1950s to 1970s

The International Style: Integral to the history of typography

A major force in the history of Typography is arguably The International Style, also known as the Swiss Style. This is the style that is most firmly planted in my mind as being a 20th century methodology that has shaped modern typography. Though decades have passed since this style rose in popularity, it is still a methodology of sorts that is still used today.

The International Style came about in 1950’s Switzerland where the hallmarks of modern style began. It is characterized by the use of flush left sans-serif fonts and the use of a grid to create clean, readable and objective design concepts. International Style relies on strong and vibrant color, geometrical forms and effective photographic images as elements. Layouts are based on a mathematical grid and elements are planned out in accordance to this structure. The grid system and strong typographical statements gives the Swiss/International style that certain look and feel. From the 1550’s to 1960’s this style dominated the commercial design scene.

ITS had its origins in the 1920s and 1930s when designers were developing new ideas to coincide with industrialization and technological advances. Printing technology was advancing and growing and a clean readable font was required. The sans-serif font of the Swiss style was an answer for that. Jan Tschicholds 1928 book Die Neue Typographie was a major influence of Swiss style designers as well. This style was not only a response to new technologies but also also an outlook by designers who saw there work as useful and as elements of social change.

The Swiss style is still important today, especially in the arena of corporate design. The focus on legibility and cleanliness are still important facets of logo design, government and corporate. The simple and flat designs of the time period which sought to remove excessive ornamentation was criticized as being cold and formulaic, but Swiss Design has an important place in the 20th century and today. The idea that designers are not only artists but should also be aware of there social responsibility, and also problem solvers trying to fix problems associated with technology, accessibility and readability, are just as relevant today.

The International Style was an important style in terms of its place in typographical design history and its influence today. The method in which designers such as Joseph Muller-Brockmann and Max Bill chose to tackle design problems is the basis for modern Graphic Design theory. The Swiss Style was created in an era of scientific advances, social strife and war. Today is an era of scientific advances, social strife and war. The lessons learned from ITS are no less relevant in the world of mobile devices, web accessibility and marketing.

First Things First 1964 a manifesto

First Things First 1964
a manifesto

We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, photographers and students who have been brought up in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable means of using our talents. We have been bombarded with publications devoted to this belief, applauding the work of those who have flogged their skill and imagination to sell such things as: cat food, stomach powders, detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste, aftershave lotion, beforeshave lotion, slimming diets, fattening diets, deodorants, fizzy water, cigarettes, roll-ons, pull-ons and slip-ons.

By far the greatest effort of those working in the advertising industry are wasted on these trivial purposes, which contribute little or nothing to our national prosperity.

In common with an increasing numer of the general public, we have reached a saturation point at which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise. We think that there are other things more worth using our skill and experience on. There are signs for streets and buildings, books and periodicals, catalogues, instructional manuals, industrial photography, educational aids, films, television features, scientific and industrial publications and all the other media through which we promote our trade, our education, our culture and our greater awareness of the world.

We do not advocate the abolition of high pressure consumer advertising: this is not feasible. Nor do we want to take any of the fun out of life. But we are proposing a reversal of priorities in favour of the more useful and more lasting forms of communication. We hope that our society will tire of gimmick merchants, status salesmen and hidden persuaders, and that the prior call on our skills will be for worthwhile purposes. With this in mind we propose to share our experience and opinions, and to make them available to colleagues, students and others who may be interested.

signed:

Edward Wright
Geoffrey White
William Slack
Caroline Rawlence
Ian McLaren
Sam Lambert
Ivor Kamlish
Gerald Jones
Bernard Higton
Brian Grimbly
John Garner
Ken Garland
Anthony Froshaug
Robin Fior
Germano Facetti
Ivan Dodd
Harriet Crowder
Anthony Clift
Gerry Cinamon
Robert Chapman
Ray Carpenter
Ken Briggs

Graphic Designers of the 1950’s to 1970’s

Paul Rand
Well known for his timeless and iconic logos. His work illustrates how some logos can withstand the test of time. If you’d like some more insights into Rand’s thoughts on design watch this supplemental video.

Paul Rand Logos

George Lois
George Lois is the mastermind behind a number of timeless advertising campaigns, logo designs, and design concepts. Many of the pieces in this gallery contain supplemental commentary.

George Lois Ad

Herb Lubalin
Herb Lubalin puts an emphasis on concept in his logo work. In addition to his design work, Lubalin is also known for his typefaces, including Avant Garde.

Lubalin Logos

Milton Glaser
Known for the iconic  “I Love NY” logo. A celebrated designer whose work includes logos, magazines, packaging, and more.

Milton Logo