Postmodernity is a term used to describe the social and cultural implications of postmodernism. The term is used by philosophers, social scientists, art critics and social critics to refer to aspects of contemporary art, culture, economics and social conditions that are the result of the unique features of late 20th century and early 21st century life. These features include globalization, consumerism, the fragmentation of authority, and the commoditization of knowledge (see "Modernity"). "Post-modernity" is also used to demark a period in art, design and architecture beginning in the 1950's in response to the International Style, or an artistic period characterized by the abandonment of strong divisions of genre, "high" and "low" art, and the emergence of the global village. Postmodernity is said to be marked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, non-orthogonal angles such as the Sydney Opera House and the buildings of Frank Gehry.

Deconstruction is a term which is used to denote the application of post-modern theory, to a "text". A deconstruction is meant to undermine the frame of reference and assumptions that underpin the text. Jacques Derrida, who coined the term, argued that the existence of deconstruction implied that there was no intrinsic essence to a text, merely the contrast of difference. This is analogous to the scientific idea that only the variations are real, that there is no established norm to a genetic population, or the idea that the difference in perception between black and white is the context. A deconstruction is created when the "deeper" substance of text opposes the text's more "superficial" form. According to Derrida, one consequence of deconstruction is that the text may be defined so broadly as to encompass not just written words, but the entire spectrum of symbols and phenomena within Western thought. To Derrida, a result of deconstruction is that no Western philosopher has been able to escape successfully from this large web of text and reach that which is "signified", which they imagined to exist "just beyond" the text.

The more common use of the term is the more general process of pointing to contradictions between the intent and surface of a work, and the assumptions about it. A work then "deconstructs" assumptions when it places them in context. For example, someone who can pass as the opposite sex is said to "deconstruct" gender roles, because there is a conflict between the superficial appearance, and the reality of the person's gender.

In graphic design deconstructivism gave its name to one of the major typographic movements, starting in the early 1980's and continuing into the late 1990's: Deconstructive Typography. Taking on a more experi-mental approach to typography, the Dadaists and Futurists in the 1920s and 1930s, and later Concrete Poetry during 1950s and 1960s experimented with floating type compositions and fragmented typographic treatments, releasing type from its linear structure. Further developments of the deconstructivist typography in the 1990’s shifted the typographic practice towards a spatial, non-linear process: ‘Communication for the deconstructivist is no longer linear, but involves in-stead the provision of many entry and exit points for the increasingly over-stimulated reader.’ [Cahalan 1994, p.1] The page is no longer to be just "read" but also "perceived", beyond the pure textual content, into all of its associative conjunctions: We are meant to "feel" rather than "read" a page. The end of the century, with the rising issues surrounding global economies, ecology and rising poverty in developing countries was a time when graphic designers took a long, hard look at the nature of their work; at its ephemereal qualities, its associations with consumerism/capitalism. The outcome took into account unexpected resources; the ordinary, the often-used, the soon to be discarded - as indeed is most of the output of graphic design itself. Designers sought inspiration in unlikely items such as old ticket stubs, torn billboards and discarded packages and the expression and legitimisation of the vernacular.

Punk was also one of the inspirations, along with 'postmodern' fiction for the science fiction genre known as 'cyberpunk'. The technological potential unleashed by desktop publishing and graphics software allied with the methodological potential offered by variously by punk and French deconstructionist philosophy produced a style of graphic design and typography known sometimes as deconstructionist graphic design, and sometimes as 'The New Typography'. Though obviously coming out of different contexts and circumstances, these developments shared a fascination with contemporary technology and in both its utopian and dystopian possibilities, as well as its glamour. They also evince similar tropes and strategies, of appropriation, juxtaposition, detournement, montage, collage, repetition, facilitated by or reflecting upon the extraordinary capabilities of that technology. The deconstructionist graphic design's use of layers and experimentation with typography all reflected a world of diffused and distributed communication mediated through networks of powerful information technologies.

Garment labels, embroidery samplers, cafe menus, ticket stubs - vernacular as "perceptual" object for typography.

Further reading

Graphic Design at the end of the millenium
The reaction to the increasing severity imposed by modernism and minimalistic movements such as the Swiss Style on graphic design was slow but inexorable, resulting in new typographic investigations and trends. Compounding this was the disillusionment that designers and art director's increasingly felt towards the requirements and bland approach of the advertising sector by which they were largely employed.

An important point was reached in graphic design with the publishing of the First things first 1964 Manifesto which was a call to a more radical form of graphic design and criticized the ideas of value-free design. This was massively influential on a generation of new graphic designers and contributed to the founding of publications such as Emigre magazine. The First Things First manifesto was written 29 November 1963 and published in 1964 by Ken Garland. Today we may not understand the significance of the document which at the time caused consternation. It was backed by over 400 graphic designers and artists and also received the backing of Tony Benn, radical left-wing MP and activist, who published it in its entirety in the Guardian newspaper. Reacting against a rich and affluent Britain of the sixties, it tried to re-radicalise design which had become lazy and uncritical. Drawing on ideas shared by Critical Theory, the Frankfurt School and the counter-culture of the time it explicitly re-affirmed the belief that Design is not a neutral value-free process. It rallied against the consumerist culture that was purely concerned with buying and selling things and tried to highlight a Humanist dimension to graphic design theory. It was later updated and republished with a new group of signatories as the First Things First 2000 manifesto.

Deconstructivist typography by "Substance" design agency, London, UK, mid 1990's

Deconstructivist Typography: Cornell Windlin (left), Neville Brody (right)

The First things first 2000 manifesto was an updated version of the earlier First things first 1964 Manifesto. it was published in 2000 by some of the leading lights of the graphic design, artistic and visual arts community. It was republished by Emigre, Eye and other important graphic design magazines and has stirred controversy (again) in Graphic design.

In essence, the question of value-free design has been continually contested in the graphic design community between those who are concerned about the values in design and those who believe that design can be value-free. Those who believe that design can be free from values feel that the graphics industries themselves should not be concerned with the underlying political questions. Those who are concerned with values believe that graphics and the designers themselves must be critical and take a stand, for instance by not promoting industries and products perceived to be 'bad'. Examples of what might be classified as bad are adverts and designs for cigarette manufacturers, arms companies and so on. This has been particularly influential on AdBusters, for example, and is related to ideas of detournement (In detournement, an artist reuses elements of well-known media to create a new work with a different message, often one opposed to the original) and culture jamming (Culture jamming is the act of transforming existing mass media to produce negative commentary about itself, using the original medium's communication method. It is a form of public activism which is generally in opposition to commercialism, and the vectors of corporate image. The aim of culture jamming is to create a contrast between corporate image and the realities of the corporation. This is done symbolically, with the "detournement" of pop iconography).

Further reading
First things first 1964 manifesto >>>
First things first 2000 manifesto >>>

also known as Emigre Graphics, is a type foundry in Berkeley, California, founded by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko. It also published Emigre magazine between 1984 and 2005. Note that unlike the word émigré, Emigre is officially spelled without accents.
Emigre was founded in 1984 as an independent foundry, developing typefaces without an association with a typesetting equipment manufacturer. Through a good part of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, some of the most cutting-edge typefaces were developed or released by Emigre. Its magazine, in the meantime, provided an outlet showcasing the potential of its typeface designs, and was well known for its graphical experimentation. Emigre has also published a number of books related to graphic design.

Emigre magazine: Issue cover and spreads

Further Reading and images:

Neville Brody
Neville Brody (1957 - ) is an alumnus of the London College of Communication and is known for his work on The Face magazine (1981–1986) and Arena magazine (1987–1990), as well as for designing record covers for artists such as Cabaret Voltaire and Nine Inch Nails.
He was one of the founding members of FontFont (now FontShop) in London and designed a number of notable typefaces for them. He was also partly responsible for instigating the FUSE project an influential fusion between a magazine, graphics design and typeface design. Each pack includes a publication with articles relating to typography and surrounding subjects, four brand new fonts that are unique and revolutionary in some shape or form and four posters designed by the type designer usually using little more than their included font.

Neville Brody, advertising poster (left) software identities for Macromedia (right).

Initially working in record cover design, Brody made his name largely through his revolutionary work as Art Director for the Face magazine. Other international magazine directions have included City Limits, Lei, Per Lui, Actuel and Arena, together with London's The Observer newspaper and magazine. Brody has consistently pushed the boundaries of visual communication in all media through his experimental and challenging work, and continues to extend the visual languages we use through his exploratory creative expression.

Neville Brody for FUSE

Neville Brody, Advertising brochure, mid 1990's

In 1994, together with business partner Fwa Richards, Brody launched Research Studios, London. A sister company, Research Publishing, produces and publishes experimental multi-media works by young artists. The primary focus is on FUSE, the renowned conference and quarterly forum for experimental typography and communications. The publication is approaching its 20th issue over a publishing period of over ten years. Three FUSE conferences have so far been held, in London, San Fransisco and Berlin. The conferences bring together speakers from design, architecture, sound, film and interactive design and web.

David Carson
(1956 - ) is best known for his innovative magazine design, and use of experimental typography.
His first actual contact with graphic design was made in 1980 at the University of Arizona on a two week graphics course. Later on in 1983, Carson was working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology when he went to Switzerland, where he attended a three-week workshop in graphic design as part of his degree. This is where he met his first great influence, who also happened to be the teacher of this course, Hans-Rudolph Lutz.

David Carson, advertising design 1990's

During the period of 1982–1987, Carson worked as a teacher in Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, California. In 1983, Carson started to experiment with graphic design and found himself immersed in the artistic and bohemian culture of Southern California. By the late eighties he had developed his signature style, using "dirty" type and non-mainstream photography. He would later be dubbed the "father of grunge."

Editorial design: "Beach Culture"

Editorial design: "Ray Gun"

Among other things, he was also a professional surfer and in 1989 Carson was qualified as the 9th best surfer in the world. His career as a surfer helped him to direct a surfing magazine, called Beach Culture. This magazine lasted for three years but, through the pages of Beach Culture, Carson made his first significant impact on the world of graphic design and typography with ideas that were called innovative even by those that were not fond of his work. From 1991-1992, Carson worked for Surfer magazine. A stint at How magazine (a trade magazine aimed at designers) followed, and soon Carson launched Ray Gun, a magazine of international standards which had music and lifestyle as its subject. In 1995, Carson founded his own studio, David Carson Design in New York City.

Editorial design: book and magazine covers.

In November 1995, Carson published his first book the End of Print. His second book, 2nd Sight, followed in 1997. It is said that this book simply changed the public face of graphic design (Newsweek). In 1998, Carson worked with Professor John Kao of the Harvard Business School on a documentary entitled "The Art and Discipline of Creativity." The third book that Carson published was Fotografiks (1999) which earned Carson the Award of Best Use of Photography in Graphic Design. Carson’s fourth book, Trek, was released in 2000. Carson has also helped in the development of The History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs.

The age of the computer
In 1950 the British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing published a paper describing what would come to be called the Turing Test. The paper explored the nature and potential development of human and computer intelligence and communication, while the first commercially successful electronic computer, UNIVAC, was also the first general purpose computer - designed to handle both numeric and textual information was also designed the same year. The implementation of this machine marked the real beginning of the computer era.

In the mid 1980s, just 30 years later, the arrival of desktop publishing and the introduction of software applications introduced a generation of designers to computer image manipulation and 3D image creation that had previously been unachievable. Computer graphic design enabled designers to instantly see the effects of layout or typography changes without using any ink in the process. not only did computers greatly speden and fascilitate the traditional design process, they also gave a completely new outlook to sketching and idea formation, enabling designers to virtually create endless generations of one work/concept.

April Greiman was one of the first to recognize the vast potential of this new medium,
quickly establishing herself as a pioneer of digital design.

Further images

Web Design
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, published a website in August 1991, making him also the first web designer. His first was to use hypertext with an existing email link. Early on, websites were written in basic HTML, a markup language giving websites basic structure (headings and paragraphs), and the ability to link using hypertext. This was new and different to existing forms of communication - users could easily open other pages using browsers. Programmers were the original web page designers in the early 1990s. Currently most web designers come from a graphic artist background in print, where the artist has absolute control over the size and dimensions of all aspects of the design. On the web however, the Web designer has no control over several factors, including the size of the browser window and the size and characteristics of available fonts.

Website design crosses multiple disciplines of information systems, information technology and communication design. The website is an information system. The observable content (e.g page layout, user interface, graphics, text, audio) is known as the front-end. The back-end is the functional design and programming or software engineering. Depending on the size of initial design, a multi-skilled individual web master may be required, or a project manager may be require to oversee collaboration design between group members with specialized skills.

Web interfaces, flash and html

Emerging design applications
Although mainstream graphic design applications, print or digital, rely heavily on the presence of interfaced, intuitive, proprietrary software, one of the many exciting manifestations of digital design has been the merging of programming and design environments, creating new hybrid professions and areas of expertise, skills and transdisciplinary collaborations.

Design and programming
Design By Numbers
was created for visual designers and artists as an introduction to computational design. It is the result of a continuing endeavor by John Maeda to teach the “idea” of computation to designers and artists. It is his belief that the quality of media art and design can only improve through establishing educational infrastructure in arts and technology schools that create strong, cross-disciplinary individuals. DBN is both a programming environment and language. The environment provides a unified space for writing and running programs and the language introduces the basic ideas of computer programming within the context of drawing. Visual elements such as dot, line, and field are combined with the computational ideas of variables and conditional statements to generate images.

Pages from Maeda@Media

Processing is an open source project initiated by Casey Reas and Benjamin Fry, formerly of the Aesthetics and Computation Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is "a programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) built for the electronic arts and visual design communities", which aims to teach the basics of computer programming in a visual context, and to serve as the foundation for electronic sketchbooks. One of the stated aims of Processing is to act as a tool to get non-programmers started with programming, through the instant gratification of visual feedback. It is a language that builds on the graphical side of the Java programming language, simplifying features and creating a few new ones.

These illustrations, created in Processing for the New York Times Magazine, are the result of a physics-based model of keywords connected by springs. The strength of the virtual spring connecting a pair of keywords together is dependent upon their rate of cooccurrence on the Internet, a measure of their degree of relationship to each other. In addition to the three tiles shown above which are featured in the online version of the article, the cover of the magazine and the following pages of the print article all feature different views of the model.
Built with Processing by Lisa Strausfeld and James Nick Sears.

Processing: Metropop Denim by Clayton Cubitt and Tom Carden
Fashion photography meets print resolution physics-inspired generative artwork.

Processing by Daniel Rothaug: "digital acoustic cartography" is an interactive experiment in mapping sonic events into a concrete visual language. source material for the visualizations are images (db and frequency-sequences) recorded by the "acoustic camera".

Processing has spawned another project, Wiring, which uses the Processing IDE together with a simplified version of the C programming language as a way to teach artists how to program microcontrollers. There are now two separate hardware projects, Wiring and Arduino, using the Wiring environment and language. Another spin-off project, Mobile Processing by Francis Li, allows software written using the Processing programming language and environment to run on Java powered mobile devices.

Further reading

Information visualisation
Scientific- (or data-), and Information visualization are branches of computer graphics and user interface which are concerned with the presentation of interactive or animated digital images to users to understand data. For example, scientists interpret potentially huge quantities of laboratory or simulation data or the results from sensors out in the field to aid reasoning, hypothesis building and cognition. The field of data mining offers many abstract visualizations related to these visualization types. They are active research areas, drawing on theory in information graphics, computer graphics, human-computer interaction and cognitive science and also, of course, visual communication design, for which this is promising to be a very rewarding field of investigation. More and more scientists and engineers are entering collaborations with graphic designers in the realisation of data visualisation systems. Scientific visualization deals with data that has a natural geometric structure (e.g., MRI data, wind flows). Information visualization handles more abstract data structures such as trees or graphs. Visual analytics is especially concerned with sensemaking and reasoning.The distinction between "natural" and complex data structures, however is blurred, keeping in mind that graphs can in general represented by adjacency matrices.

Walrus: information visualisation is used here to create abstractions.

Visualization, in the presentation sense, is not a new phenomenon. It has been used in maps, scientific drawings, and data plots for over a thousand years. Examples of this are the map of China (1137 a.d.) and the famous map of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, by Jacque Minard. Most of the concepts learned in devising these images carry over in a straight forward manner to computer visualization and can be incorporated in courses in visualization. Edward Tufte has written two critically acclaimed books which explain many of these principles.


Computer Graphics has from its beginning been used to study scientific problems. However, in its early days the lack of graphics power often limited its usefulness. The recent emphasis on visualization started in 1987 with the special issue of Computer Graphics on Visualization in Scientific Computing. Since then there have been several conferences and workshops, co-sponsored by the IEEE and ACM SIGGRAPH, devoted to the general topic, and special areas in the field, for example volume visualization. There have also been numerous books and research articles on visualization in the past several years. Some of the most popular examples of scientific visualizations are computer generated images which show real spacecraft in action, out in the void far beyond Earth, or on other planets. Dynamic forms of visualisation such as educational animation have the potential to enhance learning about systems that change over time.

Apart from the distinction between interactive visualizations and animation, the most useful categorization is probably between abstract and model-based scientific visualizations. The abstract visualizations show completely conceptual constructs in 2D or 3D. These generated shapes are completely arbitrary. The model-based visualizations either place overlays of data on real or digitally constructed images of reality, or they make a digital construction of a real object directly from the scientific data.

Scientific visualization is usually done with specialized software, though there are a few exceptions, noted below. Some of these specialized programs have been released as Open source software, having very often its origins in universities, within an academic environment where sharing software tools and giving access to the source code is common. There are also many proprietary software packages of scientific visualization tools. Models and frameworks for building visualizations include the data flow models popularized by systems such as AVS, IRIS Explorer, and VTK toolkit, and data state models in spreadsheet systems such as the Spreadsheet for Visualization and Spreadsheet for Images.

Further reading and images

3D: Game Design and Educational Environments
One of the greates impacts on Visual communication Design that the computer has generated has been the advent of three dimensional design. while graphic designers historically have always been involved in three dimensional design, especially where the implementation of typographic elements in architecture are concerned, the virtual 3D environment has greatly increased the involvement of graphic designers, indeed creating hybrid professions between architecture, cinematography and graphic design, which involve knowledge of narratology, scenarios, storyboarding, camera handling, light, modelling as well as the design of 2 and 3 dimensional elements such as space and typogrpahy.

Screenshots from "Planet Half-life", created by GameSpy

An offshoot of game design are game modifications/Videogame art which involve the use of patched or modified computer and video games or the repurposing of existing games or game structures. Often this modification is through the use of level editors, though other techniques exist. Some artists make use of machinima applications to produce non-interactive animated artworks, though it is a mistake, however, to regard artistic modification as being synonymous with machinima as these form only a small proportion of artistic modifications.

Videogame art relies on a broader range of artistic techniques and outcomes than artistic modification. These can include painting, sculpture, appropriation, in-game intervention and performance, sampling, etc. Videogame art also includes creating art games from scratch, rather than by modifying existing games. It is useful to regard these as distinct from art mods as they rely on different tools, though naturally there are many similarities with some art mods. Like games, artistic game mods may be single player or multiplayer. Multiplayer works make use of networked environments to develop new models of interactivity and collaborative production.

Game modification: The Nybble Engine by Margarete Jahrman and Max Moswitzer.

Three dimensional environments and applications are also used widely for educational purposes:

Educational software for Mathematics:

User interface design
or user interface engineering is the design of computers, gadgets, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user's experience and interaction. Unlike traditional design where the goal is to make the object or application physically attractive, the goal of user interface design is to make the user's interaction experience as simple and intuitive as possible—what is often called user-centered design. Where good graphic/industrial design is bold and eye catching, good user interface design is often subtle and invisible.

User Interface design is involved in a wide range of projects from mall kiosks to software applications to car navigation systems to e-commerce sites; all of these projects have some things in common yet also require some unique skills and knowledge. As a result, user interface designers tend to specialize in certain types of projects and have skills centered around their expertise, whether that be software design, web design, or industrial design. What all these projects have in common is, of course, the focus on how the user interacts with the device/system/application.

Industrial design and interface design. Output: VA215, Sina Çetin

Graphic User Interfaces

A graphical user interface (or GUI, often pronounced "gooey"), is a particular case of user interface for interacting with a computer which employs graphical images and widgets in addition to text to represent the information and actions available to the user. Usually the actions are performed through direct manipulation of the graphical elements.

Skins and themes are custom graphical appearances that can be applied to certain software and websites in order to suit the different tastes of different users. Such software is referred to as being skinnable, and the process of writing or applying such a skin is known as skinning. Applying a skin changes a piece of software's look and feel — some skins merely make the program more aesthetically pleasing, but others can rearrange elements of the interface, potentially making the program easier to use.

Custom skins for the Windows operating system.

Desktop wallpapers: An emerging design genre.

Motion Graphics
Motion graphics are graphics that use video and/or animation technology to create the illusion of motion or a transforming appearance. These motion graphics are usually combined with audio for use in multimedia projects. Motion graphics extend beyond the most commonly used methods of frame-by-frame footage and animation. Computers are capable of calculating and randomizing changes in imagery to create the illusion of motion and transformation.

Motion graphics stills

Since there is no universally accepted definition of motion graphics, the official beginning of the art form is heavily disputed. There have been presentations that could be classified as motion graphics as early as the 1800's. Perhaps one of the first uses of the term "Motion Graphics" was by animator John Whitney, who in 1960 founded a company called Motion Graphics Inc. Among those in the motion graphics profession, most agree that Saul Bass is the most significant pioneer in animated graphic design, and that his work marks the true beginning of what is now commonly referred to as motion graphics. His work included title sequences for popular films such as The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and Advise & Consent (1962). His designs were simple, but effectively communicated the mood of the film.