From Michelangelo to Dadaism: designers’ favourite creative eras

Last week, we wrote about a new retrospective on graphic designer Nigel Waymouth, whose psychedelic work graced the album covers of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix during the 1960s. Now, designers tell us which eras they wish they could be from.

Suki Heather, creative director, AKQA

“Pushing the boundaries of creativity, Dada was an influential, early 20th century avant-garde art movement conveying ideas beyond aesthetic. A collective of like-minded individuals used diverse mediums to express and call into question war, society, gender and identity. Hannah Höch, the queen of subversion, pioneered techniques like photomontage to recut narratives, creating visual statements that were both comedic and shocking at the same time. Dada rejected traditional norms, building a raw, risk-taking and unapologetic style, inspiring generations of artists, from music to fashion and literacy to graphics. This was a way of thinking that’s never seemed more relevant today.”


Ellen Munro, creative director, BrandOpus

“It’s hard not to say the present. Every day we’re able to look back and take inspiration from all the fascinating times that have come before, curating and creating something entirely new using old influences. If pushed though, I’d love to have been designing in the late 1950s to early 1960s. It was the era of Alan Fletcher, Paul Rand and Bob Gill, who fused clever, witty design alongside expressive illustration. It would have been amazing to have been a part of the heyday of simple and clever design thinking. Their designs and ideas are still held in high regard, with many still in use today over 60 years later.”


Dan Kraemer, founder and chief design officer, IA Collaborative

“In Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, the character Paul describes nostalgia as “denial of the painful present”. While now may be a justifiable time to indulge in such ‘golden age thinking’, I actually believe that today is the best time to be a designer. Never before has design had so much ability to positively impact people’s lives. Leading corporations are appointing chief design officers, nine of last year’s 25 top venture-backed start-ups had designers at the helm, and crowdfunding communities are backing designer-entrepreneurs to bring passion-driven projects to the world. Maybe I’d like to be a designer 100 years from now, to be a part of what will no doubt be an even more positive impact on the world.”


Jon Vallance, associate creative director for brand and graphics, Pearlfisher London

“US-based graphic designer Aaron James Draplin talks about how, historically, the real heroes of design have always been completely inconspicuous. They are the guys working a regular job, or the artists punching in their hours and creating timeless design without really meaning to. When I look through design annuals I do find myself agreeing with this. Page after page, the work that strikes me as truly revolutionary never really comes from anyone ‘famous’. That said, I recently found out that the image of ‘Man and God’ in the Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel is an anatomically perfect representation of the human brain, and the ceiling itself represents the human nervous system. This was a big ‘bear in the Toblerone’ moment for me, so perhaps Michelangelo’s era in the 15th and 16th centuries is my answer.”

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