The Grid and Postmodernism

During one of the previous studio sessions, the class was introduced to the functionality of grids in design purposes. In today’s CTS session, we’ve learned grid under the content of social and aesthetic ideas, and a pre-reading for the lesson on the Introduction of “No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism”, by Lawrence King.

From a Research Publication of Tate Modern Museum, Tate Papers no.12, “The Grid as a Checkpoint of Modernity“. Grid has always been an emblem of modernism in Western art history (“Tupitsyn”), and it’s importance has definitely been emphasise during the 1960s and 1970s, which is within the period of Modernism. Modernism, can be perceived as “a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries“(“Modernism”). It is evident that grid makes an important role in art movements such as cubism, Constructivist and de Stijl, which are the movements founded in the era of Modernism. The grid format also features prominently in minimalist and conceptual art of the 60’s and 70’s(“Grid Format”) 

There are two artists whom were in particularly important during the time of Modernism: Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. Both artists visualised grid in a recognisable way within a lot of their creations.

The two pieces Airplane Flying (1915) and White on White (1917-18) created by Kazimir Malevich, both consist of a strong form of grid visually.

The following pieces by Piet Mondrian, form a sense of contrast to the pieces of work done by Kazimir Malevich. In comparison to the diagonal and in-proportional composition of Malevich’s work, the series of ‘Composition‘ work created by Piet Mondrian shows the idea of grid in a much more simple form. The idea of the grids is to simplify the formation of objects, visually minimise them into simple lines, with only primary colours used (blue, red and yellow).

Referring back to “No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism” written by Lawrence King, first I’d like to distinguish the difference between ‘Modernism‘ and ‘Postmodernism‘.


  • Between 1860s and 1940s, approximately ended during the time of World War II (1945).
  • Characteristics of modern art are such as elegance, simplicity and low form of art.
  • Objective
  • Rational and more logical
  • Views original works as authentic
  • Example artist: Vincent Van Gogh


  • Began after World War II, precisely 1968.
  • Characteristics of postmodern art include decoratively combine high and low culture together, with the use of popular culture imagery and industrial materials.
  • Subjective
  • Multiculturalism
  • Irrational and usually based on unscientific approaches
  • Views based on hyper-reality
  • Example artist: Barbara Kruger

In the introduction of the book No More Rules written by Poynor, Rick, he states that “many commentators point out that postmodernism is a kind of parasite, dependent on its modernist host and displaying many of the same features – except that the meaning has changed”(p. 11). This refers back to a key approach of postmodernism – deconstruction.  In the book,  Chuck Byrne and Martha Witte state: “The breaking down of something (an idea, a precept, a word, a value) in order to “decode” its parts in such a way that these act as “informers” on thing, or on any assumptions or convictions we have regarding it” (No more Rules, p.49).

An exemplar graphic designer mentioned within content, David Carson, a significant postmodern graphic designer that acts an important role in the development of postmodern era, revolutionised visual communication with his unconventional style. David Carson once said, “I never learned all the things you’re not supposed to do, I just do what makes the most sense…There is no grid, no format. I think it ends up in a more interesting place than if I just applied formal design rules”. His ignorance in the traditional way of designing has allowed him to produce things without limitations nor boundaries, thus creating outcomes that are extraordinary.


Dc back cover for C R A F T magazines surf issue


Dc poster design for upcoming lecture and workshop, lima, peru. 2015


“David Carson Design”. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

“Grid Format”. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

“Modernism”. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

Poynor, Rick. No More Rules. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. Print.

Tupitsyn, Margarita. The Grid As A Checkpoint Of Modernity. 2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2016. Tate Papers.



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