How the Swiss Style Conquered the World by Design

by Saul Edmonds

How the Swiss Style Conquered the World by Design

or When the Swiss Style Became the International Style

‘I haven’t changed my mind about modernism from the first day I ever did it. It means integrity; it means honesty; it means the absence of sentimentality and the absence of nostalgia; it means simplicity; it means clarity. That’s what modernism means to me.’ (Paul Rand)

The seeds of the Swiss Style of graphic design grew from the Modernists and Constructivists of Europe during the 1920’s. By the 1960’s the Swiss Style had so grown in prominence it was known as The International Style.

Quite simply, the Swiss Style conquered the world by design.

  • What is the Swiss Style?
  • Function that informs.
  • Progressive.
  • A Modernistic Simplicity.

It is all about attention to detail, precision, technique and clarity. It comes as no surprise to learn that posters, printing, identity and clean typography lay at the heart of this revolutionary style.

The Swiss Style seeks to communicate directly with the viewer/ user.

Observe geometric patterns of shape and line, boldness of colour and text as abstracted form. Usability was the Neue.

Grid Systems and Whitespaces

Grid systems provide a logical, mathematical framework for the meaningful display of graphical elements The structural use of the grid is fundamental to the Swiss Style and typography in particular is a key reference.

Grid = Information = Organization = Communication

Whitespaces effectively filter and delineate information.

Maximum impact achieved with minimal design.

‘Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.’ (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Minimalism + Constructivism

The foundation of the Swiss Style lay in the De Stijl movement.

Aesthetic fundamentals or

Objective Geometry + Purity of Form

When less is more than simplicity alone.

Sans-serif typefaces

A core characteristic of the Swiss Style is the use of sans-serif typefaces such as Akzidenz Grotesk and Neue Haas Grotesk (or Helvetica).

Typography was a tool of communication - not a tool of expression. Contrasting font sizes for visual impact.

Type as interface to content.

‘The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface.’

(Gary Hustwit)

Check out the following references:

Swiss Graphic Design History

International Typographic Style

by Saul Edmonds