Josef Müller-Brockmann

Josef Muller-Brockmann

Josef Müller-Brockmann was a celebrated twentieth century Swiss graphic designer and teacher. He studied design, architect and history of art. Moreover, he worked as a European design consultant. His works had been exhibited in Zurich, Hamburg and Bern.

Born on May 9, 1914, Müller-Brockmann grew up in Rapperswil, Switzerland. He attended the prestigious schools to study architect, art and design, including University of Zurich and the city’s Kunstgewerbeschule. His first step toward a professional career was his apprenticeship to Walter Diggleman, the designer and advertising consultant. In 1936, he opened his own Zurich studio which specialized in photography, graphics and exhibition design. Over two decades he established his position as the country’s leading practitioner and theorist of Swiss Style. He created a universal graphic expression employing a grid-based design exclusive of subjective feeling and extraneous illustration. In 1951, he created “Musica viva” poster for the Tonhalle’s music concert. The poster drew on the language of Constructivism to create a visual correlative to the structural harmonies of the music.

Additionally, Müller-Brockmann co-founded the trilingual journal Neue Grafik (New Graphic Design) with H. Neuburg, R.P. Lohse and C. Vivarelli and remained its co-editor from 1958 to 1965. The journal focused on the Swiss Design and its publication for international readers. Late 1950s was marked as the time when he began his career as an art instructor. At the Kunstgewerbeschule, Zurich, he was appointed as a professor of graphic design. During early 1960s, he filled the position of guest lecturer at the University of Osaka and Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Ulm.  In 1967, IBM offered him a position as a European design consultant.

Besides teaching and serving as design consultant, Müller-Brockmann also authored several books on graphic designing. Some of his notable works include The Graphic Artist and his Design Problems (1961), History of Visual Communication and Grid Systems in Graphic Design. In 1971, he collaborated with Shizuko Müller-Yoshikawa in writing History of the Poster. His contribution to numerous symposiums is considered valuable to graphic designing industry. Furthermore, he held multitude of one-man exhibitions globally. Some of the major cities where he exhibited his seminal work include Paris, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, Tokyo, Osaka, New York, Chicago, and Caracas. The State of Zurich presented him a gold medal to honor his work and his cultural contribution, in 1987.

In an interview, Müller-Brockmann was asked about his inclination toward systematic order in designing given he advocated objective and radically minimalist geometric design and was the one who invented grid system for graphic design. In response, he explained that finding order in everything is rather a wishful thinking on his part. However, he always aspired to attain a distinct arrangement of typographic and pictorial elements. He claimed that the white reverse sides of his posters were his best work. He was once influenced by Carl Jung but later grew withdrawn. He was of the view that the unconscious is part of the support structure of his work. In his work he aspired to communicate information about an idea, event or product as vividly as possible. In fact, his work is not intended to make a timeless statement but rather to invite his audience to form their own opinion on the subject.

Josef Müller-Brockmann work is best known for its simple designs and clean use of typography. The shapes and colors he incorporated in his work still inspire the graphic designers of current generation. He passed away on August 30, 1996.