Neue Grafik was the single most important factor in establishing the international influence of Swiss graphic design. Publication was heralded, but not explicitly, in Spring 1958 by the 'Konstruktive Graflk' exhibition, although Josef Müller-Brockmann gives a precise date and place for Neue Grafiks conception: 15 February 1956 at the Seilbahn restaurant in Zurich. Muller-Brockmann, together with the exhibition's participants- Lohse, Hans Neuburg and Carlo L. Vivarelli made up the editorial team.
The initial proposal to include the Basel designers Armin Hofmann and Emil Ruder was put to one side, so that Neue Grafik came to represent the more rigid orthodoxy of Swiss graphic design as it had developed in Zurich.
Neue Grafik was a shiny, white-covered, near-square-format quarterly. It first appeared in Autumn 1958 and closed, after eighteen issues, in 1965. The page layout grid was designed by Vlvarelll. Text and captions, in Monotype grotesque In German, English and French, are arranged in four columns. Apart from a few with a second flat colour illustrations are black-and-white; most are one column wide and few wider than two columns. The captions are minimal, and related to the illustrations by numbers. The first editorial statement - signed, like much of the text, with the joint initials LMNV -has none of the declamatory style of earlier avant-garde manifestoes.'
Rather than a clear programme, readers were given only hints of the magazine's aims. The editors had examined work from all over the world which was in their opinion valid… They do not prize modernity for its own sake or applaud boldness and originality at all costs, but they value the attempt at a solution by constructive methods. not an illusory solution based on emotional, representational effects… The editors would like to stress the fact that the purpose of this opening number is to define their policy. The importance of design is examined from the angle of both art and industry but the editors are not content with that alone: they not only wish to exhibit certain aspects of design. they wish to stimulate discussion, to offer explanations, to give instruction and example… The four editors pledge themselves to uphold the policy of reproducing only work which is absolutely contemporary in style.
The overriding policy was to demonstrate first that the practice of New Graphic Design was inherently Swiss; second, that it was inevitably 'Constructive'; and third, that it was a logical development from Modernism. The first Neue Grafik opens with an exhaustive presentation by Richard Paul Lohse of 'The Influence of Modern Art on Contemporary Graphic Design'. Almost thirty pages long, the essay is accompanied by 104 numbered illustrations. Lohse records the development of visual expression from Cubism to Constructivism, from German design between the two World Wars to, finally, postwar and contemporary work, all of it Swiss, and including examples by each of the editors.
To establish the predominance of the Swiss in developing a 'new' graphic design, Hans Neuburg follows Lohse's opening article with a review of what are described as 'recently designed' Swiss posters though it looks back a quarter of a century to Max Bill's 'Negerkunst' of 1931. And Neuburg defines 'Constructive' attitudes: 'We disregard all those posters which derive only from painterly or illustrative tendencies . . .. From our point of view they are not interesting.' But among his choice of nearly fifty posters Neuburg cannot avoid some with 'illustrative tendencies'.
The editors' intention to make the magazine 'an international forum' was never achieved. In an article on graphics for industry, all thirty-five illustrations are of Swiss work - all by Zurich designers, apart from four by Karl Gerstner. The second issue of Neue Grafik, which appeared in July 1959, nearly a year after the first, introduces 'Graphic Designers of the New Generation'. Again, all ere Swiss. H the editors had 'examined work from all over the world', then they were applying their criterion of 'judging it according to a quality of Inevitability' with extreme rigor.
Neuburg used the magazine to continue his campaigning on behalf of ‘Industriegrafik'. Though he cites the way that manufacturers have welcomed graphic design, rather than stressing Its practical use In organizing information effectively, he writes that the most important demand of ‘Industriegrafik' Is 'without doubt the mastery of two-and three-dimensional space'. He castigates those who 'attempt a solution by inappropriate, spurious methods and contortions', but provides little careful criticism. In general, Neue Grafik made only an occasional analysis of work designed for a particular task, or gave space to serious critical studies.
One exception was In issue no.2, when Max Bill examined the three types of catalogue for art exhibitions. His first category is the catalogue designed like an art monograph, with the text and related illustrations followed by the list of works; the second type comprises a list. giving full details of the exhibits and a selection of illustrations; the third is a comprehensive catalogue, every work illustrated and complete details given. Bill gives each of his first two categories a double-page spread and gives the third an extra page. Several examples of each type are Illustrated- Bill's own designs among them with descriptive captions.
The editorial note states that Bill is 'responsible for the layout of his article which conforms to the style of the journal'. In reality, although he follows the grid, he implicitly criticizes Neuburg's use of the layout. By not relying on numbers to relate the illustration to the caption, Bill keeps the caption as a single unit of text. positioning It close to the image. By contrast, the article following Bill's is in the standard Neue Grafik style, with illustrations separated from their captions. Eighty works of young designers are dispersed over sixteen pages with only a brief introduction, no apparent sequence or structure. no commentary or extended captions, and no indication of the size of the originals.
In a rare exception to its general surveys, the ftfth issue of Neue Graflk dealt extensively with a single comprehensive piece of design. This was a review of the book Geigy heute (Geigy Today) and the programmes and invitations for events elebrating Geigy's bicentenary. Karl Gerstner, the designer chiefly responsible, the same imaginative power, skill and talent as now to create industrial or other styles. Drawing these parallels is the main purpose of this article. In other words, Neuburg Is quite clear that his own style derives from Stankowski's early work.
A historical survey of posters undertaken by Neuburg in the fourth issue of Neu Grafik follows Max Bill's example of dividing the subject into three categories: 'lettering in the Pictorial Poster', 'The Typographic Poster' and 'The Concert Poster'. But the text is disappointingly unfocused, Neuburg typically remarking that ' All the examples are representative and all give evidence of a unified, homogeneous conception of picture and text.' First-hand accounts of work between the wars were given by two survivors of the pioneering times - Henryk Berlewl in Poland and Paul Schuitema in the Netherlands; and Lohse described De 8 en Opbouw, the Dutch architectural magazine of the period. Paul Schuitema, a survivor from the De Still period, was critical of Neue Grafik's attachment to history. Writing on 'New Typographical Design in 1930' he gave a warning: We are now especially over sophisticated and underdeveloped, technically advanced and psychologically retarded .... And it is not a particularly good thing that people should be interested in what was going on in the Thirties.
More positively, Schuitema denies the special interest of his contemporaries’ work. It has 'already become part of history. The only possibility is to go on logically from there, from those clear, definite principles.' Social responsibility was an intermittent concern of the Neue Grafik contributors. Scheidegger writes that the designer 'is responsible for shaping and changing his environment; he is attempting to educate his fellows visually', and should 'contribute to culture through his use of photography, and by giving his work an ethical basis'. Hans Hilfiker, designer of the famous Swiss Railways clock and now on the executive board of the domestic: appliance company Therma, argued more philosophically, that authority was given to human beings by their unique attributes of speech and inventive abilities. For this reason, the designer has authority, and with authority comes responsibility: To make use of this distinguishing authority without acknowledgement of the corresponding responsibility is incompatible with our Innate conception of duty and justice.'15 Such sentiments reveal the same social sensitivity as that expressed by Richard Paul Lohsa, who complains that the designer Is obliged to play a part In 'the ruthless combination of production, sale and profit'. On the one hand the designer is a creative artist and on the other hand a public relations specialist, but one who is still anxious to attach personal artistic aims to an alien product. Lohsa nonetheless compares the designer favorably with the artist. What the designer does is less spectacular but often of greater profundity, shows more sense of responsibility and is more sincere despite the trivial purpose for which (the work) is intended… Lohse asks, Is it because he is a particular type of person or is it his background which leads a young man with a certain degree of visual and intellectual sensibility to put that sensibility on the market?
The education of such young men (and women) had been a recurring topic In Neue Grafik. The third issue carried Illustrated reports on foundation courses at the Institute of Design in Chicago and at the Zurich Kunstgewerbeschule. Robert S. Gessner, who was responsible for the teaching of apprentices at the Zurich school, presents a demanding down-to-earth list of designers' educational needs-to develop a good social manner, artistic sensibility, and an ability to initiate and cooperate in research, production and sales; to be trained to deal with a variety of products used in design and its execution; to understand the alms and effect of work undertaken; to have manual and creative skills and business ability; and to be able to write and speak coherently and with a knowledge of foreign languages. But this training could be completed only by experience in a good design studio.
That professional training consists of the inculcation of 'Constructive graphics' as a Neue Grafik doctrine is made clear In Issue no. 7. Miiller-Brockmann gives an account of his Zurich course with nearly two hundred Illustrations. Each student spends two terms in the final year of the course designing all the printed matter required by a specific firm for internal and external use. all the advertising matter, the trade insignia on the facade of the building and on the delivery van, the neon sign and a small exhibition. In the second half of the fourth year, he has to do a similar piece of work, though for a different firm."
The work has a standardized appearance, and might well have been produced In Muller-Brockmann's studio. Reprinted in his book The Graphic Artist and his Design Problems, within a few years such exercises became an international model not only for students, but for institutions and businesses, large and small.
The first issue described the aims of the Ulm Hochschule fUr Gestaltung, where each of the magazine's co-editors was at some point a visiting teacher." 'Neue Gulikreturned to the subject of Ulm in 1962. A member of the school's Visual Communication Department reported on a student project 'which sets out to produce not graphic designers but rather specialists who are in a position to control and put into practice the visual means of communication’. Specialists in verbal communication were brought into the studios, and the heads of other departments- sociology, psychology. methodology, photography and advertising - were consulted. In other words. at Ulm there was more interest in teamwork than in the work of the individual student. Though the results were dull, it was an innovation for the magazine to consider the user's response to a design. not merely its formal aspects.
However inward-looking Neue Grafik appeared. however much the work it reproduced became models of a style to be imitated, the magazine showed a pattern of wide interests. They ranged from packaging and exhibition design to more theoretical subjects, such as the graphic representation of movement (no.12), the physical properties of light (no. 15) and, in the final issue, the design of national flags. By this point Neue Grafik had achieved its aims in promoting a single 'Swiss style'.
Hollis, Richard. Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2006. Print.