No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism - Rick Poynor

I've had this book for ages, but not read it until now! Galloway and Porter do a good line in cheap, slightly tired-looking copies of graphic design titles. I was a great fan of Poynor's Typography Now, and so when I saw this, I snapped it up, despite having no particularly strong feelings about postmodernism. It then sat at the bottom of my reading pile for over a year. For Christmas, I received the Helvetica DVD, which made me very happy indeed, and reawakened my interest in typography and graphic design. So, one quiet weekend I dug this up and read it.

It makes a nice contrast to Typography Now etc. Rather than being just lots of pretty layouts and fonts, it's got a proper thesis! Graphic design really embraced modernism very heavily, so it's no surprise that the reaction was quite extreme too. This book really focuses on the '90s (with a bit of '80s thrown in), and the way that computers suddenly allowed such complicated, distorted, layered designs, and tries to fit this into a postmodernist framework. It seems that graphic design isn't particularly introspective, so not a huge amount of thought went into 'is this postmodern?' at the time, as compared to, say, architecture. In a way, I think this makes it easier to retrospectively box the work.

And this book does it most effectively. It does provide a history, good examples, and a whole host of related ideas that fit together into a fairly compelling thesis. The only hole in it for me is, er, most of the '70s and '80s. Modernism was really centred earlier in the century, and this postmodern work of the '90s was an effective way of rejecting modernism and creating something that really can properly express, er, blurredness. So, what happened in between? Did people want to reject modernism, but lack the technology with which to effectively do so? If so, perhaps this explains some of the hideous fonts and designs of the time.

Posted 2008-01-18.