Author: Jennifer Cohlman Bracchi

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Pessimistic Optimism
Written by Joseph McPartlin There are many ways you can look at the modern world. Do you take a pessimistic or optimistic view? John Vassos questions his view of modernity in his 1931 illustrated book, Phobia. He uses “optimistic” Art Deco forms to convey twenty-three phobias as a “pessimistic” look into the modern world. John...
George Brookshaw: A Colorful Life
By Elizabeth Caroscio This illustration by the celebrated English botanical artist George Brookshaw is from a very special rare book in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library. Bound into one book, it consists of three volumes: Groups of Flowers, Drawn and Accurately Coloured after Nature; Groups of Fruit, Accurately Drawn and Coloured after Nature; and...
book cover
Dancing with Modernism
Written by Gretchen Von Koenig Elements of Geometry by Euclid is one of the most printed books in the world, second only to the Bible. A critical subject for any branch of mathematics, Euclid’s Elements is a timeless book and certainly an ideal project for Bruce Rogers, one of the most prolific American book and...
Image features a color plate featuring five colors. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Rarity of Color Harmony
A significant acquisition to the Cooper Hewitt Library’s special collections in 2014 was Édouard Guichard’s Die Harmonie der Farben (The Harmony of Colors). A rare and important work heavily influenced by the 1839 De la loi du contraste simulanté des Couleurs by M.E. Chevreul, this edition was published in Frankfurt Germany in 1882. Profusely illustrated...
grid of colorful book covers
Sutnar On the Grid
Published in Prague for only four years (1926-1930), these issues of the rare Czechoslovakian periodical, Výtvarné snahy [Art Endeavors], feature covers designed by Ladislav Sutnar during 1928 and 1929.  Relevant to the National Design Library’s rare and special collections for both content and graphic design, they also support Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s Sutnar archives and holdings, representing...
Page from a book printed with three rows of simplified male bodies. Men in the first row are outlined in black with no fill, men in the second row printed in black, and men in the third row are printed in red. Beneath them, text reads "1 Sign for 1,000,000,000 men / White--red--black--brown--yellow men / Picture 14.
Picturing Language
Without much thought or effort, I’ve been reading images inspired by Otto Neurath’s International Picture Language for most of my life.  No doubt you too have encountered derivatives of these informative symbols which can be found across the globe and online, from airport signage to The Noun Project.  Considered an early pioneer of infographics, Neurath...
spiral staircase image
Stairway to Modernism: Thérèse Bonney Collection
Upon first glance it is difficult to tell if we are looking up or down this spiral staircase.  Clean lines intersect with natural light, casting shadows that create a deceptive flattening effect from this vantage point. What appear to be stairs descending counterclockwise with no railing is actually the underside of the staircase designed to...
various patterns made from the cross sections of seashells
Inside wonders: A Japanese pattern book
Patterns found in nature have influenced human creativity for millennia and continue to inspire designers today. Can you guess what natural forms were used to create the designs in this pattern book? Published in Kyoto by Unsōdō in 1913, its bold calligraphic lines, sweeping curves, and organic forms share characteristics with both Japan’s Rinpa and...
drawing of two young women in front a window
Poiret’s liberating plates
This fashion plate from Les Robes De Paul Poiret (1908) is one of eleven illustrations often credited with liberating women from the body constricting corsets popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras (1837-1910). Dress reformers had advocated for classical-style high waistlines as early as the 1880s, but it was Poiret’s beautifully commissioned album that most...