Philip B. Meggs on knowing design history

“In 1978, I gave a lecture at a seminar for government designers in Washington. Afterward, a designer in his mid-thirties came up to me and said, ‘People keep telling me my work is real Swiss. What do they mean?’

His work was very good. He was copying the surface of a whole approach to design without a clue who created the spatial concepts, typographic approach, symbolic forms, and objective photography that formed the basis of his work. Nor did he understand the philosophy and social conditions in Germany and Switzerland that gave rise to the designers who invented the visual language he was using.

Knowing design history can help designers get beyond style and surface, and understand their work on a deeper level. It can provide reference points in the rapid flux of contemporary culture.”

— Philip B. Meggs