Verge: International Style

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Essential Principles and Designers for beginning designers

Text of Verge: International Style

  • InternationalStyleEssential Principles and Designers

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    Form Follows Function

    Beauty Equals Usability 4Swiss Design 6

    Adherence to the Grid

    Stick to the Grid 32Wim Crouwel 34

    Type as Design

    Use Type to Define the Design 10Emil Ruder 12

    Use of Imagery

    Photomontage 16Armin Hofmann 18Walter Herdeg 22


    Subtraction is Key 26Josef Mller-Brockmann 28

  • FormFollowsFunction

  • 4Visually engaging design is not merely the surface beauty of a piece, but more importantly, how it effectively communicates the intended message to the audience. A designer attempting to solve a design problem should first determine how a design must function before designing the piece itself. It is the intended purpose of the design that will ultimately dictate its visuals.

    This is similar to how a tailor customizes clothes in order to meet the sizing needs of a particular client. Likewise, a designer intentionally shapes his design around the given problem in order to solve it . How the final design will look is directly dependent on its intended function.

    Beauty Equals Usability

  • Often referred to as the International Typographic Style or the International Style, the style of design that originated in Switzerland in the 1940s and 50s was the basis of much of the development of graphic design during the mid 20th century. Led by designers Josef Mller-Brockmann at the Zurich School of Arts and Krafts and Armin Hofmann at the Basel School of Design, the style favored simplicity, legibility and objectivity. Of the many contributions to develop from the two schools were the use of, sans-serif typography, grids and asymmetrical layouts. Also stressed was the combination of typography and photography as a means of visual communication. The primary influential works were developed as posters, which were seen to be the most effective means of communication.

    Swiss Design

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  • Type as DesignDesignDesignDesignDesignDesignDesignDesignDesign




  • Use Type to Define the Design

    Rather than employing images to deliver the message of the design, sometimes text by itself is just as effective. Emil Ruder, one of the greatest Swiss designers, used different methods to redefine the purpose of type. Like him, there are different ways designers can interpret ideas through typography that are key for creating a powerful concept and beautiful design, instead of relying solely on images to make the connection.

    10Type as Design

  • Emil Ruder

    Emil Ruder was a typographer and graphic designer who, born in Switzerland in 1914, helped Armin Hofmann form the Basel School of Design and establish the style of design known as Swiss Design. He taught that, above all, typographys purpose was to communicate ideas through writing. He placed a heavy importance on sans serif typefaces, and his work is both clear and concise, especially his typography.

    Like most designers classified as part of the Swiss Designmovement he favored asymmetrical compositions, placing a high importance on the counters of characters and the negative space of compositions. As a friend and associate of Hofmann, Frutiger and Mller-Brockmann, Ruder played a key role in the development of graphic design in the 1940s and 50s. His style has been emulated by many designers, and his use of grids in design has influencedthe development of web design on many levels.

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  • Use of Imagery

  • One key element to the International Style is the use of imager y. This includes photomontage, geometric forms, and any other images that are created besides the use of text. The International Style created many images that merged text as well as photography. This was called photomontage. The Swiss did this in a way that was new and refreshing. The skill and dedication to these images were immense. To the modern designer it is hard to understand just how the designers were able to create these images without the help of photoshop.

    Eye Catching Imagery


    Armin Hofmann was a great designer who created posters using photomontage. His Giselle poster on the opposite page is a timeless piece that shows a great way to creating a photomontage. Walter Herdeg, later discussed in this chapter, used geometric forms for imagery. These forms created dimension to his designs and were minimal enough to sticking to the Swiss design.

  • By the age of 27 Armin Hofmann had already completed an apprenticeship in lithography and had begun teaching typography at the Basel School of Design. His colleagues and students were integral in adding to work and theories that surrounded the Swiss International Style, which stressed a belief in an absolute and universal style of graphic design. The style of design they created had a goal of communication above all else, practiced new techniques of phototypesetting, photo-montage and experimental composition and heavily favored sans-serif typography.

    He taught for several years at the Basel School of Design and he was not there long before he replaced Emil Ruder as the head of the school. Hofmann thought that one of the most efficient forms of communication of the Swiss International Style was the poster. He spent much of his career designing posters, particularly for the Basiel Stadt Theater. Hofmann wrote a book outlining his philosophies and practices. His Graphic Design Manual was, and still is, a reference book for all graphic designers.

    Armin Hofmann

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  • Walter Herdeg was ver y much a graphic designer. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zrich, created many different corporate identities ( just as the practice was beginning to become a standard), and even formed his own design company with Walter Amstutz. What he is best known for, however, is the creation and publication ofGraphis . An international journal of visual communication, Graphis was first published by Herdeg towards the end of the second World War.

    The magazine showcases work and interviews from designers and illustrators from all over the world in an effort to share their work with other audiences. In the beginning it served as one of what were, at the time,

    only a few vessels which exposed the western world to the design work being done in Europe. Herdeg served as the editor of the magazine for 246 issues (the magazine is still in publication) as well as the Graphis Design Annuals which showed the best and brightest work from the year prior to their publication. Graphis was a seminal force in the shaping of design culture and it continues to educate, expand and foster the world of graphic design today.

    Walter Herdeg

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  • Minimalism

  • Subtraction is Key

    The art of minimalism is having only what is necessary and is characterized by both its form and content. Minimalism decreases the amount of color, shapes, values, textures, and lines used in the work. Sticking to the rule less is more is one way to obtain minimalism. This principal allows the audience to view the work in a more effective way because all distractions have been removed.


  • Josef Mller-Brockmann

    As with most graphic designers that can be classified as part of the Swiss Style, Joseph Mller-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 and recognized Swiss designer during this period. He was born and raised in Switzerland and by the age of 43 he became a teacher at the Zurich school of arts and crafts.

    Perhaps his most decisive work was done for the Zurich Town Hall as poster advertisements for its theater productions. He published several books, including The Graphic Artist and His Problems and Grid Systems in Graphic Design. These books provide an in-depth analysis of his work practices and philosophies, and provide an excellent foundation for young graphic designers wishingto learn more about the profession. He spent most of his life working and teaching, even into the early 1990s when he toured the US and Canada speaking about his work. He died in Zurich in 1996.

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  • Adherence to the Grid

  • The grid is the designers key to good, balanced design. When used properly it allows designs to remain strong and harmonious. Without the use of the grid, it becomes evident that chaos is present and takes away from what the design is trying to embody.

    Applying the grid to designs allows for structure and cohesiveness; do not see it as a restriction but as a tool that aids in the unity of a piece of work. All of the greatest designers use it and the grid has become one of the most

    vital parts to a design. There are books, websites and other resources that not only provide examples, templates and grids, but will help you understand how to use it effectively.

    The Grid System, a website based on grids, is the perfect start for beginning designers to see how it can be used effectively. The site itself is based on a grid and there are tools and templates for designers to use.


    Sticking to the Grid

  • Crouwel is a graphic designer and t ypographer born in the Netherlands. In 1963 he founded the studio Total Design , now called Total Identity. His most well known work has been for the Stedelijk Museum. His t ypography is extremely well planned and based on very strict systems of grids