Swiss Graphic Design: A British Invention?

Früh, Roland; Kaufmann, Ueli; Lzicar, Robert; Zeller, Sara Stefanie (7 September 2018). Swiss Graphic Design: A British Invention? (Unpublished). In: Design History Society Conference 2018: Design and Displacement. New York, USA. 06.–08.09.2018.

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British graphic designers were from an early date interested in “konstruktive Gebrauchsgrafik” (constructive commercial graphic design) as established in Switzerland in the mid-20th century. The role of these actors in spreading the label “Swiss graphic design” is evident, but one might even ask whether it might be just as much a British invention. More specifically: how did the British learn about graphic design from Switzerland? How did they define and disseminate the label at home and abroad? And what different interpretations of Swiss graphic design can be found in British archives to this day?

To find out, our research group decided to engaged in first-hand inquiries, and so spent one week in London (17 – 22 October 2017). Our group is focussed on the dissemination of Swiss Graphic Design through journals, publications and exhibitions, and is part of the project “Swiss Graphic Design and Typography Revisited”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation from October 2016 to September 2019.

The field trip concluded that graphic design from Switzerland was received in Britain mainly in two different interpretations that have subsequently been disseminated internationally through British products and publications: as a style, and as a method of design. This paper explains the differences between them by examining central theses from our conversations with designers and historians Jeremy Ainsley, Richard Doust, Richard Hollis, Catherine Ince, Emily King, James Mosley, the editorial team of Eye magazine, and scholars from the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading.

In a broader context, this study aims to demystify Swiss graphic design by highlighting its complex displacement processes beyond national boundaries. This is particularly relevant now, because Swiss graphic design and typography is one of eight Swiss traditions currently applying for a place on UNESCO’s “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage”.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Arts (GSA)

UniBE Contributor:

Früh, Roland, Kaufmann, Ueli, Lzicar, Robert, Zeller, Sara Stefanie


700 Arts
700 Arts > 760 Graphic arts


[UNSPECIFIED] Swiss Graphic Design and Typography Revisited




Robert Lzicar

Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2019 11:40

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:27


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