Swiss typographers and the photo poster
The art of letterpress printing and later lithography laid the foundations for “functional” typography at the end of the 1920s. The new tendencies influenced the “Neue Typographie” (new typography) in Germany and the first typographic posters by Swiss painter Max Bill, who consistently used only lowercase letters in all his posters. Eric de Coulon was not influenced by these tendencies but independently created his first typographic posters for Paris businesses in the 1920s. In almost all of his posters, typography is an integral element of stylised representation.
The Swiss poster designers were influenced, on the one hand, by the Bauhaus style of the 1920s, and on the other hand by Russian poster design. The world-famous photomontage by El Lissitzky, who had an exhibition at the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum in 1929, had a ground-breaking influence on many Swiss graphic designers. The hyper-realist designs by the masters of the object poster, Stoecklin and Baumberger, were, in a way, an anticipation of the photographic poster, but the artists had little to do with photography per se.
The highlights among Swiss photo posters include the colourful designs by Walter Herdeg created around 1935 for St. Moritz and the world-famous photomontages by Herbert Matter. Even over 80 years later, Matter’s oeuvre – his posters, magazines, catalogues and brochures, mostly for American companies – still excite enthusiasm in poster fans and collectors around the world.
The purely typographic posters of Josef Müller-Brockmann reveal his close relationship to the Zurich school of concrete art, which can be seen in all his graphic works. In his many culture posters, Müller-Brockmann leaves nothing to chance. With his typographically perfect designs characterised by a clear, logical and at the same time aesthetic composition of image and text, he is one of the masters of Swiss poster art up to the 1960s.