When I got off the elevator at the Architecture and Design department for a quick meeting with Juliet Kinchin about a new exhibition she was curating called The New Typography, I was surprised to see some original posters from the 1920s lined up along a wall, and many tiny pieces of stationery systems, brochures, flyers, and ads carefully spread out on a table. We don’t usually get to see the real artwork until just before the show, when installation is underway, and until then, we use exhibition catalogs or digital images for reference.
I felt like an anthropologist in the presence of an early human ancestor. As a graphic designer, I could relate to these pieces more than any other art I had worked with at MoMA. These ninety-year-old posters communicated loud and clear, and still looked amazingly cool. But when I took a close look, their difference from contemporary graphics was apparent: these works had a hand-crafted feel—a beautiful contrast to the clean geometry of the layout.