Design: Getting Out and Mixing It Up in the Rialto

A rich show traces a century and a half of American graphics, including back-to-the-future revelations

Not many decades ago, most newspapers and magazines and packages and signs looked the way they looked more or less serendipitously. They were the result of a proprietor's quirky, untutored taste, or a printer's feeling that Garamond was a classy typeface, or a general notion that things had always been done that way. Today practically everything is designed. Record-album covers and annual reports and dog-food labels are self-consciously wrought and overwrought, fussed with endlessly to get the connotations just right. This very page, with its six typefaces in ten sizes and thin horizontal and vertical rules and several photographs, did not...

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