Josef Müller-Brockmann — Swiss design

Josef Müller-Brockmann, (born 1914) was a swiss graphic designer and teacher. Recognised for his simple designs and his clean use of typography (notably Akzidenz-Grotesk), shapes and colours which have inspired countless graphic designers in the 21st century.

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As with most graphic designers that can be classified as part of the Swiss International Style, Joseph Müller-Brockmann was influenced by the ideas of several different design and art movements including Constructivism, De Stijl, Suprematism and the Bauhaus. He is perhaps the most well-known Swiss designer and his name is probably the most easily recognized when talking about the period.

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The Swiss Design movement came about due to social differences which were present after the First World War, where a cultural upheaval was happening in Europe. The modernist movement pioneered in Germany occurred in a time of mass unemployment, violent political confrontations and hyperinflation. Switzerland was also experiencing issues due to its neutral stance. The responsibility of looking after political refugees, the wounded and prisoners of war also weighed heavily on the country.

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Politics had a hold over design decisions, with Modernist Designers supporting radical political movements as this new style was breaking new ground and finding popularity. This demand for change caused a revolution brought about the beginning of the Modernist movement. Across multiple design disciplines similar ideas were being explored with visual communication, resulting in more geometric and abstract work.

Hallmarks of this movement were the mathematical grid, sans serif typefaces arranged in a flush left and ragged right formations (asymmetry), black and white photography and the elimination of embellishment. Müller-Brockmann employed this mathematical grid in all of his work. ‘The grid was the prioritization and arrangement of typographic and pictorial elements with the meaningful use of colour, set into a semblance of order, based on left-to-right, top-to-bottom.’

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Müller-Brockmann was author of several books on design and visual communication. In particular, ‘Grid systems in graphic design’ is still seen as the definitive word on the discipline. First published in 1961, this text is still useful today for anyone working in the fields of graphic design.

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Featuring examples which instruct how to correctly apply these principles at a conceptual level, this guidebook provides a solid framework for problem solving in visual communication.