Josef Muller-Brockmann

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Swiss designer Josef Muller-Brockmann established himself as one of the most important and prolific voices of twentieth century graphic design, setting up his own studio in Zurich in 1936 and working until his death in 1996 for numerous clients, creating a countless quantity of design for posters, which he considered "barometers of social economic, political, and cultural events, as well as mirrors of intellectual and practical activities." Muller-Brockmann began his career as an illustrator, where his aesthetic sensibilities first took root, but it was not until his turn to graphic design that he found his true calling. He is perhaps best-known as graphic design's foremost proponent of grid systems to assist in functional, objective design, which he discussed in detail in his books "Grid System in Graphic Design" and "The Graphic Designer and his Design Problems". The grid system allowed Muller-Brockmann to organize his subject matter to create more effective design, to not be overwhelmed by the seeming chaos and complexity of design decisions. Muller Brockmann's wide-range passions, interests, and commitments enables one to approach his work from several points of view and his influence graphic design extends well beyond his familiar poster work. He also was an accomplished photographer, often integrating experimental photography, photomontages, and light paintings into his design work. He loved music and over the course on many years made now famous poster designs for the Zurich Tonhalle (Concert Hall), which were highly influenced by the "feeling" aroused by music-resulting in a seemingly more abstract design. Nevertheless, all his works were built upon a grid system, and it is interesting that even those designs that appeared free of structure were rigidly organized beneath the surface. Perhaps because if his design philosophies and his ability to create design systems, Muller-Brockmann's greatest legacy may be as an influential mentor to contemporary designers. The development of the grid was also the main subject of his teaching (he held many lectures and seminars throughout the world) and of his contributions to magazines such as "New Graphic Design." In many ways, Muller-Brockmann is the perfect subject to study for a representative understanding of the so-called Swiss Design movement. Muller-Brockmann's work ranged from social/civic projects such as posters for the Swiss Automobile Club and Zurich Police to commercial projects for IBM (for whom he was design advisor in western Europe), Rosenthal, and Hermes Typewriters. His large body of work, created as graphic design gained importance during the twentieth century, serves as a gauge for the study of design history and a acted as a harbinger for what was to come. Illustrated by images of the final designs but also by sketches, production drawings, and unused design drafts from Muller-Brockmann's archive-and with long captions explaining in detail the design structure and the brief given by the client-the monograph give a complete visual understanding of Muller-Brockmann's growth as a graphic designer. It is an essential volume for anyone interested in the history of graphic design, design students, and professional designers.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPhaidon Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)9780714843490
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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