Who are history’s most influential graphic designers?
This is the question John Clifford attempts to answer in his book Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design.
Graphic Icons is not a complete history of graphic design, nor does it try to be.
Instead, it serves as an easy to devour primer on design history aimed specifically at graphic design students, providing readers with a brief overview of famous designers who have personally influenced John, alongside examples of their work.
Whilst John does provide historical context by talking briefly about art movements that defined the industry (as well as grouping designers very roughly into these movements) first and foremost Graphic Icons is about the people who defined it.
The book is packed full of names any purveyor of graphic design will (and should) know – Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Tschichold, Lubalin, Glaser, Sagmeister, Bass…
Each feature starts by clearly listing two or three reasons why this particular designer is considered influential, accompanied by an illustrated portrait by Herb Thornby, before going into a little more detail about their life, career, and work.
There’s rarely more than a page of text to read, with the majority of the pages stuffed-full of bold imagery and examples of work.
Graphic Icons serves as a ‘leg-up’ into the broad and exhaustive field of design history, and is a relaxed, welcoming source of inspiration and a lead to other, more in-depth sources.
Throughout the book, John himself suggests other books or publications that expand on what he has written should you want, or need, to know more.
From an academic point of view, this probably isn’t a book you’d pick up and quote from for a dissertation or an essay, simply because the information included is so brief. However, it is a great place to get a quick and basic understanding of who these designers are.
Think of it as a well-researched, credible alternative to Wikipedia articles.
From the perspective of a graphic designer, this is simply an easy-to-pick-up, easy-to-read, well-designed book about graphic design and graphic designers.
Regardless of your position in the design industry, this is a design book that deserves a spot on your bookshelf.
View Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design on Amazon.