International Typographic Style (Swiss)

Early Swiss: New Approaches to Photography

Herbert Matter

To enhance communication, Matter used the following design techniques:

  • used collage and montage

  • integrated photography and typography

  • used extreme contrast of scale


(from chapter 16- 4th edition)
(from chapter 18- 3rd edition)


Swiss tourism poster, (1934)
Herbert Matter

The angular forms with the linear patterns convey a sense of movement which is appropriate to the winter sports.




  • Photographic images become pictorial symbols removed from their naturalistic environments and linked together in unexpected ways.
  • Matter pioneered extreme contrasts of scale and the integration of black-and-white photography, signs, and color areas


Swiss tourism poster, (1935)
Herbert Matter

This is a photomontage. It has graphic elements that signify spacial perspective.


Poster for Pontresina, (1935)
Herbert Matter

High and low camera angles accompany dramatci scale contrasts.

International typographic Style (Swiss)

  • A design movement originally from Switzerland and Germany that gained most of its popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s

  • Emphasized asymmetrical organization of the elements on a mathematically constructed grid

  • Included objective photography and copy that presents information in a clear, factual manner

  • Typography used was sans-serif typography and set in a flush –left / ragged right configuration



  • The movement defined design as a socially useful and important activity

  • Detractors complain that the style is based on a formula and the results are similar to each other while advocates argue that the formula allows for a perfection of style and results are only limited by the designer’s skill.

  • It roots grew from de Stijl, the Bauhaus, and New Typography.


  • Ernst Keller
  • Théo Ballmer
  • Max Huber
  • Max Bill
  • Anthony Froshaug



Ernst Keller



Poster for the Rietburg Museum , (undated)
Ernst Keller

Emblematic images are energized by repetitive geometric elements.

Theo Ballmer



Poster for the office professions exhibition, (1928)
Theo Ballmer

Traces of the grid of squares used to construct this poster remain as the thin white lines between the letters.


Poster for a traveling exhibition of industrial standards, (1928)
Theo Ballmer

Absolute Mathmatical construction, rather than the asymmetrical horizontals and verticals of de Stijl, are used.

Max Huber



Yearbook cover , (1951)
Max Huber

The red, black and blue halftone images combined with the yellow rectangles turns the space into an energetic informal balance of space and images.


poster for automobile races , (1948)
Max Huber

Speed and movement are expresses by typography that is racing back in perspective and arrows arcing forward, bringing depth to the printed page.


Armin Hofmann



poster for the Basel theater production of Gisselle, (1959)
Armin Hofmann

An organic, kinetic, and soft photographic images contrasts intensely with geometric, static, and hard-edged typographic shapes.




poster for Herman Miller Furniture , (1962)
Armin Hofmann

Shapes and the silhouettes of Herman Miller chairs cascade through space, anchored to the format and the type by the red logo at the top center.

Josef Muller- Brockmann



Swiss Auto Club poster, (1954)
Josef Muller- Brockmann

The text reads, "The friendly hand sign protects from accidents."


Swiss Automobile Club, Watch that Child!, (1952)
Josef Muller- Brockmann




Public awareness poster, (1960)
Josef Muller- Brockmann

The red type reads "less noise" The photo graphically depicts the discomfort of noise.



der Film (Of the Film) exhibition poster (1960)
Josef Muller- Brockmann

Against a black field, the word Film is white, the word der is gray and the other typography is red.



musica viva concert poster (1972)
Josef Muller- Brockmann

Colored squares march in musical rhythm on the titles white diamond. Typography and shapes align in harmonious juxtaposition.


m (1980)
Josef Muller- Brockmann

The grid was always an important aspect to Muller-Brockmann's designs.

In this poster it is a major visible element.

Website link to more of Muller-Brockmann's posters




—To clarify—
Visual Characteristics of Swiss:

Visual unity of design achieved by
asymmetrical organization of the design elements on a mathematically-constructed grid

Objective photography and copy that
present visual and verbal information in a
clear and factual manner, free from the exaggerated claims of much propaganda
and commercial advertising

Sans-serif typography set flush left,
ragged right (The initiators of this movement believed sans-serif typography expressed
the spirit of a progressive age and that mathematical grids were the most legible and harmonious means for structuring information.)

Look at the work and find these characteristics.