The Midtown venue’s “AIGA 100: A Century of Design” is a retrospective that appears to pay homage to that realm’s reverential past while acknowledging the depth of contemporary contributions and the benefits of forward thinking.
“This is probably one of the most visually stunning design shows you’ll ever see,” said curator Doug Grimmett. “This is not an award show. … It’s made to delight and engage you.”
The titular entity at the heart of the exhibit, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, gets its just due by way of text and images. Framed iconic posters featuring the handiwork of the renowned designers it nurtured. Artifacts and a meandering timeline noting historical and pop culture flashpoints collectively serve to balance and stylize the endeavor.
The museum’s leaders acknowledged embracing the daunting task of chronicling the last 100 years of design.
Grimmett, a museum board member and owner of the firm Primal Screen, spent nearly a year painstakingly poring over archival materials to piece together the continuum expressed in the show.
“You have to put a box around it,” he said. “A hundred years ago, the word [‘design’] didn’t exist. … Generally, when you’re in a movement you don’t know what it’s called until you look back.
“The AIGA is a particularly good lens for the whole development of the field on the world stage. We have great examples of work [in the exhibit] that’s never been seen. … I don’t know if you’d want to go to a show to see stuff you’ve already seen a million times.”
The craftsmanship of design titans past and present adorn the walls and virtual gallery in the museum — from Paul Rand to Milton Glaser to Chip Kidd — as part of the exhibit. The instantly familiar work of other notables is just as aesthetically illuminating, ranging from a nutritional value label attached to food products to the CBS network’s seeing-eye logo.
“I think that one of the important things the exhibition conveys is that graphic design is everywhere and it does everything with us, for us,” said museum Executive Director Laura Flusche. “It solves so many of our problems, … helps us figure out which exit to take, warns us not to take too much medicine.
“So it’s not necessarily something that is just decorative. It allows us to function better in our day-to-day lives. I think you see a lot of that in this particular exhibition — you start to understand that.”
IF YOU GO:
o What: 'AIGA 100: A Century of Design'
o Where: Museum of Design Atlanta, 1315 Peachtree St., Midtown
o When: Aug. 20 through Oct. 5
o Information: www.museumofdesign.org