During the 1950s a design movement emerged from Switzerland and Germany that designers call Swiss Design, and historians call the International Typographic Style. Its objective of clarity won converts throughout the world.
The Swiss style was a major force in graphic design in the 50s through the 80s. It still holds much power today, especially in corprorate communications.
Critics of this style argue that it is based on formula [it is based on grid] and results in a sameness of solution. Advocates argue that the style’s pure legibility enable the designer to achieve a timeless perfection of form. The visual characterizes of this style include a visual unity achieved by asymmetrical organization on a mathematically constructed grid; objective photography and type that presents information in a clear and factual manner, free from the exaggeration of propaganda and commercial advertising. The social philosophy behind this design movement rejects personal expression and eccentric solutions and embraces a scientific approach to design.
In this philosophy, the designer defines his or her role not as an artist, but as an objective conduit for communicating a message between different parts of society. Achieving objective clarity and order is the ideal.
Josef Müller-Brockmann was a designer, teacher, and writer. He is remembered as the most influential designer during the Swiss era. Müller-Brockmann style is recognizable: minimalist and free of ornamentation, he used sans serif type and a strict grid structure.
Italian-born Massimo Vignelli was a New York-based designer best known for creating the identity system for Knoll International (a furniture manufacturer). Vignelli and his wife Lelle, established a firm that designed identity, interiors, furniture, books, as well as industrial products.
Le Corbussier, an ndustrial & architectural designer, thought of his furniture as “equipment: (machines to sit in). This chair design was developed as sculpture to complement the houses he was building. Note the visble steel tubes and the rectangular forms completely devoid of ornamentation.
About the Typeface: Helvetica
Helvetica was developed by Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland. In the late 1950s, the European design world saw a revival of older sans-serif typefaces such as the German face Akzidenz Grotesk. Haas’ director Hoffmann commissioned Miedinger, a former employee and freelance designer, to draw an updated sans-serif typeface to add to their line. The result was called Neue Haas Grotesk, but its name was later changed to Helvetica, derived from Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland, when Haas’ German parent companies Stempel and Linotype began marketing the font internationally in 1961.
Introduced amidst a wave of popularity of Swiss design, and fueled by advertising agencies selling this new design style to their clients, Helvetica quickly appeared in corporate logos, signage for transportation systems, fine art prints, and myriad other uses worldwide. Inclusion of the font in home computer systems such as the Apple Macintosh in 1984 only further cemented its ubiquity.
For an excellent essay on the International Typographic Style visit: