Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder was a prominent twentieth century Swiss graphic designer and typographer. He was also associated with another eminent designer Armin Hofmann with whom he joined the faculty of Basel School of Design. His artwork is distinguished from others on the basis of his holistic approach to designing and teaching. He employed a systematic practical method of teaching that not only involved theory but philosophy as well.

Born on March 20, 1914, Emil Ruder grew up in Zurich, Switzerland. At the young age of fifteen he began his formal education in designing when he took up apprenticeship as a compositor. In Basil he received training as a typesetter and during 1938-1939 he went on to study in Paris. As he reached his late twenties, he attended the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts. There he learned Tschichold’s new typography and the principles of Bauhaus. In 1942, Ruder took up a teaching position at Basel’s Swiss school the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule. He was appointed in-charge of the typography for trade students there.

By 1947, Ruder was promoted as the head of the Department of Apprentices in Applied arts. The same year he met one of the notable graphic artists, Armin Hofmann. Hence began there long period of collaboration on several art projects. Their successful teaching methods culminated in receiving somewhat an international reputation. Besides teaching, Ruder also contributed as an editor and writer for Typografische Monatsblätter. Typographic Monthly was a famous trade publication of the era. Notwithstanding his innovative style, Ruder fell short of luck when he ran in the competition for the cover design of Typographische Monatsblätter as he could not win.

Post World War II there came a time when most of the domains of applied arts failed to come up with a new form of expression. That is when Ruder revolutionized the traditional typography by divorcing it from all the previous conventional rules that it followed. He introduced new laws of composition that seemed to be in accordance with the modern times. Despite Ruder’s inclination toward pictorial thinking, he never found himself indulging in merely playful designs. According to him such indulgences result in losing the actual purpose of printing that is legibility. Furthermore, he stressed that the aesthetic affects are not to be discounted even when the primary goal of typography is communication. Among other methods employed by Ruder in his artwork, one of them was contrast. He pursued the craft of letterpress printing with utter dedication and devotion.

Moreover, he penned down a book on basic grammar of typography and published it as Typographie. In 1967, a Swiss publisher Arthur Niggli had the book republished in several other languages including French, English and German. In fact, it played an instrumental role in propagating and spreading the Swiss style. Eventually, the book was followed as the primary text for graphic design and typography programs held in United States and Europe. In addition to that Ruder’s twenty-five year of teaching enabled him to compile a heavily illustrated book, titled Typographie: A Manual for Design. It featured his approach, ideas and methods and a life-time of accumulated knowledge. A critical reflection on Ruder’s teaching and practice is encapsulated in the work. Also Ruder was a significant member who helped establishing the International Center for the Typographic Arts, New York (ICTA). Emil Ruder passed away in the spring of 1970.

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