Swiss Style Posters and designers.


For this first assignment you will produce a series of Swiss Style Posters advertising a special exhibition of Swiss Typographers and Designers to be held at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. The Posters will be A2 in size and utilise techniques, materials and media that you have explored during this module. Exhibition will run from: Jan, 15th, 2015 – Mar, 15th, 2015. The list of designers’ work that will take part in the exhibition will be:

  • Joseph Müller Brockmann
  • Ernst Keller
  • Paul Renner
  • Armin Hoffman
  • Jan Tischichold
  • Massimo Vignelli
  • Wim Crouwel
  • Adrian Frutiger

You do not have to produce every name on each poster but you must clearly demonstrate the use of Swiss design rules in your design.

Rational of the Swiss Style Posters.

 0023 Looking at the Grosvenor Museum and the Logo.


some of my sketched ideas.


two ideas to take forward.

Poster 1


In the first poster the museum front and logo have been studied and observed to create geometrical forms that represent the building and its proportions. This technique uses the principles of constructivism, the study of the properties of a subject to create a visual connection. The resulting forms are tilted to give an angular, off centre, asymmetrical feel to the composition. The left side roof angle is lined up to follow the edge of the page. The geometric composition is sized so that the corners perch on 3rds, whilst the centre lines up with a roof triangle.  Vertical and angular Lines that are formed and taken beyond the geometrical shape are used as grids to align and hang text.  The word “TYPOGRAPHERS” lines up to the top right corner, and where this word finishes determines a horizontal fixing line for the word “SWISS”.  The “DATES” also line up to the bottom left.  The sizes of the word “SWISS” and “Grosvenor Museum” are determined by the measurement between centre line and the left side roof. The four colours chosen are limited to pure red, yellow, black and white and are typical of Swiss style posters. Helvetica, with its popular minimalist style, is the chosen single font.

Poster 2


The second poster is inspired by “Walter Cyliax, 1930, Simmons Furniture Store” poster (shown below). With this I have attempted to create a visually very different poster, whilst still employing Swiss design philosophy. As with Cyliax’s poster, the image of the building is simulated by the use of simple greyscale, geometric forms. Overlaid blue and red columns divide the poster into 3rds, and the corner of the building lines up with a 3rd of the middle column. This also gives a grid line for the end of the “SWISS” tittle and end point for “Designers”. The centre of the “i” falls on the transition between blue and white. This positioning gives it two tones and determines the size of the tittle, and in turn the start of “Typographers”. The ampersand hangs to pull the words together. The list of designers, dates and museum name are 50% and centre to the red column. These groups of text hang on horizontal lines taken form the corners of the windows.


“Walter Cyliax, 1930, Simmons Furniture Store” poster.

500 words on some Swiss Designers

Jan Tschichold

At a young age of twelve, Jan Tschichold took an interest in civilisations, typography, Roman alphabets and ornate and illuminated manuscripts. He trained in calligraphy, book binding, etching and engraving. Tschichold studied the works of many well-known graphic designers and also gained type setting skills. He was greatly influenced by the teaching of the Bauhaus School of Arts in Germany, which drove the idea of communicating with intensity, clarity and legibility and promoted the use of constructivism. Part of the concept was to push typefaces out of their conformed square boxes in all linear directions, with varying sizes, colours and geometric forms. This was to be the new visual language. Tschichold was inspired to experiment with mixing images and typography and the use of white space for balance. He began to use only San-serif font and designed single case font constructed of simple geometric forms. Tschichold embraced the teachings of the Bauhaus school and by using one single font, the hierarchy was established by weight, size and contrast. Many of his designs are ‘off centre’ and use diagonal rules and grids for pleasing proportions and asymmetrical layouts.

He fled from Germany to Switzerland when the Nazi party targeted his work, viewing it as threat to their traditional ways of thinking. In Switzerland, during his work at Basle publishing and printing firm, a list of typographic house rules were introduced to help unify inconsistencies between hand and machine set type. This brought conformity to composition and became the foundation for composition rules in later works. Composition rules were employed during his career with Penguin Books giving cover design their distinct recognisable look. He also campaigned for standardisation rules regarding modern type faces and paper sizes.

Later in his career, Tschichold returned to a more classical design look. With certain clients he realised that asymmetrical design was less appropriate and that good composition could equally be achieved with symmetrical design. He also recognised that the cover design had to give some respect and reflection to the contents of the book and that centred typography and composition was just as acceptable. He also paid much more attention to the title pages as they set the tone of the book for the reader. In April 1935 he published this new way of thinking in an article “ The Design of Centred Typography”. He also began to favour Roman typefaces and expressed his view that Die neue Typographie was too extreme and felt that modern design was too authoritarian.

As a designer, publisher and teacher Tschichold has influenced many followers and yet his own assertions of design changed dramatically throughout his career from off centre asymmetrical to centred symmetrical design and the use of the Golden circle. He also moved from designing and using only sans-serif to serif type and seemed comfortable in publicly contradicting his own values and theories. He appeared vehemently confident in his own abilities and idealisms, describing himself as the perfectionist and yet on reflection of his own history, was willing to criticise his own work describing his other self as the one who did not measure up.

Paul Renner

Paul Renner was raised by a priest and had strong Christian ethics. Through his upbringing he was installed with the German sense of leadership, duty and responsibility. He studied and trained as an architect and painter. His informed understanding of vertical lines, strong geometrical shapes and linear designs seem to have influenced simple, easily legible and readable typefaces that embody style, strength and sturdiness. He is best known for the 1927 design of Sans Serif typeface Futura, a practical and subtle font still much used today. He was a friend of Jan Tschichold and associated with the Bauhaus School of Art, supporting its philosophy of the “New typography”. As a well-read person, studying the works of many well-known German philosophers, he involved himself in many ideological and artistic debates of the day. However, he was uneasy with abstract art and shied away from modern culture, such as cinema, jazz and dancing. He did however admire the functionalist strain in modernism. Like Tschichold, Renner promoted new guidelines for good book design and also ran into conflict with the Nazi regime by publishing his opposition in a pamphlet “Kulturbolschewismus” (Cultural Bolshevism). This led to his arrest and a period internal exile. Renner, with his intellect and aesthetic talents, aimed to influence modern culture through design, teachings and extensive writing on typography and design. His obsession with the crafted word seemed as important to him as the visual aesthetics of their form. He would preach to students words from German writer Goethe “we should direct our view outwards, away from ourselves, into the world, not into the distance, but onto those things that are neat, within a hand’s reach.”

Renner held strong views on the traditional German insistence on the use of Gothic letterforms and the comparison of virtues of Roman type. With his concerns for modernity and desire to reform German design, Renner attempted to find a solution in a design that suited Germany. With the development of Science and Technology, the invention of the steam press and Logie Baird’s demonstration of the first TV, ‘Futura’ seemed to fit the needs of the modern society’s functional simplicity, with its stylish elegance and striking visual power. ‘Futura’ was issued under license to France with the name of ‘Europe’ and its style was soon imitated by Americans with typeface ‘Sparton’. Also, it inspired the design ‘Twentieth Century’.

Renner, in his later years, is said to have expressed how he only ever wished to be a painter. He wanted to relinquish his responsibilities of educator and typographer in order to return painting. His concerns to set a good example to the younger generation of typographer seemed to repeatedly pull him back into the education system. Likewise, he seemed to find it difficult to reject collaborations with publishing firms. Renner designed many other typefaces such as Futura licht, Futura Schlagzeile, Ballade,Renner Antiqua, Tasse, and little known “TOPIC” or Steile Futura.

Josef Müller-Brockmann

Josef Müller-Brockmann was a prominent designer and inspired a generation of graphic designers with his understated and minimalist use of abstract geometric form, colour and text. His analysis of subject and use of constructivism conveys a visual connection and feeling with the subject matter e.g. the crisp sounds of piano can almost be heard in the Beethoven 1955 poster and the visual is as well composed as Beethoven’s music itself. The designs offer simple and balanced aspirations of the modern and dynamic future. For example, the ‘VOLG Traubensaft’ 1962 poster shows a good early demonstration of how, in an image, the viewer can form an irrational connection between a product and an improvement in lifestyle.

An influential world-renowned designer and teacher, he shared his understanding and knowledge of visual communication through many books, teaching and conferences.
As an advocate of grid systems, his designs do not feel random as he seems to follow a rigid set of layout rules. The message conveyed is simple and to the point, readable, legible and ordered, delivering only what is required. This style fits well with Japanese philosophy of balance and simplicity. It is understandable that Müller-Brockmann was popular in Japan and I wonder if Japan in return, influenced elements of his work.
His work became more rigid throughout his career which he has become well known for. Little reference is made to his early illustrations, caricatures, shop window instillations, stage setting and costumes. There was a shift early in his career from illustrations and humour, to just type and abstract geometrical shapes. He paired down the use of fonts and eliminated large areas of type. Those geometric shapes fill and divide large areas of the poster, and he placed text over images.

There seems to have been a period in his career, where he designed a large number of posters relating to music with forms of varying weight and some vivid colour. This phase may have been influenced by his wife, who was a violinist.
Later he introduced Photomontage into his designs and used this technique during the long running road awareness campaign for the Automobile Club of Switzerland. His clear use of pictures and easily understood messages, lead to a collaboration design company that was popular with enterprises looking to promote their business. The success of this led to the design company creating a visual information system for the SBB Swiss Rail Network.
He seemed to live his live with strong ethical views and beliefs and refused to work for companies dealing with liquor, tobacco, war games, military, real estate and politics and saw designers as having a true responsibility for what they contributed to society.

His designs and that of Swiss style in general, are stark and lack ornamentation and serifs could be viewed as too rigid, cold, hard, objective and impersonal.

Wim Crouwel

Wim Crouwel followed in the footsteps of leading Swiss designers with their codified, logical approach to designing. Influenced by his father, a lithographer by trade and a block maker-during the holiday periods, Crouwel was stimulated to draw. He became responsible for his own education, choosing to study Art and Architecture during his father’s two year absence. In this time, a librarian helped compile interesting reading material for Crouwel in the local library. Amongst this was the Architectural magazine ‘De 8 en Opbouw’ in which the pages were presented as pieces of architecture in itself.

Later, he was to study painting in the Art Academy Minerva, and an interest in abstract was encouraged. Viewing the poster ‘A. M. Cassandre poster Étoile du Nord (1927)’ on the Academy studio wall, prompted Crouwel to consider graphic design as a career. On completion of his studies, after the war, Crouwel move to Amsterdam. Design work was scarce, so Crouwel telephoned Dick Elffers and Otto Treumann, Holland’s most celebrated poster designers. Elffers found him work with Enderberg, a local exhibitions company, staging several touring exhibitions and funded by the US-backed European Recovery Program. Crouwel worked on one large exhibit, “All hands on deck“, where the top of the installation was designed to collapse and enable it to fit under bridges. His collaboration during this period, with photographers, architects, interior designers and graphic designers sent by US Information Office was a key moment. He also travelled to Switzerland and met other designers including Armin Hofmann. He was immediately impressed with Swiss Design style and the use of Akzidenz Grotesk typeface. He was unable to get this typeface in Holland and resorted to cutting the type out of Swiss magazines and newspapers, gluing them onto posters to make the letterforms. With his interest in abstract and fine art, and inspired by designers such as Hoffman, Crouwel chose a less rigid, less formal approach to design. Although he had been a member of abstract painting organisations, he soon began to concentrate exclusively on graphic design. He taught graphic design at the Royal Academy of Art in Hertogenbosch. The Academy director was a close friend of Edy De Wilde, the museum’s director. De Wilde became a long devoted client and took on Couwel’s services when he became director of the Stedelijk Museum.

With time, post war economies began to prosper. As consumer demands grew, so did demand for designers. However major Dutch companies, such as the Airline KLM, preferred the services of designers outside Holland. Based on fact-finding trips, Crouwel, Kramer and Wissing founded Total Design (TD), a British orientated identity which grew in demand. The company worked across many sectors with a philosophy to bring order to the visual landscape. With time, and following internal disagreements, TD founders separated and the company focused purely on graphic design. There was much opposition to Crouwel’s ideas, targeted as the cold brutality of Modernism and described as “the new ugliness” by Dutch critics. Crowel debated this and continues to hold the view that he is the modernist, as expressed in the 2007 documentary Helvetica. His work can be summarised as objective, logical and paired down, with a systematic approach to design and a desire to experiment.

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