Josef Müller-Brockmann (1914-1996) was an influential graphic and exhibition designer and photographer who lived and worked in Zurich. As the leading practitioner and theorist of the Swiss Style (also known as the International Style), he fostered the use of grid-based designs (through his book Grid Systems in Graphic Design) in order to establish a universal medium of graphic expression.
Starting from the late 1950’s, Müller-Brockmann taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule (the design and art school) in Zurich and at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany, influencing generations of European graphic designers.
Between 1958 and 1965 he founded and co-edited the magazine Neue Grafik (New Graphic Design), that, according to Marcus Kraft, “can be seen as a programmatic platform and effective publishing organ of Swiss graphic design“.
Apart of the legendary corporate design and wayfinding system which he created for the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) together with the SBB chief architect Uli Huber in 1982, he was mostly known for the ‘Musica viva’ poster series for the Zurich Tonhalle.
The posters sought for a visual linkage between the language of Constructivism and musical harmonic structures, showing the most complete freedom within the rigid system of the grid.
His posters for the Tonhalle reveal an artist at work, as well as one who fathoms the world of communication, with a particular audience for a particular function. His posters are comfortable in the worlds of art and music. They do not try to imitate musical notation, but they evoke the very sounds of music by visual equivalents – not a simple task. – Excerpt from the Paul Rand’s foreword for the book: “Joseph Müller-Brockmann, Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design”
Marcus Kraft, Swiss Star, in Grafik
Joseph Müller-Brockmann “Swiss Style”, in Grapheine
Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin and Josef Müller-Brockmann Reputations, an interview in Eye Magazine, winter 1995
Scans source: Joseph Müller-Brockmann, Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design (Edited by Lars Müller) – Lars Müller Publishers, 1995.