The Work of Swiss poster designer Paul Brühwiler and the Swiss National Design stereotype

Jenkins, Jessica (2016) The Work of Swiss poster designer Paul Brühwiler and the Swiss National Design stereotype. In: „Von Weltformat“ Das Schweizer Plakat aus historischer und bildwissenschaftlicher Perspektive, 03.06.2016 – 04.06.2016, eikones – NFS Bildkritik Rheinsprung 11 CH-4051 Basel.

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Abstract / Summary

The understanding of “Swiss design” as perhaps the purest form of modernism places Switzerland at the epicentre of twentieth century graphic design history. Post modern vehicles of thought as well as challenges to Western-centred design history, have left the success story of Swiss graphic design in tact. The poster has its own particular status in Switzerland, offering a continuity with the perception of the “Swiss style” [Hollis] in design. This paper examines the work and career of Swiss poster designer Paul Brühwiler, and through this critiques this concept of “Swissness”.

Whilst some of Brühwiler’s early pieces reveal a Swiss aesthetic as well as Californian pop influences, his posters developed in Switzerland defy stereotypical Swissness. Polychromatic, emotional, personal, sexual, multi-layered and visibly hand made, they reveal not an attempt at neutrality, but a desire to engage and critique.

Born in 1939 in Luzern, Brühwiler completed his graphic design education in the late 1950s when Swiss modernism was firmly establishing itself, but was not confronted by the idea of “Swiss graphic design” until he left Luzern for Paris and then California to work in the studios of Saul Bass and the Eames partnership, where he discovered that Swiss design was much in demand. Returning to Switzerland in 1973, Brühwiler successfully established himself as a poster designer.

Brühwiler’s prodigious output has not received the attention of design historians to the same extent as others who sit comfortably within canonical models of Swiss design. This paper will rely on visual analysis, design historical and social studies research to examine the impact of the national myth on Brühwiler’s work both in Switzerland and in California and ask to what extent a national stereotype is useful or detrimental to design historical knowledge.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Co-organizers Verein der Plakatfreunde Basel, Catalogue Collectif Suisse des Affiches/Kollektivkatalog Schweizer Plakatsammlungen (CCSA/KKSP), Institut Visuelle Kommunikation (HGK FHNW)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Modernism, Posters, Nationality, Paul Brühwiler, Swiss School
Subjects: Arts > Graphic Arts
Arts > Historical
History > International
Social Sciences
Courses by Department: The School of Communication Design > Graphic Design
Depositing User: Jessica Jenkins
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2017 11:51
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:07


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