Josef Muller-Brockmann by linzhengnd


									Josef Muller-Brockmann
The Father of Swiss Graphic Design

       Josef Mario Muller was born on May 9, 1914 in the city of Rapperswil,

Switzerland. He was educated in the fields of architecture, design and art history

at the Abendgymnasion Juventus, the ETH (Eidgenossische Technische

Hochschule), the University of Zurich, and at the Kuntstgewerbeschule, Zurich. In

1942, he married Verena Brockmann, and adopted her last name. Muller-

Brockmann started off his career as an assistant designer to a graphics and

advertising consultant, Walter Diggelman. He moved on to freelance designing

(specializing in graphic and stage design), founded the Neue Grafik magazine,

and later on taught as a professor of graphic design (Pendergast 604). Years of

experience in the field made Josef Muller-Brockmann one of the most respected

designers, and earned him the title of “Father of Swiss Graphic Design” (Gray 1).

This paper will mention his contributions to the field, his philosophy on design,

and a few examples of where this can be seen.

       Though the Bauhaus had moved from Germany to the United States

during Muller-Brockmann’s time, Switzerland was very much influenced by their

achievements (Barnicoat 605). With Bauhaus, Muller-Brockmann also seemed to

be influenced by Constructivism through his writing (Pendergast 605). Right

after the recovery from the economic depression and World War II (Switzerland

remained neutral, but was still encircled in it), the Swiss ministry of the Interior

helped develop the design profession to concentrate more on precision, which

had always been associated with Swiss craftsmanship (Barnicoat 605). With this,
Josef Muller-Brockmann develops his interest for the grid. He also adds an

element of abstractness in his work, by removing visual imagery and replacing it

with typography or symbols. This concept can be seen in Muller-Brockmann’s

most widely known posters, done on the Zurich Tonhalle concerts just before the

1960s. In 1950, the concert posters were black and white, only text, with a weak

grid. However, in 1951, Muller-Brockmann completely changed that by adding

visual representations of the music, as well as a touch of color. Over the course of

the next few years, we notice see how the concert posters change by adding

various visualizations that look like sounds. Muller-Brockmann also had a lot of

influence in the field of academia, and as a professor he published several books,

including Grid Systems in Graphic Design and The Graphic Artist and His Problems

(Design is History). Both of these books, as well as others by him, build a

foundation for new designers through his philosophy of design.

       Josef’s philosophy was very straightforward. His first and most important

rule was to use the grid, no matter what: in his opinion, the grid was the way of

the future, it made one’s work look more professional and organized. In an

excerpt in Pendergast’s Contemporary Designers, he writes that the use of the

grid “shows that the designer conceives his work in terms that are constructive

and oriented to the future” (Pendergast 605). To him, constructive design “can

influence and enhance the taste of the society” because of the fact that it’s about

using design laws for practical good. The second thing Muller-Brockmann liked

to do was, as mentioned previously, was the abstraction of images. By the simple

technique of not using explicit images, Muller-Brockmann transformed how

posters were interpreted. Rather than the Western idea of showing exactly what
the designer wants to portray, Muller-Brockmann guides the audience, but lets

them use their own imagination. Apart from these two concepts, one thing that

Muller-Brockmann constantly uses is sans-serif typefaces, with one in particular:

Die Neue Haas Grotesk (a.k.a. Helvetica). This, as well as the use of grids, and the

abstraction of visualizations can both be seen in many of Josef’s design work.

       There are a few posters that demonstrate Muller-Brockmann’s

philosophy pretty well. The first one in the appendix (Figure 1) is a poster for a

concert. One can naturally see a vertical line passing in between the columns of

text and just touching two of the arcs from the ‘noise’. This shows the strength of

the grid on the poster. The round arcs are meant to represent the “thematic,

dynamic, rhythmic, and metrical factors in music” (Barnicoat quoting Muller-

Brockmann, 605). Rather than putting a picture of an orchestra, this creates

more interest in the audience, because it draws them to the poster better than a

boxed picture could, and it lets them imagine what it might sound like.

The same applies for the ‘derFilm’ poster (Figure 2). Though at first it may not be

so apparent, but in this, the spine of the F is the vertical line that the rest of the

text is sitting on, creating the same grid structure. As for the image, the

overlapping of the two words ‘der’ and ‘Film’ are meant to play on the idea of a

filmstrip as a movie is playing.

Figure 3 is a bit different. There is not enough text in this to study the grid

system, but that is just because this poster does not need much text, since it

portrays action through pictures rather than information through text. Muller-

Brockmann was one of the few designers who took pictures out of their

constricting boxes (Lecture 10/26) and made them look like they were part of
something bigger. The abstractness in this poster is due to the fact that there is

only the front wheel of a motorbike and a child, and one can imagine the

motorbike is running towards the child. The light colored lines that seem to

make it look like the wheel of the motorbike is going forward, and out of

imagination, the audience can infer that if the motorcyclist does not do anything,

he will injure the child. This is comparing to a normal (western-style), non-

abstract version of the poster that would probably show a child already hurt by a

motorbike, so that the audience does not need to imagine what will happen.

       After a fruitful 82 years, Josef Muller-Brockmann passed away on August

30, 1996 in Zurich. However, he left after making a solid contribution to the

world of graphic design. He pushed the idea of the grid as a method of

organization and the concept of abstract visualization to help the audience create

their own picture, both of which are very powerful tools in the area of

communication design.
Figure 1: Concert poster. Offset printing,
grey/black. 1955 Zurich.90.5x128cm.
accessed on 11/03/10

 Figure 2: Exhibition poster. Offset Printing. 1959 Zurich
 accessed on 11/03/10
Figure 3: Campaign poster: Protect the child! Offset
Printing. 1953 Zurich.
accessed on 11/04/10
Works Cited
Gray, Jamie. esearching Josef M ller-Brockmann: A Juxtaposition of Viewpoints.

Müller-Brockmann, Josef, and Shizuko Yoshikawa. Geschichte Des Plakates.
Histoire De L'affiche. History of the Poster. Zürich: ABC-Verlag, 1971. Print.
Used for information on posters

Pendergast, Sara, and John Barnicoat). "Muller-Brockmann." Contemporary
Designers. Detroit: St. James, 1997. 604-05.

“Design is History”,
brockmann/. 11/03/10.

Lecture Notes, 10/26/10

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