‘More is More’

Nineteenth Century Design

The Relationship Between Major Events & Design:

The nineteenth century; The century of mass production witnessed an abundance of new technologies in response to the demand for media & advertising.
Major events occurred and the design world experienced an all-time low.

The nineteenth century is known for its chaotic collage of typefaces and design imbalance. One can only associate this bombardment of typeface and disorganisation prevailed with the Industrial Revolution. The sudden demand for mass production of goods required quick and printable advertising. The introduction of new technologies such as the mechanical letterpress, lithography and chromolithography, mass printing became in-expensive. Poster advertisements and pictorial newspapers were accepted into an urban setting. Cities designated ‘hoardings’, specific kiosks in which posters could be legally hung in an attempt to bestow some order to the chaos experienced on the streets.


Within the urgency of production, most posters lacked a stylistic approach and utilised large type to convey their message. Take the image of Astley’s Amphitheatre for example, this poster displayed a central illustration with a bombardment of dissonant text surrounding. Influenced by the industrial revolution the Astley’s Amphitheatre poster portrays the chaotic reuse of type that occurred throughout the nineteenth century.

The nineteenth century was also an era in which many American’s had a nationalistic vision to control all of the territory between the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, knows as ‘Manifest Destiny’.
How does this relate to design?
Well The Currier & Ives Firm provided cheap and popular lithographic prints, in opposition to the photograph their employees illustrated plain and ‘realistic’ landscapes of ‘The Great West’ (shown below). The audience accepted Currier & Ives illustrations into their ideology of ‘Americanness’. Therefore this style became associated with the national identity of America that was ambiguous before this era of design.


The nineteenth century anticipated the rise of photography & the notion of “a great and truthful medium” was established. Prior to the Nineteenth Century most citizens had only witnessed political candidates as illustrations, which in most cases were bias & incorrectly depicted the opposition to look monstrous & evil. Mathew Bardy’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln depicted Lincoln’s ‘true’ form without the social sigma. This was the first time citizens could truly interpret Lincoln’s appearance, creating a sense of reality & personal connection. The capability to produce positive prints onto paper sheets greatly influenced politics in the nineteenth century & persuaded citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln.


I believe that the industrial revolution & American nationality influenced the design world tremendously; the urgency from mass production of goods allowed an explosion of print advertising through new technologies & inexpensive printing materials.
As did the design world influence major events; the photograph persuaded citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln.

I’m going to end on a quote by Ralph Wornum in response to The Great Exhibition 1851, it somewhat provides an image of how the industrial revolution ‘lessened the design taste.’ “That there is nothing new in the Exhibition in ornamental design; not a scheme, not a detail that has not been treated over and over again in ages that are gone; that the taste of the producers generally is uneducated.”


Ref: Stephen J.Esilson Typographica: Graphic Design A History.



Author: tjphoto

UON Design Student & Photographer Newcastle, AU

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