Thursday, November 29, 2018

San Diego Modern — Circa 1918

Elegant drawings illuminate San Diego High School's yearbook

Vintage graphic design and illustration are always fun to see up close — not just under glass in a museum or library. There is no substitute for turning the pages and studying the design, typography, artwork and pacing of a book.

"The Russ" is San Diego High School's yearbook of student life, clubs, activities and class portraits. This 1918 volume features quality offset printing, blind-embossed cover and classic design. Roman type is paired with more modern illustrations. The yearbook is in excellent condition and without damage to most pages. 

In other words, terrific design inspiration and a nice peek at Southern California history, too!

Pen and ink drawings dividing each section are mainly modern with a touch of Art Nouveau in the bold black "balloon" headlines throughout the book. The artwork for Sports (equestrian photo above) is really stylish — this drawing would be at home in a 1930s or '40s issue of "Vogue." My favorite page!

California is well-known for modernism, even prior to the 1920s. Architect Irving Gill's San Diego and Los Angeles commissions ushered in a bold new cubist look in residential and commercial architecture. If you don't know Gill's work, take a look. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Gill was ahead of his time.

In 1918, polo matches were held across the bay at the Hotel del Coronado, and back then you could even ride your horse along the beach. This sporty and bobbed girl resembles film star Louise Brooks, but nine years earlier than the famous portrait (below).

San Diego High School, located adjacent to Balboa Park, boasts many well-known and talented graduates including actors Anita Loos, Gregory Peck, actor/comedian Harold Lloyd, TV host Art Linkletter and architect Wayne McAllister.

Balboa Park was built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. "The Expo" celebrated the Panama Canal's opening to trade and hosted more than two million visitors in its two year run. Many of the original Park buildings are still standing, including the botanical building (conservatory), Cabrillo Bridge, California Bell Tower and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

I recommend a day in Balboa Park if you have not visited lately. It's a treasure — museums on nearly every corner and plenty of green space to relax. You will see some modern architecture but most of the Park's buildings are Spanish-influenced. Be sure to have lunch at The Prado restaurant near the visitor’s center for great food and perfect outdoor dining.


Thank you to Kevin Dalbey and Lucille Dalbey for graciously lending me this yearbook, part of their own family's collection. Kevin’s great aunt Hazel Marvin, a SDHS graduate, is pictured on one of the student portrait pages (below).


CLICK ANY PHOTO to view a larger slide show of images. Enjoy this vintage yearbook!

Louise Brooks by Eugene Robert Richee, for Paramount (1929)


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Emilie Pallos Graphic Design / Los Angeles
Print design and corporate communications, web design and local development, brand strategy, corporate identity and advertising.

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