We’re going to take a break from “The Secret Life of Color”this month to focus on an era of design. Just the same as fashion has its trends so does the field of Graphic Design. These trends don’t really go away. Bits and pieces of them get re-imagined and recycled into a design that feels new, but actually builds on the past. So with that said; this month, we’ll focus on Victorian Graphic Design and how to recognize this era’s design work.

Some Basic Facts & History about The Victorian Era

-Dates from around 1840 to 1900

-Named for British Monarch, Queen Victoria

-Americans are still settling the “Wild West” during this period

-Time of Industrial Revolution in Europe brings mass production to the marketplace

-Time of great morality and reserve, when etiquette ruled society


What Was Happening in the Design World?

-Printing presses and the printing process is becoming more readily available

-Posters and advertisements are becoming are being distributed more

-Advertisements are hand painted or use chromolithography (a mechanical, highly skilled coloring process, both hand coloring & chromolithography are expensive)

-A belief that ornamentation and wealth were the same (more ornaments = richer person)

-1st time images and text were integrated into one piece

-Clipart used in ads and newspapers for the first time


Telltale Signs of Victorian Graphic Design

-Very fussy or ornate: lots of curlicues and drawn cloth like banners

-Nostalgic for art and architecture of the past (which we know as the renaissance & gothic periods)

-Love of symmetry

-Elaborate decorative fonts

-Hand-drawn text on a curve or changing scale (the letters get larger in one direction)

-They love to fill up every inch of the piece with text and images. You don’t know where to look first!

-Drawings idealized beauty–only the prettiest people, objects, etc would be featured.

-Fascination with Egypt because of Napoleon

-Themes: patriotism, nationalism, progress, work, and nature

Some Samples (Thanks WikiMedia Commons!)


Victorian Ad for Coca-Cola

My Attempt at Victorian Advertisement

Stay Tuned for Next Month when we return to “The Secret Life of Color”