Early Swiss postmodern design

Tendencies toward postmodern graphic design first emerged from individuals working within the dicta of the International Typographic Style. The main thrust of this movement was toward neutral and objective typography; the playful, unexpected, and disorganized were rarely allowed to encroach upon its cool clarity and scientific objectivity.

Rosmarie Tissi

One of the earliest indications that a younger generation of graphic designers was starting to enlarge its range of possibilities in the 1960s was the 1964 advertisement for the printer E. Lutz & Company by Rosmarie Tissi.

 

Rosmarie Tissi

 

Different kinds of copy printed by the client—headlines, text, halftones, and solids—are illustrated by elemental symbols. Rather than align these images in boxes ordered on a grid, the five images appear to have been intuitively and randomly placed. The ruled lines forming the edges of the squares on which these images rest have lost-and-found edges to engage the viewer, who must fill in the missing lines.

Siegfried Odermatt

In 1966 Siegfried Odermatt designed a trademark for the Union Safe Company that is the antithesis of Swiss design, for the letterforms in the word Union are jammed together to form a compact unit suggesting the sturdy strength of the product, sacrificing legibility in the process.

In full-page newspaper advertisements for Union, placed during prestigious banking conferences, Odermatt treated this logo as pure form to be manipulated visually, creating a plastic dynamic on the newspaper page.

 

Siegfried Odermatt

 

Odermatt and Tissi have always used strong graphic impact, a playful sense of form, and unexpected manipulation of space in seeking logical and effective solutions to design problems.

When Odermatt and Tissi turned to typeface design, their originality of form produced unexpected letterforms, as can be seen in Tissi's advertisement for Englersatz AG, which features her typefaces.

A presentation folder designed by Tissi for the printing firm Anton Schob achieves typographic vitality by overlapping and combining letterforms.

Placing text typography on geometric shapes whose configuration is generated by the line lengths of the text is a technique Odermatt and Tissi frequently used during the 1980s.

Steff Geissbuhler

Another Swiss designer with a strong interest in complexity of form is Steff Geissbuhler, who joined the Geigy pharmaceutical company in the mid-1960s. In a capabilities brochure for the publicity department, his swirling typographic configuration becomes a circular tunnel moving back into space.

 

Steff Geissbuhler

 

He moved to Philadelphia and established an independent design practice before becoming a partner at Chermayeff & Geismar Associates. While at Chermayeff & Geismar he created corporate identity programs for Merck, Time Warner, NBC, Telemundo, Union Pacific Corporation, Toledo Museum of Art, Crane & Co., and the May Department Stores Companies, among others.

Complexity of form is never used as an end in itself; the dynamic of multiple components forming a whole grows from the fundamental content of the design problem at hand. Careful structural control enables Geissbuhler to organize vast numbers of elements into a cohesive whole.

Bruno Monguzzi

Other Swiss designers were interested in using typography as a means of bending the traditions of modernism to experiment and express their ideas for communication with the viewer. Bruno Monguzzi is an extraordinary designer, typographer and teacher.

After study in Geneva and London he began his career at Studio Boggeri in Milan in 1961.

 

Bruno Monguzzi

 

His typographic solutions express the subject matter through an innovative bond of form and function. In his poster for the exhibition Anwesenheit bei Abwesenheit [Presence in Absence]: The Photograms in 20th Century Art , his idea was to represent the process of light directly sensitizing the emulsion of photographic paper.

For this he created a photogram of a hand holding a perfect circular form against a rounded rectangle revealing a grided background. The result is strong, visually and conceptually, evoking the ideas of surrealism and constructivism while integrating type and image to create an arresting poster.

Odermatt, Tissi, Geissbuhler, and others working in the 1960s did not rebel against the International Typographic Style; rather, they expanded its parameters. In the 1970s, this development was followed by a revolt, as practitioners and teachers schooled in the International Typographic Style sought to reinvent typographic design. These new directions were quickly labeled new-wave typography.

2017 History of Graphic Design

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