5 Designs of the Past that Continue to Inspire Us

    written by Rachel Sanders

    Inspiration comes in all packages and from all time periods. From classic art, to architecture, to nature, to advertising, inspirational figures can bring life to designs created every day. Some of the most iconic symbols of design inspiration, however, at those that have stood the test of time. Whether they were designed thousands of years ago or a few generations back, there are many figures that stand as icons for beauty, art, architecture, or graphic design alone.
    Here is a sample of some very iconic historical designs, from ancient Egypt to the 1950′s, that continue to influence designers across the world.

    1. The Pyramids

    The Pyramids

    The Egyptian pyramids have long been held as some of the most mysterious structures in human history. Not only because they have stood intact for longer than almost all human structures, but because they are a marvel of simplicity, balance and strength.
    The most famous of the Egyptian pyramids can be found at Giza and are among some of the largest structures in human history. The pyramid is said to represent the ground from which the earth was created, and the cascading walls represent the rays of sun falling from the sky.
    The pyramids are a source of inspiration for many designs, including the U.S. dollar bill, and the simple lines and balanced geometry lend an example of foundational design basics to all artists and designers.

    2. The Vitruvian Man

    The Vitruvian Man

    Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man dates back to around 1487. The drawing is meant to serve as a diagram of the perfect human proportions. Da Vinci was a devout scholar of the architect Vitruvius, who described these ideal human proportions in an ancient Roman treatise and stated that it should be the primary source of proportion for architects.
    Da Vinci believed that the human form was the key to the universe, and all the principles of design and balance therein.

    3. The Sistine Chapel

    The Sistine Chapel

    Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of the most prominent figures in High Renaissance art. Crafted between 1508 and 1512, this single ceiling has stood the test of time, attracting thousands of visitors from across the world every year. The ceiling contains thousands of colors, textures, and human figures that have served as inspiration for artists and designers for centuries.
    The hands of God and Adam reaching out to one another have been reproduced in countless forms.

    4. Helvetica


    In 1957, designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman collaborated to create a new sans-serif typeface that would be neutral, visually clear, elicit no specific emotion or meaning, and that could be used on all sorts of signs and prints. What they came up with was eventually dubbed Helvetica. This one typeface would stand to change typography from then on and become one of the most widely-used in the entire world. Every designer today knows Helvetica and has likely used variations of the typeface in their own designs.
    Helvetica has been used by 3M, American Airlines, American Apparel, BMW, Jeep, J. C. Penney, Lufthansa, McDonald’s, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Panasonic, Target, and Verizon Wireless. The New York City Transit Authority uses Helvetica on its signs. The U.S. Government even uses Helvetica for federal income tax forms.

    5. The Man with the Golden Arm

    The Man with the Golden Arm

    Not everyone may have seen the film The Man with the Golden Arm, but they may recognize the iconic design aesthetic of Saul Bass, who crafted the title credits. Bass was a graphic designer and filmmaker who sprung to fame with his Golden Arm design. Using large moving blocks of color to depict an arm cutout of a heroin addict, Bass coined a style that would define a design generation. This fresh and contemporary take on design sprung to prominence afterward during the late fifties and early sixties and was seen on everything from film titles to print adverts.
    Bass also designed the AT&T “bell” logo in 1969, the AT&T “globe” logo in 1983, and the logos of Continental and United Airlines.

    Authored by

    Rachel Sanders is a blogger passionate about design, photography, illustration and contemporary art.

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