Jarrett Fuller

October 2022

After the Bauhaus, Before the Internet: A History of Graphic Design Pedagogy (Book Review)

This essay was originally published in the academic journal Journal of Design History in October 2022.

What is the goal of graphic design education? For some, it is professional training for jobs as graphic designers; for others, it is a liberal art that can give students tools to understand semiotics and visual literacy. For others still, it is a type of art practice rooted in ideas of authorship and mass communication. What a graphic design student should learn is unclear because the definitions of graphic design—as a field, as a discipline, as a practice—are unclear. The history of graphic design, in many ways, is a history of self-definition, a series of debates about what it means to be a graphic designer.

After The Bauhaus, Before The Internet: A History of Graphic Design Pedagogy, a collection of essays edited by designer and educator Geoff Kaplan and published by the MIT Press, explores these debates through the lens of the field’s institutions and publications. The essays Kaplan has assembled are rooted in a conference he convened with Tim Barringer at the Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut in May 2019. This expanded volume—which includes presentations from the conference as well as additional essays, interviews, and commentary—is organized into four sections—’From Practices to Disciplines,’ ‘The Act of Reading,’ ‘Problems are Solutions,’ and ‘Designing Pedagogies,’ each broadly focusing on institutions, publications, theories, and curriculums, respectively. The sweeping history it tells will be familiar to those in graphic design, but that history is given new dimensions, shifting the focus away from major individuals, aesthetic evolution, and landmark artifacts and toward the institutions, ideological debates, and pedagogic philosophies that shaped them. As much as this book defines itself as a history of pedagogy, it can also be read as an intellectual history of the field.

Read the entire review in the Journal of Design History.