Graphic Design Time Line: A Century of Design Milestones Paperback – 12 Oct 2000
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The book covers a little over 100 years of design history. Each decade begins with a quote, then proceeds to showcase numerous "milestones" that happened each year, one spread per year. Then there's a smattering of black-and-white images.
And this execution constitutes the failure of Graphic Design Time Line. The book is the equivalent of a Graphic Design Trivial Pursuit reference. Worse, it's akin to a highschool kid who knows more than enough to get through a fill-in-the-blanks quiz and yet is bereft of insight. A motherload of facts, true. But to any practicing graphic designer, facts are worthless without insight.
As an example, a 1913 entry highlights: "William Randolph Hearst purchases Harper's Bazaar." This may have been a milestone for the publishing industry, but graphic design? Did Hearst revolutionize magazine design, or use new printing techniques, or elevate the magazine to a new level of visual communication? No explanation.
One 1960 entry states: "Steff Geissbuhler is a designer for Geigy Pharmaceutical Company." Okay, so why is this event a graphic design milestone? Again, no explanation.
"Milestone" is a big word, but the book never supports the milestones it presents. In the early part of the book, design movements are mentioned but are never explained, not even in summary, and most of these movements don't have the benefit of a visual peg. There is nothing in the book that exhibits trends, their origins, or implications.
My fault is that I expected far too much from this book. If I were to have my "dream" Graphic Design Time Line book, I would start a decade with a summary of the design trend of that period, how it started, who were the major players, who were starting to get noticed, then add some images of works that defined that decade.
When it comes to each year, I'd scrape the twenty or so factoids and focus on four to six entries--the milestones of all milestones--expand on them, highlight their defining characteristics, interconnect them, and cross-reference them with other decades. A sidebar would still contain factoids as supplementary information.
So am I disappointed? Yes, yes, and yes. If you're a design student, a professional, or someone looking for practical info, you might be disappointed with this book as well.
I can imagine, though, that Graphic Design Time Line would be perfect for the graphic design history teacher. It can help a teacher with a course outline, but I can't see anything more than that.
Not a book to be read all at once, but to be enjoyed sporadically, leafed through, glanced through before bed... a must-have for the design history enthusiast.