The 'Swiss style' comes alive in this fascinating and very comprehensive study. If you design for print and ever wondered how some everyday graphic principles and typefaces originated the answer is in these pages. The story begins in twenties central Europe with a merging of modern art, the Bauhaus, Russian constructivism, craft printing techniques, photography and strong cultural attitudes in German speaking Zurich. All of these influences produced a graphic language of simplicity and directness that spread across Switzerland and one would expect nothing less from a country associated with order and precision.
Interesting as the text is I was particularly impressed with the several hundred illustrations (all with extensive captions) and as this is a book about a visual style and basically a printed one the choice of posters, examples of typography and many spreads from brochures, magazines, books all work well to complement the words.
I was interested in the several pages devoted to the magazine 'Neue Grafik' (New Graphic Design) which was the flagship publication of the Zurich modernists. It only ran for seventeen issues (from 1958 to a double issue seventeen and eighteen in 1965) but was really the only opportunity for designers outside Switzerland to see what was going on. Strangely, despite the design aiming for clarity, reading the issues was a bit of a chore. Three languages were set in each edition in one typeface and one size with paragraphs stretching sometimes to hundreds of words with no par indents or line space. However each spread looked fresh and lively thanks to the publication's grid.
I think it is worth commenting on the book's production. Designed by the author it uses a two column grid but nicely many pages just have one column of text and the space for the other text column is divided into two and used for illustrations and captions. The many variations of these column elements really make the pages sparkle and I think many publication designers could learn something by studying how the text and graphics blend together throughout the book.
Richard Hollis is to be congratulated on writing and designing a book that will surely be regarded as the definitive study about the origins of the Swiss Style.