Ladislav Sutnar Lit the Torch

Ladislav Sutnar - Dan Alexander and Co

The Czech graphic designer, Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976), put information into action using visual design. He created order in chaos, by making function, form, and flow work together in a simple way that reduced complexity and intensified understanding. He blazed a path forward for graphic design to transmit large amounts of information much, much quicker.

Trained in art, architecture, and mathematics, Sutnar was the Director of the School of Graphics in Prague. In 1939, his work on the exhibition design for the Czech pavilion in New York’s World Fair led him to stay-on in the USA, with WWII raging in Europe. He reinvented himself there, moving from material design into graphic design, and elevating Constructivism to be more playful. He used geometric shapes as a dynamic matrix for organization, making information explanatory, descriptive, helpful. One such example, is the brackets (parentheses) that he put around the American telephone area code numbers, which had come into use at that time, for example, (212) 6163-344, which now seem so intuitive.

Sutnar became a leading force of graphic design in the 1940s and 50s. As the Art Director for the Sweets Catalog Service, he revolutionized information design and pioneered new methods for facilitating the retrieval of messages. He was a polymath, acclaimed for his work as a stage and exhibition designer, the toys he created, and key accomplishments in publishing, and corporate identity. His breakthroughs also include innovatively-designed double spreads, and of his many publications, his book Visual Design in Action and Package Design remains relevant to this day.

His influence lights the way forward decades later, for post-Modern designs, production of infographics, and web design. His work tamed chaos, because he never lost sight of the main goal: to communicate in a way that sparks quick understanding and creative inspiration in the minds of others.

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