- by Kathy Eddy
By Natalie Robin
For design students and even some early-career designers, the research phase for period productions can be daunting. Even for designers who have been working in the field for decades, sometimes it’s hard to find a good place to start. Hal Tiné, experienced Broadway and regional designer and educator, has created an excellent resource for beginning the exploration of historical periods as they relate to all aspects of design.
Full of gorgeous full-color photographs, Essentials of Period Style is, as it claims in it subtitle, a sourcebook. Divided into 16 chapters on Western civilizations, Ancient Greece to the Present and five additional chapters on non-Western (Pre-Columbian, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and Japanese), the book lays out both context and reference material for each period. Every chapter includes historical and cultural context and timelines, details about construction, decoration and clothing with dedicated lists of useful vocabulary. The pictures, which are a mix of contemporary color photographs of historical structures and period artwork, provide a font of intriguing imagery to inspire designers looking to work in each specific period. In addition to peaking a reader’s interest, Tiné lays out specific chronological boundaries for each period which can help to clarify future research. Though perhaps some of these date ranges can be challenged, they do serve as an excellent starting place.
The textbook-like structure makes the information quickly accessible and provides just enough introductory information to get a designer started. In no way is Tiné’s text meant to replace in-depth research. The quick-reference style creates a kind of one-stop-shop for a taste of each period.
It is, of course, limiting that equal time and space is spent on each period. This creates an implied preference to and emphasis on the Western periods and styles over the non-Western. This is not particularly unexpected in a book of this scope. I wish we could figure out a more equitable way of dealing with the multicultural richness of our global history. This is not, however, Tiné’s project. As he says, “This book is not meant to be an exhaustive academic document, nor encyclopedic, but a relatively concise overview. Its purpose is first to familiarize the emerging designer with the style images of past periods and to suggest an interconnectedness of period style motifs and influences in architecture, costume and décor.” And he successfully does just that, making Tiné’s sourcebook a welcome addition to classrooms and studio libraries.