As we await Doomsday 2012, we should take the time to gloat a bit about our recent human accomplishments. If you ask me, especially exciting is this burst of media accessibility we’ve witnessed (and are witnessing!) over the past few years, giving people the chance to communicate and express themselves in never before thought of ways.

About 100 years ago, another little explosion of influences created a number of new design movements whose impact still echoes today (and funny story—a certain group of people were quite sure that the end of the world would be brought around by Halley’s Comet in 1910.) Advertisements from the Victorian era and before (some of the oldest ads are cited back to the early 1700’s) generally utilized life-like scenes of people and items to show the product to the consumer.

But starting from the mid to late 1800’s, the Western world was exposed to Japanese woodblock prints, African masks and sculptures, other items from abroad that utilized a different means of representation. These influences can first be seen in Art Nouveau or Jugendstil (“Youth Style”) advertisements, where line work rather than modeling is key, and space and setting becomes a little more abstracted:

In 1906 Lucian Bernhard moved advertising into even more extreme territory with the “Sachplakat,” literally “object poster,” where classical concern for figure-ground relation is completely removed, and the only focus is the advertised object itself and an attractive type treatment:

Reminds you of something, huh?

Advertisements like these paved the way to the more direct works we see in magazines and papers and online today. So lets hope the soothsayers are wrong and we can look forward to more amazing revolutions in creativity for the next hundred years.