Deconstructing Deco

Quick Facts

Project Type

Graphic Design


October 2020

Completed Project

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Perhaps no artistic movement is as fondly remembered as Art Deco. But beyond sharp geometry and bold colors, what really is Art Deco? And does our nostalgia for it contradict the movement’s emphasis on modernity and forward progress?

After creating an outline of my main illustration, I used the Expand Appearance function to add background layers and then created depth with shadows.

The Project

Designed by students at the University of North Carolina, Ebb & Flow is a magazine that examines the way design trends—from graphics to fashion to architecture—come in and out of style. In addition to serving as Ebb & Flow’s content editor, I also wrote and designed an article about modern consumer fascination with Art Deco, an art movement that was decidedly not nostalgic in outlook.

I intended to use this as a background, but I decided it was too busy and went with a simpler design that drew focus to the main illustration.

I also considered placing a decorative border behind the title, but it also seemed too busy.

The Process

When creating the layout for this article, I was inspired by both the sculptures that sits atop Paris’s Folies Bergere. It didn’t seem enough, however, to simply recreate this sculpture as an illustration. To add depth to the figure, I used a paper cutout technique that involves creating increasingly large background layers that are overset with a shadow. On top of that, I added wavy border elements in the same style to enhance the statue’s sense of movement and tie the left and right sides of the spread together.

I used border decorations to help connect the two pages of my spread.

The Product

As I wrote in this piece, it is impossible to use Art Deco techniques today without betraying the movement’s intellectual principles. My piece isn’t Art Deco because it’s rooted in the past, rather than looking towards the future—but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun trying to put my own twist on a new style.

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