Karl Gerstner archive

Karl Gerstner (1930–2017) is one of the most important innovators in typography, commercial art and corporate design. He donated his entire archive to the Prints and Drawings Department of the Swiss National Library (NL) from 2006 onwards.

Karl Gerstner an seinem 80sten Geburtstag
Karl Gerstner on his 80th birthday
© NL, Simon Schmid

Karl Gerstner set up his own graphic design studio in 1949 and was soon being commissioned to produce work for Ciba-Geigy; there he met Markus Kutter, with whom he established the Gerstner + Kutter advertising agency in 1959. They were later joined by Paul Gredinger, and 1963 saw the launch of the legendary agency GGK (Gerstner, Gredinger, Kutter). In the 1970s it became one of the most successful advertising agencies in Switzerland, with offices in other European countries and the US. Towards the end of the 1970s, Gerstner also subtly yet unmistakeably revamped the corporate identity of Swissair. The Karl Gerstner archive is of particular interest because it documents the entire design process from the earliest drafts to the final product.

In 2012 the Federal Office of Culture presented Karl Gerstner with the Swiss Grand Award for Design as part of the Federal Design Awards.

Content and scope

  • The archive comprises advertising campaigns, together with preliminary designs and preparatory work (notable examples include historical prospectuses for furniture and car companies, advertisements for drinks manufacturers, design proposals for the Swissair signet and livery, as well as draft versions of a cartoon trailer for a television programme).
  • Draft scripts, book designs, art editions
  • Manuals, annual reports and correspondence
  • Extensive documentation recording Gerstner’s work as a designer and artist (including the remarkable colour organ, exhibition models, documentation on Gerstner’s editions, publications and artistic activities as well as a small specialist library)

Collection principles

  • The aim is to compile the most complete possible archive collection on Karl Gerstner.
  • The archive is complemented by documents from the heirs of Karl Gerstner.

Research and access

  • The Karl Gerstner archive can be found in the HelveticArchives database.
  • Information about the Karl Gerstner archive is available on request.
  • Originals can be consulted on site (by appointment).

Last modification 01.12.2022

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