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Graphic Design in America

Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, ed. Mildred Friedman and Phil Freshman. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, and New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989. 264 pp.

THE QUAKER OATS MAN, the tech-type IBM logo, and the generic Woman on the ladies’ room door—we all know these images. But who invented them, and when? Produced for the public eye, works of graphic design become so familiar it’s hard to think of them as having authors or histories. The slick surface of design effaces both the marks of these icons’ production and the continual process of renewal and revision that is needed to maintain their freshness and viability. (The original Quaker is too old-fashioned to proclaim the benefits of a putative modern miracle food like oat bran.) Veiling the machinations of corporate capitalism, the glib synthetic image-speak of design conceals any hint of power relations in its

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