Blog #3 – TYPOGRAPHY 2 Alexy Brodovitch

Annette Wagenhofer

February 25, 2015

Typography 2

Blog #3 Alexy Brodovitch


Alexey Brodovitch was Russian born photographer, designer and instructor who is most famous for his art direction of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar from 1934-1958. He was born in 1898. He had no formal training in art growing up. Alexey often would sketch noble profiles in the audience at concerts in the city of Moscow.

In his early twenties he wanted to become a painter. He lived in Paris with his wife. He took jobs painting houses. In Paris he met up with other Russian artists. They led him to more artistic work as a painter of backdrops for Diaghiliev’s Ballets Russes. Paris was a very cosmopolitan city. Here Alexey would be exposed to everything from Dadaism, to Constructivism, Futurism, Bauhaus, Cubism, Fauvism, Purism and Surrealism. Again these influences he found his beginnings of becoming a designer.

On his time off from working on the backdrops he began to sketch designs for textiles, china and jewelry.  He compiled many pieces for his portfolio and would sell his designs to fashion shops. Alexey landed a part time job doing layouts for Cahiers d’Art which was an art journal. He was good at fitting together type, photographs and illustrations for the pages of the magazine. He received public recognition for his work and won first place for his work in a competition. The poster was entitled Bal Banal. The graphic, light to dark inversion of mask shape, type and background showed not only the process of photography, but also the process of trading one’s identity for another when wearing a mask.

He went on to become a free lance designer for several companies. He would illustrate covers for books as well. Alexey embraced technical developments from the spheres of industrial design, photography and contemporary painting.  In his thirties Alexey became on of the most respect designers of the commerce art in Paris. He moved to the United States and was asked to teach Advertising Design and become head of the department at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. He was hired to bring the American school up to the level of the European which was far more modern.  His teaching techniques were unique. He always taught with a visual aid. Bringing examples of German or French magazines for his students to view. He would raise the question “Could this line be better?” Alexey would push his students to make a graphic impression of what they saw. Whether it was photographic, a drawing or abstraction.  They were taught to worship the unknown.

In the spring of 1934 he was asked to design a poster for the Art Directors Club of New York. When the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar saw his work, they knew that Alexey would transform the magazine’s revival. He had a fresh conception of layout technique. His pages bled, beautifully cropped photos, typography and design that was bold. He would design his layouts for Harper’s Bazaar by illustrations by hand. He would then use photographs of many different sizes made on a photostat machine. His different approach was to crop the picture unexpectedly or off center it. Designs also included torn edges on photographs. Never before seen in the advertising design industry. He also applied color to the layouts expressively, choosing to use colors of bolder value than that what is seen it the real world.

At times Alexey would take a series of photos and adopt a story line to go with them. He would use type, illustrations and photos to create multiple perspectives within a space. Dividing halves of one image across the gutter of the page. He would choose to use silhouettes instead of the whole form. The magazine resulted in images that one felt the reader could place themselves in those fashions.

Alexey would work at Harper’s Bazaar until 1958. His declining health resulted  him to plug into depression over the death of his wife. He died in 1971.


Alexey Brodovitch was a photographer, designer and teacher. He was most famous for his art direction working on the magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Early in his life he was in and out of the military. He spent time in Paris which is were he began a career in the graphic arts. He won a poster contest for a local theater. This put him on the road to embracing the arts.

A total of 15 years he worked at Harper’s Bazaar. His style of combining elegantly set typography with new and experimental trends in photography became very popular in the 40’s and 50’s. This style he created helped to keep the magazine on the forefront of its field in a changing world.

Almost every project that Alexey worked on was met with great success and he left a lasting impression on everyone including his students, co-workers and colleagues.


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