Erik Nitsche was a promising young Swiss graphic designer who moved to the US in 1934, making his name designing hundreds of album covers for Decca. In 1955 he became the Art Director for General Dynamics, a leading multi-division technology firm most famous for building the first nuclear submarine. There, Nitsche created several spectacular series of posters promoting the conglomerate’s various disciplines.
This design of a whirling propeller is from a series done in 1959 and 1960 promoting the company’s energy and industrial products at the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva in 1960. His inventive International Style designs were unlike anything ever created and stand among the best corporate advertising campaigns of the era.
Also by Erik Nitsche, this design of a pyramid made of flags is one of the earliest, produced for the first international “Atoms for Peace” conference in 1955.
Most people are surprised to learn that there are more 20th century poster masterpieces from Switzerland than any other country. There are many reasons: an international tradition which absorbed and often mimicked the best of its neighbors; a vigorous national program to promote the poster and its printers; and a series of great teachers who advanced the art of the poster.
The Swiss poster had its roots in the travel poster as Switzerland became a popular travel destination at the turn of the century. Characteristic Swiss poster styles are the Sachplakat, or Object Poster, as well as the International Typographic Style which became the predominant graphic design style in the world from the Fifties into the Seventies and continues to exert its influence today.
Influential by Design: The Swiss Poster’s Impact on the Modern World explores Swiss design’s leadership in creating a graphic vocabulary for the complex, global realities of modern society. The exhibition begins with a backdrop of early Swiss posters, including ski, travel, transportation and product posters by leading Swiss poster designers Otto Baumberger, Emil Cardinaux, Herbert Leupin, and Niklaus Stoecklin.
The show then focuses on the remarkable flowering of Swiss graphic design in the Fifties – a new style heavily reliant on typography to create a universal language of design. Simple, clear and harmonious, it would become the leading language of the increasingly global postwar marketplace, from institutions and international exhibitions to packaging and traffic design.
As part of Boston Design Week, International Poster Gallery is hosting an event on March 26 in collaboration with swissnex Boston, including a gallery tour with Chris Pullman, artist, designer, poster collector and former Vice President for Design and Branding for WGBH. The program accompanies a one-day exhibition and sale of poster masterpieces drawn from the Gallery’s world-leading Swiss collection.
Browse all of our Swiss posters here and browse more of our Swiss poster favorites on Pinterest.
This stunning poster, a classic of the International Typographic, or Swiss Style, was selected as a Swiss Poster of the Year award winner in 1963. Strongly relying on typographic elements, the “Swiss Style” was refined in the ’50s and ’60s at two design schools, one in Basel led by Armin Hofmann and the other in Zurich under Josef Muller-Brockmann. Both had studied at the Zurich School of Design before WWII, where they absorbed the modernist principles of the Bauhaus and Jan Tschichold’s New Typography.
Hofmann’s posters express a graphic purity rarely seen in any medium. Restricting his palette to primarily black and white (and sometimes a third color), Hofmann used a mathematical grid to provide a unified and orderly structure. Hand illustration disappeared, replaced by black and white studio photography, while traditional typefaces were replaced by clean and straightforward sans serif styles. His poster for the opera William Tell is remarkable for its modern yet tension filled treatment that uses type to portray the arrow that whizzes toward the precariously balanced apple.
While collected by art and design museums throughout the world, Hofmann’s posters remain surprisingly affordable – with prices starting at just a few hundred dollars. To view the Gallery’s extensive collection of his work, click here.