International Typographic Style

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Akzidenz-Grotesk designed in 1896 for the H. Berthold AG type foundry. The face was a hallmark of the modernist Swiss Style.

The International Typographic Style, also known as the Swiss Style, is a graphic design style developed in Switzerland in the 1950s that emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity.[1] Hallmarks of the style are asymmetric layouts, use of a grid, sans-serif typefaces like Akzidenz Grotesk, and flush left, ragged right text. The style is also associated with a preference for photography in place of illustrations or drawings. Many of the early International Typographic Style works featured typography as a primary design element in addition to its use in text, and it is for this that the style is named.[2][3]

History[edit]

Two major Swiss design schools are responsible for the early years of International Typographic Style. A graphic design technique based on grid-work that began in the 19th century became inspiration for modifying the foundational course at the School of Design in 1908. Shortly thereafter, in 1918 Ernst Keller became a professor at the Zurich School of the Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) and began developing a graphic design and typography course. He did not teach a specific style to his students, rather he taught a philosophy of style that dictated “the solution to the design problem should emerge from its content.”[4] Keller’s work uses simple geometric forms, vibrant colors and evocative imagery to further elucidate the meaning behind each design. Other early pioneers include Théo Ballmer and Max Bill.
The 1950s saw the distillation of International Typographic Style elements into san-serif font families such as Univers. Univers paved the way for Max Miedinger and collaborator Edouard Hoffman to create the font Neue Haas Grotesk, more commonly known as Helvetica. The movement began to coalesce after a periodical publication began in 1959 titled New Graphic Design, which was edited by several influential designers who played major roles in the development of International Typographic Style. The format of the journal represented many of the important elements of the style--visually demonstrating the content—and was published internationally, thus spreading the movement beyond Switzerland’s borders. One of the editors, Josef Mϋller-Brockmann, “sought an absolute and universal form of graphic expression through objective and impersonal presentation, communicating to the audience without the interference of the designer’s subjective feelings or propagandistic techniques of persuasion.”[5] Many of Mϋller-Brockmann’s feature large photographs as objective symbols meant to convey his ideas in particularly clear and powerful ways.
After World War II international trade began to increase and relations between countries grew steadily stronger. Typography and design were crucial to helping these relationships progress—clarity, objectivity, region-less glyphs, and symbols are essential to communication between international partners. International Typographic Style found its niche in this communicative climate and expanded further beyond Switzerland, to America.
One of the first American designers to integrate Swiss design with his own was Rudolph de Harak.[6] The influence of International Typographic Style on deHarak’s own works can be seen in his many book jacket designs for McGraw-Hill publishers in the 1960s. Each jacket shows the book title and author, often aligned with a grid—flush left, ragged-right. One striking image covers most of the jacket, elucidating the theme of the particular book. International Typographic Style was embraced by corporations and institutions in America from the 1960s on, for almost two decades. One institution particularly devoted to the style was MIT.[7]

Characteristics of Style[edit]

Each design done with International Typographic Style in mind begins with a mathematical grid, because a grid is the “most legible and harmonious means for structuring information.”[8] Text is then applied, most often aligned flush left, ragged right. Fonts chosen for the text are sans serif, a type style believed to “[express] the spirit of a more progressive age” by early designers in the movement.[9] Objective photography is another design element meant to present information clearly, and without any of the persuading influences of propaganda or commercial advertising. Such a strong focus on order and clarity is drawn from early pioneers of the movement believing that design is a “socially useful and important activity... the designers define their roles not as artists but as objective conduites for spreading important information between components of society.” [10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, International Typographic Style
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Arts & Entertainment: graphic design, THE INTERNATIONAL TYPOGRAPHIC STYLE
  3. ^ International Poster Gallery
  4. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 356.
  5. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 364.
  6. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 370.
  7. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 372.
  8. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 356.
  9. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 356.
  10. ^ Meggs, P. B., Purvis, A. W., & Meggs, P. B.. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 356.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Hollis, Richard. Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-10676-9.
  • Müller-Brockmann, Josef. Grid Systems in Graphic Design. Niggli: 1996. ISBN 3-7212-0145-0.
  • Ruder, Emil. Typography. Hastings House: 1981. ISBN 0-8038-7223-2.


External links[edit]