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10 Moments to Celebrate AIGA's Century of Design

February 5, 2014  |  4:15pm
10 Moments to Celebrate AIGA's Century of Design

Since 1914, 67 chapters have formed and over 25,000 members have joined the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). The professional graphic arts organization that started a century ago has brought together graphic designers around the world into a community where they can connect, inform, assist, delight, and influence each other to make positive changes and envelope themselves in the diversity of graphic art.

Graphic design is not just a piece of artwork. Many graphic designers have worked for entertainers, the government, large technology companies and more exemplary causes to catch the eyes of consumers, potential clients and employees. We’ve provided a brief timeline of iconic designs below, but you can learn more about the 100 Years Celebration at AIGA here.

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One of the earliest well-known designs was created in 1916 when the Army was in need of soldiers for World War I. The US War Department hired James Montgomery Flagg to create a design that would influence young men all over the nation to join the Army. Uncle Sam became a well-known icon during the war because 4 million copies were distributed across the United States. President Roosevelt was so impressed by his design, that he hired Flagg to design 45 more posters for the war.

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In 1952, the Universal Product Code (UPC) (that is, barcodes on retail products) was patented at Drexel Institute of Technology by Joseph Woodland, Bernard Silver and George Laurer. The original UPC was actually a circle, but was later transferred over to a square. Since the design was created, other types of codes have been invented to help identify products and to direct customers to websites through mobile phones.

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In 1963, Lawrence Herbert invented the Pantone Matching System which is a standard color reproduction system used for graphic arts, printing, publishing, packaging, paint, textiles and more. When the system was first originated, it was used mainly for medical firms and for the fashion and cosmetic industries. Thanks to Herbert, engineers all over the world have used the Pantone color chart to mix, match and create a mass of products and designs.

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In 1966, the New York Subway System displayed their first maps and signage thanks to Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli from Vignelli Associates. The signs present minimal text, arrows and color-coded discs to easily show commuters what subway line they would need to ride through the city. In 1972, just a few years later, Vignelli designed the subway diagram shown below in the gallery.

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In 1970, Gary Anderson created the universal recycling symbol, which was the winning composition in the Container Corporation of America design competition. You can find his symbol on plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, glass bottles and more earth-friendly products.

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In 1981, IBM’s eye-catching design puzzle was created by Paul Rand to support the company’s motto “THINK”. This design puzzle, called a Rebus, uses pictures to represent letters or words and challenges observers to figure out what the design is portraying.

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In 1984, AIGA award winner Clement Mok worked with Apple to create “Mac Squiggles” and other designs for Macintosh software programs. Over the years, Mok has spoken and written to designers all over the United States, encouraging them to take their careers to the next level.

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In 1995, the nutrition fact label was created by Burkey Belser for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform shoppers of the amount of fat, calories, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and vitamins they were consuming. Recently, the FDA announced that the label will receive a facelift, making it easier to read and understand calorie intake.

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In 1999, the federal government realized that the last 30 years of census information had declined due to a lack of interest from US citizens. The Census Bureau hired Colleen Hall and Julie Marable from Two Twelve Associates to design an eye-catching template that would attract US residents to do their civic duty. The new design increased public awareness of the census laws and resulted in a large boost of responses and participation in the national survey.

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