There is a fundamental difference between the traditional idea of ART, classic art, modern art, serious art, and graphic design. Though the lines are very fine in this type of categorization, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the reverence with which we have traditionally viewed art, and the originality and depth we expect from it surpass anything ever achieved by the bulk of the works of graphic design we come across every day.
Just as web design was a mainly technological evolution from graphic design, graphic design and graphic art were the natural evolution handcrafted design and handcrafted art. Therefore, classic Art was the main source of inspiration for the first graphic designers, including the first magazine designers.
Whether you are in the magazine printing or in the online publishing side of things, there is much inspiration to get from the work of the great masters of the 20th century and all the way down to the earliest visual art movements.
Here are some art inspirations to give your magazine designs a touch of the great masters’ magic.
Using mass-produced and everyday objects as its subjects rather than the more elevated subjects of earlier art, Pop Art has had a tremendous influence on advertising, and naturally also magazine design.
Here is a really cool use of pop art to discuss pop art in a magazine cover.
Image by ReX SORGATZ
The surrealist movement drew its source matter from research into the subconscious mind in the early 20th century. It involved the challenging of rationalism and the upholding of fantastic dreams as a viable alternative to the harsh realities of the WWI and later WWII.
The portrayal of unreal creatures, decontextualization and placement of subjects in unfamiliar scenes and often large empty wastelands, a certain childish naïveté, the occurrence of monsters and sometimes heavy yet covert sexual connotations were all elements frequently used by surrealist artists.
Vintage Vogue by Dali
The most salient artists in the movement were Salvador Dali, whose iconic images have had a tremendous influence on design over the years, and Max Ernst, a less flamboyant but nonetheless talented figure; who approached his work more as a discovery than as creation, and was the author of emblematic portrayals of war, deconstructed women and mysterious and fascinating landscapes.
Magazine cover by Max Ernst
Dali was in fact so involved in the world of magazines and design, that a few years ago, an art show entitled “Dali and magazines” brought together all of his collaborations for some of the most important magazines in the world.
A creator of popular and enduring icons such as his famous melting clocks, Dali has influenced design like very few artists in the history of the world.
Aiming at the creation of a perfect order and harmony, De Stijl used simple forms and basic colors, essentially vertical and horizontal lines that also formed squares and rectangles.
The movement’s most famous artist, Piet Mondrian, remains extremely influential to this day, in all areas of design.
Here is a recent magazine cover based on Mondrian’s most emblematic work.
Image by Marc van Woudenberg
Minimum reference and expression, simple geometric forms, and the removal of all unnecessary elements are some of the characteristics of minimalism, a trend which has never ceased to be quite popular with magazine designers.
Designer Scott Nicholson recently created a series of alternative minimalist covers for some of the world’s most popular magazines. This is his take on “TIME”
Image by Scott Nicholson
Rules will set you free
Many top designers have expressed that they find the rules and conventions of art movements liberating, in the sense that having an established framework that you feel comfortable with can really boost your creativity.
Drawing inspiration from the work of great artists can be the opposite of limiting. Exploring the concepts and ideas they explored in their time with the eyes of the modern 21st century designer can produce fabulous pieces of work.
Magazine design has been in close contact with popular art movements since the earliest era of magazine printing, and modern designers should always be ready to draw inspiration from the neverending well of modern art, as well from the works of the old masters.