The Civic Design Humanism

The Civic Design Humanism

Those of us who design communications for the civic realm are part of a long and illustrious history. While seeking inspiration for our company’s brand development, I discovered that the WPA poster archive at the Library of Congress has been carefully annotated and made available online. I remember paging through these poster files in the dark ages of the 70’s as a design history student. Back then, we had to take a train to Washington to see the collection. 

I have made it through about a quarter of the collection so far, but it occurs to me that within these posters, two forces come together and are expressed by these early graphic designers. The first is the development of a modernist design aesthetic that was heavily influenced by the geometric forms of 30's architecture and industrial design. But this modern approach was also softened by a humanistic focus on delivering simple, actionable messages to real people.

This combination of contemporary design and humanism is the inspiration for our firm’s work today. We are exploring the marriage of civic design and humanism to see if there are lessons that we can apply to today's challenge of educating the public about health and welfare issues in the face of shrinking budgets and retreating government.    

We are immersing ourselves in the WPA archive for ideas and inspiration. We have included a few noteworthy reproductions from the archive here, but I invite you to take a “civic” break and visit the site yourself. Click here to view the archive.