Research, writing and discoveries in graphic design history.
The April 1947, Interiors + Industrial Design magazine cover (Whitney Publications) with black and white sketch below was designed by Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976). This rarely seen issue and design includes Part Three: Elements and Patterns of the exceptional series titled “Designing Information”, a study of visual communication (Part One: Elements, February 1947, Part Two: Pattern, March 1947) written in conjunction with friend and collaborator, K. Lönberg-Holm (Director of Information Research, Sweet’s Catalog Service).
On magazine design, particularly this cover Sutnar said, “The front cover of a magazine has great importance as an invitation to the contents. The approach to its design is determined largely by the magazine’s policy and by the distribution. The possibility for vitality in magazines, mailed to subscribers [such as Interiors + Industrial Design] rather than sold on newsstands is demonstrated. It is based on the circulation pattern of a person moving in a room.”
Swiss-born Aldo Calabresi (1930-2004) is rarely acknowledged in contemporary graphic design histories, yet he was a master at combining both Swiss (logical) and Italian (playful) sensibilities to his designs. Calabresi moved to Milan around 1954 and joined the legendary Studio Boggeri, before co-founding his CBC agency (Aldo Calabresi, Ezio Bonini and Umberto Capelli). This 1958 brochure for “Piú Veloci Della Strada” (More Speed on the Road) demonstrates his quest for an organized and poetic design.
Bruno Monguzzi recounts the conversation he had with Antonio Boggeri when he first arrived in Milan in 1961: “… Swiss graphic design was often as perfect as any spider’s web. But often of a useless perfection. The web, he [Boggeri] stated, was useful only when broken by the entangled fly. It is so that, upon Boggeri’s instigation, began for me, the slow, long, difficult hunt, in the sterilized universe of a Swiss education, for an improbable fly. In front of me, behind very thick glasses and in the midst of a permanent buzzing, sat Aldo Calabresi who, myopic as he was—to my great admiration and envy—was a master at catching flies.” (Monguzzi, Cinquant’anni di carta 1961–2011, pp. 3-4.)
Pirelli Publicity: Style and Aesthetics 1955–1967 in Codex Issue #2
This little-known cover design for the Italian magazine La Pubblicità (L’Ufficio Moderno, Rivista Mensile, Ottobre 1935-XIII) is one of Schawinsky’s most remarkable, not only for its design qualities but for its ability to reinforce his important role in disseminating modernist ideas throughout Europe and beyond.
The son of a Polish-Jew, Xanti Schawinsky (Born Switzerland, 1904–1979) enrolled as an early student of the Bauhaus in 1924, before moving to Milan, Italy in 1933 where he collaborated with Antonio Boggeri’s newly opened Studio Boggeri, arguably the most important design studio in pre/post war Italy. Three years later, Schawinsky left for the United States where he teamed up with Josef Albers to teach at Black Mountain College.
Theatrical and expressive, this cover design explodes off the page with its exaggerated scale, experimental halftone printing, abstract shape, layering and unique color combination. The black angular, sans-serif text perfectly placed over the smiling face vibrates the page, creating both depth and motion to the design. Schawinsky pays homage to his Bauhaus roots with a photo of two youthful and energetic Bauhaus students taken by his friend and Bauhaus jazz band member T. Lux Feininger. Full of joy, this lively design is as optimistic and spontaneous as Schawinsky himself, maybe how he felt when he arrived in Italy or perhaps the idea that youth will transform modern society. This issue includes a feature article written by Schawinsky aptly titled Pubblicità funzionale.
*Bottom photo by T. Lux Feininger (1910–2011), Untitled (with Georg Hartmann and Miriam Manuckiam), 1928. (Source: Baisers Volés)
Master Japanese designer Ikko Tanaka (1930–2002) is internationally renowned for his cultural posters. He produced posters for the Kanze School of the No Theatre for over 20 years during his career. This Kanze No Theatre (VIII) Performing Arts poster originally printed in 1961 (1990 Reproduction by Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. shown here) is an experiment of Japanese typography at a time when Western lettering was the norm. It consists of the titles of the plays, the performers’ names and the performance location in Chinese (kanji) characters. The colors used evoke the embroidered costumes set against a black background. The design contains the bare essentials – classic, elegant and modern, much like the No Theatre and Chinese poetry itself. The right edge reads “8th Sankei Kanze No”. This poster has received great acclaim in Japan and abroad and has been reproduced many times.
In 1940, a young Max Huber (age 21) arrived in Milan from Zürich, Switzerland and began working at Antonio Boggeri’s recently opened (1933) Studio Boggeri, Italy’s (and beyond) most important design studio. Due to the outbreak of WWII, Huber only stayed for a short period thru the winter of 1940/41. He returned to Zürich until permanently moving to Italy in 1945 when the war ended.
In pre/post war Italy, Studio Boggeri worked with the most innovative industrial clients. The modern sensibilities of Milan, distinguished by its intellectual and progressive attitudes, social and cultural changes, and growing economy helped Boggeri attract the best and brightest Italian, German and Swiss talent including: Walter Ballmer, Ezio Bonini, Aldo Calabresi, Erberto Carboni, Max Huber, Rene Martinelli, Bruno Monguzzi, Bruno Munari, Remo Muratore, Xanti Schawinsky, Albe Steiner and Carlo Vivarelli too name a few.
This stapled sales catalog (designed October, 1940) for fotolux (Kardex Italiano), a photo reproduction company, is a remarkable early* example showcasing Huber’s Swiss training (Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich) including: perspective drawing (adding movement and depth to the page), meticulous hand-lettering, careful lowercase letter spacing and limited use of color. The mirrored and slightly shifted fotolux wordmark visually communicates the services being offered. The addition of the stylized wooden hand model (severed from the body) is a reoccurring theme in Huber’s work and was used to illustrate the production or the process of graphic design via classic instruments.
*The monograph on Max Huber, Phaidon, 2006 states “… his first visit to Studio Boggeri in Milan of December 1940” yet this catalog is stamped 10-1940, two months before, making this one of Huber’s earlier designs while working at Studio Boggeri.
The New City: Elements of Planning (Paul Theobald and Company, 1944) by Ludwig Karl Hilberseimer (1885–1967), Professor of City Planning, Illinois Institute of Technology is a book on rational city planning based on the ideas he began to develop as Founder of the department of city planning at the Bauhaus Dessau in the 1920s. This publisher’s book prospectus designed by William Fleming represents a proposed replanning of Chicago. Superimposed in red is a reconstructed plan of the stone age settlement at Glastonbury, England.
“Prof. Hilberseimer’s conception of the new settlement is a city in the landscape composed of small units and surrounded by parks and fields, and the forests of the region. In his planning the new concept of space and lateral growth is vastly broadened in application, and becomes a flexible organizing-principle applicable for all types of cities. This principle, born out of the needs of life and the nature of things, is the structure of the NEW CITY, where life would be easier, simpler and freer; and through closer relationship of industry with agriculture, more secure and satisfying.”
Tutti In Acqua (1957) poster designed by Lora Lamm (born 1928) with Amneris Latis (art director) is a seasonal promotional poster for Milan’s luxury department store La Rinascente (logo designed by Max Huber in 1950). As a designer in La Rinascente’s advertising and communications department Lamm also produced catalogs, posters, advertisements, invitations, mailers, packaging and other publicity. With the use of watercolor illustration and headline “Everyone in the Water” (Egizio typeface, designed by Aldo Novarese, 1955) this poster is a fine example of the playful nature of Lamm’s work which mainly appealed to female consumers.
Article: Design Pioneer: Lora Lamm
Eidg. Schützenfest Zürich or the Swiss Federal Shooting (Marksman) Festival (1963) poster designed by Fridolin Müller (1926–2006) is a fitting example of the Swiss International Typographic Style’s geometric and minimalist approach to design. “Although the circle could derive from a target or the bore of a rifle, it is a geometrical abstraction.” (Hollis. Swiss Graphic Design, 13) This striking, economical design communicates a lot with little means. Beautifully printed by J.E. Wolfensberger, Zürich. Also printed in French (Tir fèdèral Zürich du 24 juillet au 12 aout 1963).
Karl Gerstner’s most important work Designing Programmes: instead of solutions for problems programmes for solutions (Verlag Arthur Niggli AG Teufen, 1964) demonstrates his thinking for approaching design by applying a scientific method, “namely, systematically creeping up on a task rather than hoping for inspiration from the higher regions. The key word is programming.” With individal chapters and essays including: Programme as typeface, Programme as typography, Programme as picture and Programme as method (i.e. morphology, logic, grid, photography, literature and music).
“This concept [published in Discovery, Invention, Research. Through the Morphological Approach. Macmillan. 1969, 1st American Edition) was propagated by a charismatic character, Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss expatriate in America. His hypothesis was that too many solutions to problems slip away because we have mental blocks, or in other words: because of blinders and prejudices.
Zwicky racked up his most important achievements as an astrophysicist. Independent of these he developed the morphological method. It consists in itemizing all essential elements of a problem as completely as possible and putting them into a logical order. The result is a morphological box of parameters, components and evaluation criteria. These are systematically linked and, with a minimum of time and effort, brought together to produce the optimal solutions to the given problem, including those which would not have been found by following the rigid path of conventional thinking.” — Karl Gerstner: Designing Programmes, Lars Müller, 2007
Utility, Simplicity, Beauty – Effective Design. A 1955 Ladislav Sutnar designed trade advertisement. As art director for Sweet’s Catalog Service (1941-60), Sutnar and his team designed numerous industrial catalogs and pioneered the way for clear and concise information design.
“Product information should be designed, subject to the usual standards–utility, simplicity, beauty. The catalog design show below, though but one visual unit of many in a manufacturer’s catalog, illustrates the application of design principles to product information. For fifty years, Sweet’s has pioneered in the field of product information that best suits the needs of buyers and sellers in industry. Sweet’s Product Design File is a system which gets product information into buyers’ offices in convenient bound collections of catalogs. Sweet’s Catalog Service,–designers, producers and distributors of manufacturers’ catalogs, 119 West 40 Street. Offices in principal cities. [Division of F.W. Dodge Corporation]”
Typographie is the iconic exhibition poster designed in 1960 by Robert Büchler (b. 1914) for the Gewerbemuseum, Basel. Designed to commemorate 50 years of the Basel Typesetters Association, this poster groups the vowels and consonants of the upper and lowercase alphabet masterfully placing the letter “t” to coincide with the exhibition title typographie. First used by Büchler for the cover of Typographische Monatsblätter (No. 11, Nov 1960) and later adapted by Emil Ruder for the exhibition catalog. A fine, timeless example of Switzerland’s International Typographic Style.
“Form is the outcome of function: in typography, function means to make ideas visible. Typography is exclusively in the service of communication. So its language calls for simplicity and clarity. Function here means satisfying the first demand, which we call legibility. Form is the visual expression of thought.” (Hollis. Swiss Graphic Design, 222)
Founded in 1951 by Tomás Maldonado, Nueva Visión (New Vision or NV), revista de cultura visual was Argentina’s highly influential Spanish language periodical focusing on art, architecture, industrial design and typography (artes, arquitectura, diseño industrial, tipografia). Published in nine numbers between December 1951–1957 by Nueva Visión Editorial (Buenos Aires) with Maldonado as its Director for the first four years, NV was a vehicle for spreading ideas about Concrete Art and a platform for what “would come to dominate his [Maldonado] entire theoretical itinerary: the role that industrial design, together with architecture and urbanism, should take on as a factor in the reexamination of our environment.” – Tomás Maldonado In Conversation with Maria Amalia Garcia
NV was informative and visual, meant to be both read and looked at. Its’ cover design, where the content of the issue was front and center, is a representation of the founders strong ideals. NV’s impressive roster of writers and topics covered were varied and read like a who’s who in art, architecture and design including: Horacio Baliero, P.M. Bardi, Edgar Bayley, Max Bill, Juan M. Borthagaray, Francisco Bullrich, Gillo Dorfles, Alexander Dorner, Jorge Ferrari Hardoy, Jorge Goldemberg, Eugenio Gomringer, Camille Graeser, Jorge Grisetti, Alfredo Hlito, Rafael E. J. Iglesia, César Jannello, Mauricio Kagel, Guido Kasper, Tomás Maldonado, Carlos Méndez Mosquera, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Juan Carlos Paz, Ernesto N. Rogers, Xanti Schawinsky, Georges Vantongerloo, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, Amancio Williams and many more.
“Beneath this jacket is one of the most extraordinary books we have ever been privileged to print. It presents to the lay public, for the first time, a rounded and comprehensive summary of the science of electronics. It is extraordinary, also because it blends in distinguished fashion the talents of artist, writer, typographer, engraver, and printer. It is a book of our day and times. “Electronics: A New Science for a New World” was created for the General Electric Company by N.W. Ayer & Son, Inc. The designer is Herbert Bayer [Art directed by Leo Lionni] and Davis, Delaney & Harrs is the printer. It is our prediction that this new book will win recognition and acclaim as one of the finest presentations in many years of a scientific subject for the lay mind. We are very happy to present this copy to you with our compliments.” – Davis, Delaney and Harrs, New York
Text from the original (1942, 32 pages) printed translucent vellum wrapper, which unfortunately this copy no longer includes.
Swiss-born designer Lora Lamm was an important contributor to the Milanese design scene of the 1950s and ’60s, beginning in 1953 when she joined Studio Boggeri. Working in a profession dominated by men, Lamm’s playful and colorful experimentation stands out among Pirelli’s publicity where she carried out a variety of assignments including advertisements, signs, and posters. Her personal advertisements for scooter and bicycle tires depict a youthful, adventurous attitude, perhaps an indication of how Lamm felt when she first arrived in Milan. She portrays Pirelli as an indispensable part of a chic lifestyle, a time when Bianchis, Vespas, and Lambrettas were widely favored by Italians—before the flourishing automobile tire market of the early 1960s. Lamm’s whimsical illustrations have a fashionable and feminine appeal—less about product and more about individual aesthetics and style.
Read our article, Pirelli Publicity: Style and Aesthetics 1955–1967 in Codex Issue #2.
Organized by Will Burtin and sponsored by the International Center for Typographic Arts (Aaron Burns, Director) in cooperation with Southern Illinois University Vision 65: World Congress on New Challenges to Human Communication “concerned itself with the broad emergent problems of communications and challenges posed by the technological and social developments in ways which will significantly stimulate the individual and the community.” The conference was held on the campus of S.I.U. at Carbondale, Illinois from October 21–23, 1965.
“We can not progress – or even survive – in our professions or as a society if we do not study the difficulties based on new conditions and aspirations, and define a new design perspective of social responsibility in all communication forms and techniques. We are living in dissonant times in which many well established practices, privileges and beliefs are questioned. We are living in a time of profound shift, which we cannot afford to sit out by discussing “safe” subjects, useful for professional specialists perhaps but often masking complacency or even unwillingness to review basic questions and make basic decisions.” – Will Burtin, Program Chairman