I knew that the Swiss had made their mark in architecture but did you know about “Swiss Style” as it pertains to graphic design? The Daily Post imparted some wisdom on it just the other day:

Even if you haven’t heard the term “Swiss Style” before, you’ve surely seen it in action. In graphic design history, “Swiss Style” (also known as the “International Typographic Style”) refers to a specific type of design that was made popular by Swiss designers like Joseph Müller-Brockmann and Armin Hofmann in the 1950s. The Swiss Style movement was based on the idea that design should be objective: the content should lead the message. Designers stripped out superfluous elements and used a clean, clear aesthetic to accentuate and amplify the core message.

Swiss-style posters by Josef Müller-Brockmann

Swiss Style posters by Josef Müller-Brockmann. Designed between 1953-1980. Via Maryellen McFadden on Flickr

Though we often refer to this as “Swiss Style”, the core concepts didn’t necessarily originate in Switzerland. Swiss Style is based on a number of ideas that originated in Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia, as far back as the 1920s.

Stylistically, Swiss Style typically involves simple, clear presentation of content, mathematical grid-based layouts, pure shapes and forms, and sans-serif typefaces. When photography is used, it’s a tool to convey the message, not just to keep the page pretty.

The legacy of Swiss Style is everywhere. Much of what we view on the web incorporates ideas developed during this time. Grid-based layouts, clean typography, and information-driven design are all standard best practices for websites nowadays. The movement also gave birth to many typefaces that are widely used today: Akzidenz-Grotesk, Helvetica, and Univers to name a few.