The Modernist Compositions of Rudolph de Harak
Born in California in 1924, member of the Art Directors Club’s Hall of Fame and 1992 winner of the AIGA medal, Rudolph de Harak didn’t have an easy or smooth career in graphic design. He served in World War II and then was inspired by two lectures given by Will …
Born in California in 1924, member of the Art Directors Club’s Hall of Fame and 1992 winner of the AIGA medal, Rudolph de Harak didn’t have an easy or smooth career in graphic design. He served in World War II and then was inspired by two lectures given by Will Burtin and Gyorgy Kepes. He then decided to pursue a career in graphic design. He formed the Los Angeles Society of Contemporary Designers but soon moved to NYC to become an art director of Seventeen. In NYC he struggled greatly to make a living out of design. He went back and forth with several activities such as photography, illustration, and teaching in order to sustain himself. It was not until he got to experiment with his design style, throughout a series of covers for Westminster Records and his world famous McGraw-Hill paperback covers, that his design career started to consolidate.
In a time when US design was divided between the International Style inspired by the Bauhaus and the 60s design exuberance, de Harak’s modernism took design to a new level of abstraction. Inspired by several artistic movements such as Dada, Abstract Expressionism and Op Art, de Harak experimented with color, type, optical illusion, photography and other techniques. De Harak’s modernism was one that could express emotion through abstraction. His use of selected typefaces such as Franklin Gothic, News Gothic, Akzidenz Grotesk and Helvetica, allowed him to capture ideas and abstractions through his subconscious way of expressing and creating compositions. His most famous collection of paperback cover for McGraw-Hill goes through various subjects such as philosophy, science, anthropology and psychology. He approached these paperback covers with his unique style of abstraction and mystery.
These projects along with his incursion in exhibition design granted Rudolph de Harak a place as one of the most renowned design modernists of the U.S. and the world. He passed away in 2002 in Ellsworth, Maine.
All images © belong to Rudolph de Harak.