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Swiss Architecture.docEyes are drawn to typography and graphic design as a whole when looking at printed material such as brochures, catalogs, flyers and the printed pages of a book. These types of printed matter can be divided into categories: Material with print only; with an image only; or a combination of the two.

Photography was primarily used for business purposes in advertising material and was not widely used until after the end of World War I (1918). Magazines usually used illustrations done by artists for their covers. During the Interbellum Period (1920-1940), the magazines started to make use of the new profession called the graphic designer.

However, much material was not always designed by a professional graphic artist. Ephemeral material gives us a good opportunity to understand the evolution of graphic art and its various styles. We would like to share a few examples with you from our collection.

In 1942 the famous American sculptor Chaim Gross designed the catalog cover for the Sculptors Guild’s outdoor exhibition shown above. Prior years exhibition catalog covers had been designed by the sculptor William Zorach.

The next example shown above is of a different type of graphic layout. It is a brochure designed, circa 1935, by the Swiss Graphic Designer Herbert Matter for the Swiss Tourist Office promoting skiing and other mountain sports. Matter had come to America in the late 30’s and the brochure follows the Matter style well known for the large posters he designed for the Swiss Tourist Office. This brochure is a fine example of a Photo Composition layout.

Matter was still active in the sixties when he designed the installation for the memorabilia section of the retrospective Armory Show (1913) held in 1963 at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, as well as, designing the poster for this same exhibition together with “Dada” artist Marcel Duchamp.

Armory showThe catalog cover for the retrospective Armory Show Exhibition (above), however was not designed by Matter, but by another “old hand”, Ivan Chermayeff a designer who had moved from Great Britain before WWII. The cover is prominently signed on the bottom right. This is a fine example of a “text” or “type (letter)” only graphic design.

Robsjohn GibbingsMr. Robsjohn-Gibbings was an interior designer known for his first book Goodbye Mr.Chippendale his next book Mona Lisa’s Mustache published in 1947 featured a cover designed by Mary Petty an illustrator for “The New Yorker” and not an illustration done by Robsjohn-Gibbings himself.

The back of the dustjacket of the book has a photograph of the author taken by the now famous Canadian photographer Yusef Karsh exalting Robsjohn-Gibbings relentless desire for self promotion.

Robsjohn Gibbings rear coverThe Museum of Modern Art in 1955 recognized the influence of and the new currents in European Art. It organized an exhibition titled “The New Decade 22 European Painters and Sculptors” .The designer Alvin Lustig designed the dust jacket for the catalog. Again a good example of a text only cover.

New European alvin lustigAlvin Lustig (1915-1955) was a prolific designer who designed book jackets for New Directions books, furniture and fabrics, magazines, record covers, a helicopter as well as the Northland shopping center in Detroit, Michigan with the architect Victor Gruen. He was an educator at Yale and Black Mountain College and very much a contemporary of Robsjohn Gibbings. He was on the Board of Directors of the now little known but wonderful magazine GENTRY where he probably was responsible for the cover design of the first issue and the entire graphic layout of the magazine.

GentryThe magazine was an attempt to create what women had already for a long time, an exclusive fashion magazine. The focus readership was men and it sold for $2.00 each issue. By comparison a weekly magazine would set you back a quarter. It is a fine example of a perfect bound magazine with a photo only cover and the magazine’s name. The editorial approach focused on art and literature besides fashion.

Letters frenchThe March 1948 issue of the French Magazine ARTS ET METIERS GRAPHIQUES or AMG devotes the entire number to the use of the letter in various industrial applications. The contents of the magazine includes designs for shop signage and some examples of labels designed by Picart le Doux also known for his carpet designs. It further shows book covers, embroidery with letters, and 8 pages of fine leather bound bindings by the best French bookbinders of the previous period like Paul Bonet, Crette and others. It features five pages of various types of monograms and lettering used in jewelry design by the Parisian Designer Jean Puiforcat known for his exquisite Art Deco silver work.

letters french 2Puiforcat (above) designed also for Christofle the famous Paris Jeweler that had a tradition of using extraordinary designers like the Italian designer and architect Gio Ponti. (Page 171 of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in its 1997 monograph “Design for Life” features some of Puiforcat letter designs). The foreword in the magazine is by Maximilian Vox one of France’s top typographic designers.