28 September 2007

Graphic Design

Graphic Design: A New History
Join Your Country's Army!
Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?
Graphic Design: A New History, by Stephen J Eskilson, is perhaps the only serious rival to Philip Meggs's A History Of Graphic Design. Eskilson is the only author, apart from Meggs, to produce a comprehensive history of graphic design from the earliest printing presses to the present day. The book's publisher, Laurence King, has previously published a number of definitive histories of various artistic fields: A History Of Interior Design, Photography: A Cultural History, History Of Modern Design, A World History Of Architecture, and A World History Of Art.

Eskilson's scope is slightly narrower than Meggs's, though arguably this is to Eskilson's advantage, as he is able to discuss case-studies in more detail. For instance, he devotes several pages to the tactics utilised by recruitment posters during World War I, including the classic Herbert Kitchener poster by Alfred Leete, and Savile Lumley's "most famous picture of emasculation ever made... Lumley's poster, especially the shamefaced visage of the emasculated patriarch, is a masterpiece of bullying propaganda".

Meggs is less engaging than Eskilson, though his bibliography is more extensive. Both books are lavishly illustrated, though Eskilson's photographs benefit from their larger reproductions.