertising had an air of optimism. New machines and industries were transforming the world and making wonderful products. It was a time of massive technological innovation. Science and industry were going to solve all the problems of poverty, hunger and disease.
We may look at the Victorians and think they're old-fashioned and naive, but the design embraces the new ideas of the time. They were in the midst of rapid change which affected the ways they lived and worked. There are some parallels to today, as it can seem that new digital technologies appear before we've even learned how to use the last ones.
Beginning in the Victorian age, Sean explores the need for design in Industrial age advertising, the use of graphic design as propaganda during the two world wars, and the rise of the massively influential Bauhaus school. He sheds light on the development of poster, film-title, magazine, and album-cover design; the changing relationship between design and typography; and graphic design's role in various art movements, ranging from Art Nouveau to new wave. Get started with Foundations of Graphic Design History and discover the power of imagery.
- Why study graphic design history?
- Art Nouveau
- The Arts and Crafts movement
- The Soviet Revolution
- European avante-garde
- New Typography
- The great age of posters
- American modernism
- Post-war optimism
- The rise of the corporate identity
- Exploring the fused metaphor and the "big idea"
- Reviewing Swiss typography
- The West Coast shift