The industrial revolution had its critics. Book design and typography declined in quality, and many mass-produced goods were cheap and of poor quality. The Arts & Crafts Movement began in reaction to the poor aesthetic quality of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
It was also a socialist reform movement, which embraced artists, architects, designers, writers, and crafts workers of all types. Followers of the Arts & Crafts movement vowed to destroy the commercial system, believing that industrialization alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer. The movement advocated attention to design and a return to hand-craftsmanship.
These ideals were disseminated in America through journal and newspaper writing, most notably through the publication, The Studio, as well as through societies that sponsored lectures and programs
The movement’s figurehead was William Morris (1834–1896), designer, typographer, printer, and publisher. Morris and friends advocated a return of art to craft in the manmade environment. They called for truth in the use and nature of materials and individual expression by designers. William Morris’s small printing company, Kelmcott Press, produced 53 books of superb quality and refinement. Morris inspired book and type designers to work with private presses who were more receptive to experimentation.
The Arts and Crafts movement did not promote a particular style, but the common aesthetic emphasized nature and simplicity of form. Architecture, furniture, pottery, jewelry, patterns, books, stained glass from the 1860s to 1910 reflect this aesthetic. The Movement is now recognized as the bridge between traditional Victorian values and the modern movement. An important development in this movement was the formation of workshops and guilds that trained artists in many crafts – from pottery to furniture.
Arts & Crafts designers:
Frederic Goudy (1865-1947)
Goudy was an American printer and typographer who designed more than 100 typefaces that are considered outstanding for their lasting strength and beauty. To see the master at work, you may view this rare silent film from the 1930s that shows Frederic Goudy creating his typeface Goudy Saks:
“The Creation of a Printing Type From The Design to The Print”. Goudy fans will enjoy watching the master at work, but more importantly, this is a document of his type-making process—from the original drawings in pencil and ink, through the engraving of the working pattern and the matrix to the casting and proofing.
Gustav Stickley (1858-1942)
Stickley founded his furniture company, the Gustave Stickley Company – Craftsman Workshops, with his brother Leopold in upstate New York in 1898. Stickley’s company was highly successful and eventually became a national enterprise with retail stores in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement and European Art Nouveau, Stickley advocated the creation of a distinctive American style that would integrate furnishings, architecture, handicrafts, and principles of harmonious living; he believed that well-designed furnishings could help “make life better and truer by its perfect simplicity.”
A search for photographs of Stickley furniture brought these results: Gustav Stickley slideshow
William Morris (1834–1896).
Morris was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, and socialist activist. Associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. He played a significant role in propagating the early socialist movement in Britain. See the William Morris Society website for a full biography.
A quick image search for Book Design by William Morris brought back this wonderful set of images: William Morris slideshow
Arthur Mackmurdo and Herbert Horne founded the Century Guild in 1882. This was the first of the Collectives of fine artists and tradespeople. It formed the cornerstone of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America. The Century Guild was in existence for 11 years until 1893. Although it produced little furniture, it made a lasting impact through the major British exhibitions that occurred during its first six years.
A progressive architect and designer of furniture, textiles and metalwork, Mackurdo was also a social reformer. He was involved with several reform movements including the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and the Arts for Schools Association.