Dada and its influence on graphic design

What is dada – history

Raoul-HausmannAlthough Dada was a response of the post-first world war, it soon spread and by the end of the nineteenth century, various artists congregated together in Zurich and decided that because life and the war made no sense, they felt the need to protest and rebel against the horrors of war, religion and moral codes. While rejecting all tradition, they sought complete freedom in their arts and amalgamated an international movement in art literature music and film. Dada’s guiding leader was an impulsive Paris based Rumanian poet, Tristan Trzara (1896-1963) Tzara joined Hans Arp (1887- 1966) and Richard Hueslsenbeck (1892-1974) and explored poetry, literature, bizarre titles theatre, and characterised their graphic work.




Characteristics – Influences on typology layout and use of photomontage

Dada spread all around Europe as well as in America.  However Dadaists emphasised that Dada was not an art, it represented the opposite of what art stood for. Dadaists were mocking and offending the society who had gone insane (WW1) and wanted to produce things that was different protesting traditional beliefs of art.  Nevertheless various Dadaists presented meaningful visual art and consequently influenced graphic design. These were the pioneers of graphic design. Dada’s original tactic to typology, photomontage, negative white space, white space, line spacing, layout letter spacing has played an important part in the evolution of communication design. Dada’s use of typography and photomontage provided suppleness to graphic design.

Dada’s artists like Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield (1891-1968), Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), Max Ernst and many more, established a unique technique of reinterpreting and decontextualizing photographs to influential socio-political influences. A clear example is John Heartfield’s work, 1932 ‘Adolf the Superman: Swallows gold and spouts rubbish’, is seen by a photomontage of a Hitler’s x-rayed picture showing an oesophagus   of gold coins.


Dada an influential rebellious movement became art itself. Works (typology and layout) were made up of cropped text from press, posters, catalogues, tickets, letters and any other printed material.  Artists experimented with bold, san serif fonts set typefaces which could be horizontal, diagonal and vertical, while experimenting with interaction of elements such as: line spacing and letter spacing letters, syllables, words..  On the other hand photomontage consisted by cutting and pasting images and type together from other sources of media. The impression of photomontage was to be as revolutionary as its content while giving it different meanings while exploring photo manipulation.

To conclude one must sum up by saying that the Dada movement started as an anti-war movement protesting their shock and wanted to be different by producing something shocking and destroy the traditional beliefs of art.  Their philosophy is that the idea is more important than the work itself, and that art can be made of anything. All this evidence suggests that Dada was the beginning of innovative modern art … that of graphic design.