The Calculated Creative

Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design Trends

Mid century modern graphic design emphasized minimal shapes, strong geometry, bright colors, and playfulness.

Mid century modern graphic design refers to the style of graphic design that emerged in the mid 20th century.

Roughly from the 1940s to the 1960s.

This period saw graphic design move in a new, modernist direction favored by mid century architects and industrial designers.

Some key characteristics of mid century modern graphic design include:

Clean, Minimalist Aesthetic

Mid century graphic design favored clean, uncluttered layouts with plenty of white space and avoidance of ornamentation.

There was an emphasis on simplicity and minimalism in presentation.

Decorative elements like Victorian-era embellishments were stripped down and simplified.

Designers favored asymmetric layouts and formatting where hierarchy was established more boldly between headlines, texts, and images.

This gave mid century graphic design a very distinct minimalist aesthetic compared to previous eras.

Strong Geometry

The mid century aesthetic made strong use of geometric shapes like circles, triangles, squares, diamonds, and zigzags.

Photographs and illustrations were often enclosed by thick geometric borders or given backdrop shapes.

Logos and texts were set against repeating geometric patterns.

Images and layouts were given structure through the use of bold geometric grids.

Columns of text would be separated by thick vertical lines.

Typography was bold and sans-serif with a geometric feel, often utilizing strong horizontal and vertical strokes.

Vibrant Colors

Mid century graphic design made vibrant use of primary colors like red, blue, yellow, and green.

High contrast color palettes were popular, like combinations of red and black or yellow and navy.

Pastels like lemon yellow, mint green, and baby blue were also prevalent, contrasting with black and white photography.

The combination of bright colors with minimalist shapes and layouts gave mid century graphic design its distinctively vivid look.

Vibrant colors helped capture the optimism and momentum of the era.

Playful Humor

Mid century graphics often had a sense of whimsy and playfulness to them, sometimes bordering on the absurd.

Designers would make playful use of exaggerated shape and typography for visual interest.

Graphics could have a fun, tongue-in-cheek humor at times when paired with textual slogans or taglines.

The playfulness maintained viewer interest and offset the strict geometries and minimalism.

Whimsical design details gave mid century graphics an animated, lively spirit.

Influence of Art Movements

Mid century graphics took inspiration from contemporary art movements like Cubism, De Stijl, Constructivism, and the Bauhaus that emphasized abstraction, geometries, precision, and organization.

Principles like form following function and reduction to basics could be seen in mid century graphic design.

Text and image were combined in graphic design in new modernist ways compared to more traditional layouts.

The modernist influence gave mid century graphics its forward-thinking aesthetic.

The Takeaway

Mid century modern graphic design emphasized:
- Minimal shapes
- Strong geometry
- Bright colors
- Playfulness

Breaking with previous decorative tendencies in design.

It paved the way for many of the graphic design principles we know today.

The era's graphics captured the streamlined, modernist and optimistic spirit of the mid 20th century.

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