Like many others, my introduction to graphic design involved finding old graphics that I liked and recreating them while updating the text for its current use, generally promoting music or DJ events. Of course there is a long and illustrious history of this type of appropriation (rip-off).
At some point I moved on or at least took some comfort in the idea that I was "deconstructing" whatever I was ripping off enough to make it a bit more of an homage and a bit less of a rip-off! More likely I take it as a starting off point to work within a historical style, or draw from one, while hopefully coming up with something else. Despite that, I recently designed and printed a simple wedding invitation that's directly derived from the work of Dutch designer Stefan Schlesinger.
I was leafing through one of my all-time favorite design books, Dutch Graphic Design: A Century (which you can pick up cheap used on Amazon) and one of my favorites caught the client's eye.
That design was loosely adapted and letterpress printed in process blue and metallic gold, with a pattern of gold stars on the back. I'm glad to be able to show the source of the blue and gold and stars look because it gives me the opportunity to talk about the designer, Stefan Schlesinger. I have a bad habit of buying design books and only ever looking at the pictures. Sometimes it will be years before I even register if a collection of work is from the same person, and further years before actually reading the text. I had this particular book for a long time before I zero'd in on the tragic story of Schlesinger. He was an Austrian Jew born in Hungary who fled anti-semitism in Vienna for Amsterdam where for 20 years he was a successful graphic designer and typographer. Primarily remembered for the work he did for clients such as Metz & Co, Van Houten chocolates and Trio Printers. His work was simple, beautiful and playful, but was cut short when he was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
When you think of all the amazing artists and designers from Europe who successfully fled the Nazis and helped influence the look of America and the west for the rest of the century, it saddens me that Schlesinger was not one of them, and information about him is hard to come by. This is the spread from Dutch Graphic Design that the above was taken from:
There are more examples in that book and a few elsewhere on the web, see here. I highly recommend picking up Dutch Graphic Design: A Century. From amazing Art Nouveau through Dada and De Stijl, superstars like Piet Zwart and Wim Crouwel and lesser known designers like Schlesinger, an embarrassment of riches.