Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the screening of the documentary The Visual Language of Herbert Matter at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The film chronicles the personal life story and career of this Switzerland-born designer/photography/fine artist, whose influence, particularly his style of layering graphic elements to create a photo-montage appearance, has had lasting effects on modern day graphic design. Prior to watching the film, my limited knowledge of Matter’s career was restricted to the cutting-edge Swiss travel posters he designed during the 1920s. These posters have stuck with me as I feel that even today, the composition and scale of the posters make them feel modern and relevant. Apparently I’m not the only one to appreciate these posters as Matter won international acclaim for the pioneering use of photo-montage combined with type during the time of their release.
There are few films that document the history of graphic designers who have paved the way for modern design, so watching this film definitely gave me a broader perspective of the history of design and the influences that fine art and photography had on the evolution of graphic arts. It was a pleasure to watch interviews with modern designers such as Massimo Vignelli, Alvin Eisenman, and Steven Heller, as well as photographs of Matter working on other highly coveted projects such as the Charles and Ray Eames’ furniture catalogs, and with publication designer Alexey Brodovitch on Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazine covers.
The film’s director Reto Caduff was present at the screening, discussing the personal impact that Matter has had on his own life and his decision to self-narrate the film. The Visual Language of Herbert Matter will be showing on an international screening tour and released later this year. In the meantime, enjoy these clips from the film including the opening title sequence and a series of logo developments designed by Matter for New Haven Railroad.
- Have you ever considered pursuing a career in graphic design or digital media? Check out FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s program for Graphic Design where you can learn all aspects of print media, including typography, digital photography and publication/layout design, and FIDM’s Digital Media program where you can learn editing, digital composition, motion graphics, 3-D modeling & animation, and sound design.