Lecture Note on Josef Müller-Brockmann
(Part of my lecture notes on Graphic Design for Digital Products.)
For anyone who’s been through any kind of graphic design education, Josef Müller-Brockmann needs no introduction. And it’s not because of his sick graphic design chops. It’s because he wrote the textbooks we study, where he analyzed hundreds of pages of design work, almost entirely from his own portfolio. The books – masterpieces of design in themselves – are still in print. True classics.
Müller-Brockmann is the archetypical Swiss graphic designer, practicing a very restrained yet sophisticated type-heavy style. Using a very small set of of type and geometry decisions, he creates incredible visual meaning.
It’s easy to dismiss Müller-Brockmann’s restraint as cold and corporate. In fact, it was political.
Swiss design in the mid-20th century was an answer to war: they believed that standardization, literacy, and visual communication would bring peace across languages and cultures. Their rules for layout and typography were based on studies of human behavior. They were the first human-centered designers.
Müller-Brockmann designed type-heavy communication for a great variety of purposes, materials, and sizes. I have his books by my side all the time. I scroll through them to find layouts or ideas for inspiration while I work:
- The classic – Grid Systems in Graphic Design* →
- My favorite – The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems* →
- Design Manual for the Swiss Federal Railways* →
- Josef Müller-Brockmann: Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design by Lars Müller* →
* Affiliate link – at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you purchase from these links.