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Die Form

It was not only the avant-garde magazines such as Merz which carried the progressive message to Switzerland. Die Form, the Werkbund journal, was another. Among contributors on graphic design, Johannes Molzahn was the most significant avant-garde theorist. Both living in Weimar and designing for the Fagus shoelast factory brought him into working contact with Gropius. Molzahn’s 1926 essay, ‘Economics of Advertising Mechanics’. was an aggressively argued plea that advertising should be recognized not only as the engine of manufacturing turnover, but also as a machine, in its functions and manner of operation.

Among other propagandists writing in Die Form were Max Burchartz and Werner Graeff, who played their parts in introducing Modernism to Switzerland. Burchartz was an Expressionist painter turned Constructivist. In 1923 he was joint editor of a German edition of Van Doesburg’s De Stljl magazine. The following year he opened a design studio in Weimar, known as Neue Reklame Gestaltung (New Publicity Design). Burchartz soon replaced this by a new enterprise, Werbe-bau (literally, Advertising Construction), set up with Johannes Canis in the manufacturing centre of Bochum in the Ruhr.

In July 1924 Burchartz produced an A4 leaflet setting out a program for Werbe-bau. It Is headed ‘Publicity Design’. ‘Advertising is the handwriting of every enterprise! Like handwriting, it shows up a firm’s character, Its strength and potential.’ The leaflet then lays down. following its own recipe for straightforwardness, the requirements of a good advertisement. It must ‘1. be objective / 2. be clear and concise /3. use modern means /4. have a punchy design /5. be cheap.’

Burchartz’s leaflet Is emblazoned with en orange square: ‘Watch out for every leaflet with a colored square.’ Burchartz planned more, announcing that the leaflets would ‘contain articles (mostly illustrated) by artists and specialists about general and specific questions of culture and organization, on building design, industrial product design and about publicity’. And he promised that ‘they will bring in profits, if you follow their advice’. In the event Burchartz carried on his campaign in the pages of Die Form.

Hollis, Richard. “Artists as Designers.” Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965. Laurence King Publishing, 2006. 27-28. Print.

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