By Lisa A. M. Bauman
Beal is very well known for his political posters during World War II and advertisements for the Rural Electrification Administration between 1937 and 1940. Also, in 1937 the Museum of Modern Art in New York honored him as the first graphic designer to showcase an exhibit in their halls.
Beal was educated at the University of Chicago and graduated 1929 with Ph.B. in History of Art. His education lead him to find an interest in Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Dadaism, Surrealism, the Russian Constructivists, and the studies at the Bauhaus (An Architectonic Clarity). What influenced his skill the most was his passion for fine art and study of the human form. There were many accounts of him spending hours in his study producing fine art. Beal himself states that “all through my life as a designer, I have spent considerable time developing myself as an artist. I am constantly drawing, with particular emphasis on the figure, which I find fascinating though difficult in term of evolving something that is not completely abstract but certainly not literal or realistic (Remington).”
Beall’s 44 year career demonstrated original, bold solutions that considered his client’s needs from all aspects. For Beall, art was a form of expression and communication. He believed that the designer “must work with one goal in mind—to integrate the elements in such a manner that they will combine to produce a result that will convey not merely a static commercial message, but an emotional reaction as well (Remington).”
Beal is described as an intellectual artist where “creative work is based less upon spontaneity than upon reflection.” He used multimedia, which differentiated him from other designers. He would use old woodcuts, lithos, drawings, typography, and pieces of paintings. What is very interesting is Beall’s unabashed mixture of graphic design and photography. He was known for being with a camera at hand at all times (An Architectonic Clarity).
This use of multimedia and refusal to be confined by traditional ideals about graphical design inspire me. He valued art as a form of refined communication between his client and the client’s customer; feeling a sense of duty to convey this message accurately. He said: “If we can produce the kind of art which harnesses the power of the human instinct for that harmony of form, beauty and cleanness … then I think we may be doing a job for our clients (Remington).” He says: “The designer's role in the development, application and protection of the trademark may be described as pre-creative, creative and post-creative (Remington).”
In conclusion, Beall was the ideal graphical artist. He was not constrained in creativity, he was motivated by self-expression, and he was challenged and determined to solve graphical problems for his clients with accuracy.
"An Architectonic Clarity." http://www.lesterbeall.com. Estate of Lester Beall , n.d. Web. 12 Oct 2012.
Remington, Roger . "Lester Beall." AIGA: the professional association for design. The American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1993. Web. 12 Oct 2012.
** For Art120, Graphic Design, Portland State University, Fall Term, April 2012-2013