Muller-Brockmann is rightly regarded as one of the leaders of the Swiss school of graphic design which had a huge influence on other designers, especially in Europe but also in North America and Kerry Purcell has written, what will probably be considered, the definitive biography.
Large in size and published by Phaidon I was expecting something that would put his work in context and in particular I wanted to see extensive examples of this creative output which I had seen in many other books and magazines but being able to see them all in one place would be fascinating.
I found the book disappointing though, both in the editorial and production. There are too many pages devoted to his early life, upbringing, paintings and especially graphic design up to the fifties and Muller-Brockman (when he was thirty-five) considers much of this work mediocre. I think his output really only becomes interesting from the early fifties onwards with a series of stunning concert posters and the sort of work shown in New Graphic Design magazine. Issue seven had a long (thirty-seven pages) article he wrote called `A Training System for the Graphic Designer' and I would have expected to see more than just the one spread from this article shown on page 149 of the book. The covers to four of his books are shown but not spreads from inside, the distinctive brochure work for Rosenthal ceramics has too few examples to really convey the beauty of the work he did for them. The concert posters, fortunately displayed large, do look a treat, though here it might have been useful for readers to have seen more than just the one grid Muller-Brockmann created for them.
My other disappointment is with the book's production and perhaps not surprisingly so. Phaidon in the past have created a reputation for publishing quality art books but in recent years I think they have become hopelessly over-designed. This book is a good example of this. They can't even get a little thing like page numbers right. Throughout the book they appear in three different positions on the outer margins of left and right-hand pages, three different positions when next to each other near the book's spine, the index pages has another position for them. Picture captions likewise meander across spreads and usually tend not to be near the relevant image. Text columns fall short on many pages because there are no paragraph indents, a line space is used instead. Pictures are too small despite there being huge amounts of empty page space.
This is just trendy designers doing their own thing and taking no interest in providing information to the reader with legibility and clarity. The surprising thing, to me as a publication designer, is that no one queried any of this and the book was published.
As I said earlier this will probably become the standard work about Muller-Brockmann, a pity because I think he deserves something much better.
***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.