The Karl Gerstner design archive

"Just as Dürrenmatt disguised literature as detective stories, so I created everyday art without forcing people into museums." Those are the words of Karl Gerstner, looking back on more than 30 years as a graphic designer.

The archives of Swiss legends Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Karl Gerstner can be found in the Swiss National Library. Gerstner is one of the most important innovators in typography, commercial art and corporate design. He 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 in 1963 the firm expanded to become 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, with a new logo intended to take the company towards 2000...

In 2012, The Federal Office for Culture awarded the "Grand Prix Design" to Karl Gerstner.

Like the literary estate of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the design archive of Karl Gerstner has been catalogued in the HelveticArchives database. It comprises advertising campaigns, including the drafts and preparatory work that preceded them, as well as typeface and book designs and editions. The following selection of prominent examples offers a brief insight into the design archive of Karl Gerstner. It includes historical prospectuses for furniture 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.

dctp (Development Company for Television Program) [Gerstner, Karl; 1987]

Concept for a cartoon trailer for dctp, client: Alexander Kluge.

Distral (Logo and symbol) [Gerstner, Karl; 1980]

Stages in the additive printing process for yellow, magenta and cyan

The Swissair identity: the new logo [Gerstner, Karl; 1978]

Clear lemonades from Haensel Holzminden [Gerstner + Kutter; 1962]

“Pay attention! … we’re going to show you once again just how great the clear lemonades with lemon essences from Haensel Holzminden taste!

basic ingredients from Haensel Holzminden for cloudy-fruit and fruit-juice drinks that stay just as fruity from the first drop to the last

you’ll get finer, more distinct freshness, ripeness, fruitiness and taste when you use lemon essences from Haensel Holzminden for your clear lemonades”

Holzäpfel Set transparent [Gerstner, Gredinger + Kutter; ca. 1964]

“… The question was this: How can we adapt our range to the needs of the open-plan office? How can we design furniture that fits into the office landscape? How can we build it so it can be used to equip entire office buildings? The answer is the new office furniture programme. It’s called SET transparent.”

Holzäpfel INwand – the inside wall for construction, homes and interiors [Gerstner + Kutter; ca. 1962]

"In this booklet you’ll find a new solution to an old problem. The problem: constructing interior walls using standardised components. The new solution: INwand from Christian Holzäpfel KG."

Holzäpfel PEN, “You’re invited” [Gerstner + Kutter; 1959]

“This long line symbolises the path that leads the discerning potential customer from secret wish to precise information about what they are looking for… PEN for every office ... all the PEN, DHS 30 and DHS 300 programmes are designed by a specialist: Professor Herbert Hirche of Stuttgart – and manufactured by specialists: Holzäpfel KG – and of course they are sold only by a specialist who really cares about presentation ... Schacht + Westerich”