The first half of the 20th Century laid a notable foundation to visual communication as we know it today. Across the west, influential artists, photographers, and architects sought to influence culture, break from the past and react to expansive wars. In the process, they marked the development of graphic design and its cousin design fields.
The term “Avant-Garde” was coined in Paris in 1863 in reference to a small group of artists and intellectuals who opened new cultural paths for society. By the early 1900s this kind of artistic influence was evolving across Europe.
At the onset of World War I, the Russian Constructivist movement emerged as a way to utilize art as an instrument with social goals—a movement with notable influence thought the middle of the century. While in Russia the artistic and architectural Constructivist movement sought to lay the foundations of a socialist system, in Milan, the Futurist movement took hold, whereby all mediums of art from sculpture to photography were deployed in an effort to reject the past and embrace the ideals of technology, speed, youth and violence—visible influences to this day, especially in film and pop culture.
In politically neutral Switzerland, meanwhile, Dadaism arose as a rejection of war, expressed through a rejection of art standards including logic, order, aesthetics and meaning—a kind of artistic anarchy that influenced movements including Surrealism.
In Germany, the Bauhaus movement, whose foundation lay in the 1880s modernism movement, strove to unify art, craft and technology, resulting in an art and architectural ideal that welcomed machines and spanned across industrial and product design, and became the foundation for contemporary graphic design education.