Design Issues

Schneemann, Peter Johannes (2021). Design Issues, 37(1). MIT Press

Within the publication strategy of our research project, the Design Issues special issue focuses on historiographical and methodological challenges from our research that might be of interest primarily to other design researchers. It includes an introduction by the guest editors, as well as various small-scale narratives that together offer a more complete and flexible interpretation of “Swiss graphic design and typography” than extant literature has constructed. These narratives question the established perspectives on Swiss graphic design in a variety of ways: To make accessible the previously unheard voices of students on design education, Sandra Bischler focuses on “K”, a magazine edited and published by a group of students at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel (Vocational Trade School, later the Basel School of Design) in the early 1960s. Chiara Barbieri and Davide Fornari question the common criticism of the monographic approach in design history and thus the often-repeated rhetoric that hailed graphic design in Milan as a mixture of Swiss precision and Italian poeticism. But if it wasn’t precision, what made Swiss graphic designers so successful abroad? Constance Delamadeleine traces different stakeholders in Paris in the 1960s and examines their agendas and strategies in a larger economic context. Swiss graphic designers were not solely responsible for the international success of Swiss graphic design, as Robert Lzicar illustrates. He examines the role of British practitioners in the dissemination of the label as a transnational process. Finally, the fact that graphic design in Switzerland itself in the 1950s was more diverse than hitherto assumed is shown by Sara Zeller using the example of the local design scene in Bern.

The special edition comes with a cover designed by the Zurich graphic designer Viola Zimmermann. It visualizes the stereotypical modernism that has been associated with Swiss graphic design and typography thus far. Helvetia is the national personification of Switzerland and, as such, was the inspiration for Linotype’s renaming of the Neue Haas Grotesk to Helvetica in 1960. Its competition with the Univers type system by Deberny & Peignot, in which the cover is set, is a legendary chapter in the canonized historiography of Swiss typography. At the same time, the cover represents the decreasing relevance of national historiography in design, which this special edition addresses.

Item Type:

Journal or Series (Journal)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Schneemann, Peter Johannes


700 Arts




MIT Press




Annalena Maria Schlüchter

Date Deposited:

27 Jun 2022 12:26

Last Modified:

20 Mar 2023 08:36

Additional Information:

Special Issue: New Perspectives on Swiss Graphic Design


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