The International style 1950-1970

Hofmann Armin, Kreis 48, Kunsthalle Basel, 26. août - 1. oct, 1950, Lithographie en couleurs, 128 x 90,5 cm
Hofmann Armin, Kreis 48, Kunsthalle Basel, 26. août - 1. oct, 1950, Lithographie en couleurs, 128 x 90,5 cm

The glory days of Swiss graphic art occurred after the second world war with its roots deeply implanted in the theories and realisations of the 1930s. This style perpetuates the teachings of the Zurich School, which was characterised by the precision of details and realisation, the use of a typographic grid and sans serif fonts. Added to this, a typographic style obviously simple and visually efficient.

Müller-Brockmann Josef, Festival en Juin à Zurique, 1959, 1959, Offset, 100 x 90,5 cm
Müller-Brockmann Josef, Festival en Juin à Zurique, 1959, 1959, Offset, 100 x 90,5 cm

This new style came to be known as the International typographic style or the International Style or also the Swiss Style. Although it sometimes encompasses different realities its hallmarks were typographic elements, the use of a mathematical grid to provide an overall orderly and unified structure. The overall impression is simple and rational, tightly structured and serious, clear and objective, and harmonious. Black and white photography often replaces drawn illustration. This new International Style was perfectly suited to the post-war marketplace entering the era of mass consumerism. For this reason, it rapidly spread throughout the world. Numerous graphic design publications created in Switzerland, notably the magazine Graphis, published in Zurich since 1944 and the trilingual journal Neue Grafik/New Graphic Design/Graphisme actuel became relays, which transmitted this new aesthetic. The Basel School of Graphic Design under the leadership of Hofmann developed  close contacts with the Yale School of Art that became the leading American centre of this new style.

Armin Hofmann (1920), who studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule before teaching in Basel, is considered one of the foremost figures of what came to be known as the Basel School. Although this designation is sometimes applied to all graphic artists who worked in Basel: Buckhard Mangold, Niklaus Stoecklin and Herbert Leupin and their students, others believe this label should be limited to the period when Armin Hofmann taught and worked there. Still others affirm that the School should not be defined by specific graphic artists but rather by a particular style recognised for its simplicity, sans serif fonts, net contours and its limited use of colour.
But whatever the definition of this style, Hofmann remains one of the graphic artists who has greatly contributed to the reputation of the International Style and led its evolution towards a figurative style recalling the Müller-Brockmann style. The Hofmann style, which was often mimicked, is characterised by the use of photomontages, by rigorous typography, by strict geometric composition and by colours often limited to black and white.
This graphic style was progressively abandoned with the advent of the Pop Art movement and the repudiation of the societal values of the 1950s and 1960s.

 

 

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Last modification 15.10.2009

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