Design History

Swiss Design was a movement that took hold in the 1950's in two Swiss art schools: the kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich (led by Josef Müller-Brockmann), and the Allegemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel (led by Armin Hofmann). Both Müller-Brockmann and Hofmann had studied with the great Ernst Keller in Zurich before World War II.

Their style, which was called the International Typographic Style at the time, was based on the thought of that design should be as invisible as possible. The "content" of the design should shine through, and the designer's subjectivity should not be that prominent.This design movement should emphasize cleanliness, readability and objectivity. Many of the work done in this period featured typography as a primary design element.

Some of the greatest and most well known designers from this movement is already mentioned on this page: Ernst Keller, Josef Müller-Brockmann, and Armin Hofmann. You can read more about two of them underneath, and see if you see something in common, or if Keller's work affected the work that Hofmann did.

Ernst Keller (1891-1968)

Ernst Keller was born in 1891 in Aarau, Switzerland. He was first trained a draughtsman and litographer in 1906. He later on joined the Zurich's famous Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Art) in 1918, until he retired in 1956. His time as a teacher was the most important single infleunce on the development of the Swiss Style. He was teaching design and typographic, and was called "the father of Swiss graphics".

Keller is known for, amongst other things, his posters made for the Kunstgewerbemuseum Zurich, for several charity organizations, and for heraldic logos.

Armin Hofmann (29. June 1920-21. Oct 2001)

By the age of 27 Armin Hofmann had already completed an apprenticeship in lithography and had begun teaching typography at the Basel School of Design. Hoffmann continued teaching for decades.

Hofmann played a big role in developing the graphic design style known as Swiss style. He had a great influence, and his students looked up to him. Hofmann’s teaching method and approaches are deemed unorthodox and broad based. He succeeded in setting certain teaching standards that were quickly adopted by international design education institutions. His work is primarly based on the fundamental elements of graphic form: point, shape and line.