Lessons From Swiss Style Graphic Design


Also known as International Style, the Swiss Style does not simply describe a style of graphic design made in Switzerland. It became famous through the art of very talented Swiss graphic designers, but it emerged in Russia, Germany and Netherlands in the 1920’s. This style in art, architecture and culture became an ‘international’ style after 1950’s and it was produced by artists all around the globe. Despite that, people still refer to it as the Swiss Style or the Swiss Legacy.

This progressive, radical movement in graphic design is not concerned with the graphic design in Switzerland, but rather with the new style that had been proposed, attacked and defended in the 1920s in Switzerland. Keen attention to detail, precision, craft skills, system of education and technical training, a high standard of printing as well as a clear refined and inventive lettering and typoraphy laid out a foundation for a new movement that has been exported worldwide in 1960s to become an international style.

Famous poster by Paul Rand1

Famous poster by Paul Rand2

Emerging from the modernist and constructivist ideals, the Swiss Style can be defined as an authentic pursue for simplicity – the beauty in the underlines of a purpose, not beauty as a purpose in itself. The principle “form follows function” became a battle-cry of Modernist architects after the 1930s. As a consequence of this principle, most of the Swiss Style craft is devoted to the minimal elements of style such as typography and content layout rather than on textures and illustrations.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Here are some great resources if you want to dive deep into the Swiss Style Graphic Design.

How the Swiss Style Relates to the Web Link

This style of graphic design was born in the institutional context. The majority of pieces from this movement are in the form of posters, stamps, institutional typographical identity, street signs, etc. In this sense, these artists are leveraging much more than just top-down communication, they’re creating user-friendly interfaces.

As a result of that, Swiss Style artists tend to put their artistic efforts in that the content they are conveying delivers its intended message in a clear, unobtrusive fashion. One can make the point that they were thinking, in a broader sense, about usability long before the web even existed. How can we not learn from these great masters?

Uniformity and geometry Link

Even a quick study of classic Swiss style works reveals a strong attention of graphic designers to uniform design elements and strong geometric shapes. Graphic artists have experimented with abstract geometric patterns, uncomon color combinations, text manipulations and striking abstract visuals that were used to clearly convey their purpose in a very remarkable way.

Swiss Graphic Design - graphis Posters 8613610

Swiss Graphic Design - graphis Posters 8618011

Swiss Graphic Design - Archigraphia9812

Whitespace: Let The Text Breath Link

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Annual - 1965/669613

Whitespace can never be underrated. It’s a very important element for both visual impact and readability. It feels quite inviting when a web page is laid out in such a fashion that the organization of the page (and the site) is clearly conveyed in a split of a second. It’s also good for business, since people use interfaces that they understand and tend reject the ones they don’t.

A common way that people pursue organization is by having markers that separate the different parts of the site: in web design icons and illustrations are used to separate various types of content. But Swiss style is all about using less, so instead of adding more elements to work with, they prefer to remove as much as possible. This is a great example of the ‘less is more’ principle and of the ‘the content is the interface’ wisdom.

Grid Systems Link

A grid system is a rigid framework that is supposed to help graphic designers in the meaningful, logical and consistent organization of information on a page. Rudimentary versions of grid systems existed since the medieval times, but a group of graphic designers, mostly inspired in ideas from typographical literature started building a more rigid and coherent system for page layout. The core of these ideas were first presented in the book Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann which helped to spread the knowledge about the grids thorough the world.

The Grid revealed 2

Nowadays grid systems are an established tool that is often used by print and web designers to create well-structured, balanced designs. There are many resources on the subject, one of them is an article by your own Smashing Magazine: Designing With Grid-Based Approach14. You may want to take a closer look at it if you want to learn and find out more about grid-systems.

The Grid revealed 3

More than grids, structured information Link

When we learn from the Swiss Style literature, it’s very easy to embrace the grid system as a purely visual framework. However, upon a further examination we can see that grids are more than just the art of placing elements; there’s a subtle layer of semantic organization of data which, despite not being inherent to the use of the grid, is a big part of the Swiss Style’s essence.

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 127815

Swiss poster

These posters have a very well-defined structure. It definitely feels like tabular data and tabular data is one such case that the disposition of the information extrapolates the realm of graphic layout and starts hinting on the meaning of data and how various chunks of data relate to each other.

The abuse of tables as structural elements was, and still is, very harmful to web accessibility. However, blindly replacing tables for div tags does not help to make code more semantic. List elements are a great solution for collections of similar data, but ULs and OLs do not define any kind of relation between this data.

Enter Definition Lists Link

Definition List (DL) is probably one of the most underestimated HTML elements. It’s a list element such as UL and OL, but it is supposed to present a collection of terms (DT) and descriptions (DD). Its most obvious use case is to represent dictionaries, but its potential goes way beyond that. The W3C Recommendation16 gives the example of a dialogue where DTs are character names and DDs are the text lines. It could also be used to represent calendars (days and assignments), articles summaries (titles and descriptions) and much more.

DL example

Elementary Link

Swiss Graphic Design - otl aicher - nein11817

Swiss Graphic Design - Corporate Diversity – Swiss Graphic Design and Advertising by Geigy 1940-19708818

There is also a direct influence from the constructivism, elementarism and minimalism movements in the Swiss Style artists. Minimal design is about removing the unnecessary and emphasizing the necessary; it’s about a functional and simple use of fundamental elements of style for the purpose of the artists’ objectives.

This principle is one of the core reasons why Swiss Style graphic designers pay so much attention to type. Typeface is one of the most fundamental elements of visual communication that is able to deliver the message in a very precise, clear way. According to the Swiss movement, adding more elements without fully exploring the potential of the fundamental ones can be considered a ‘waste’. As these basic elements, like typography, have so much aesthetic potential, there’s rarely a need for other visual graphics elements.

In many aspects, these ideas touch on the core proposals of the De Stijl movement. The neoplasticism, as proposed by De Stijl artists, is about elementarism and geometry not only as a form of exploring the potential of the fundamental elements, but as a pursuit of beauty and harmony, hinting on a more mystical belief in ‘ideal’ geometric forms.

Drop the Serif (…or rather don’t) Link

Swiss poster

One of the strongest characteristics of the Swiss style typography is the use of sans-serif typefaces such as Akzidenz Grotesk and Neue Haas Grotesk (a.k.a Helvetica). In fact, when Jan Tschichold wrote Die neue Typographie, he ignored any use of non sans-serif typefaces. With this philosophy, graphic designers were aiming at clarity, simplicity and universality. Helvetica, for instance, is a typeface that is famous for its pervasiveness: it is used in corporate identity, street signs, magazines and pretty much everywhere else. The Swiss Style advocates that the typeface does not have to be expressive in itself, it must be an unobtrusive instrument of expression.

“I don’t think that type should be expressive at all. I can write the word ‘dog’ with any typeface and it doesn’t have to look like a dog. But there are people that [think that] when they write ‘dog’ it should bark.”

Massimo Vignelli in the documentaty Helvetica.

Swiss Graphic Design - Schiff nach Europa –– Markus Kutter/Karl Gerstner 195717419

Swiss Graphic Design - Penrose Annual 196417220

This is by no means a rigid rule. When Swiss Style graphic designers advocate the use of sans-serif typefaces, they weren’t paying attention to the historical legacy and experimented with something new. Even Jan Tschichold himself admitted that his book was too rigid. If there’s one single lesson from the Swiss Style it is to love and respect typefaces.

Font-size as a tool for readability, impact and rythm Link

It’s very common to spot the use of font-size contrast in the works of the Swiss Style.

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Packaging 310021

Swiss poster

Different font-sizes not only generate visual impact, but also provide readers with a hint about the hierarchy of the presented data. Huge words are the entry points, the top-level elements in the content’s information architecture and page’s hierarchy. This is a very efficient way of guiding the reader’s eyes through the page, thus working as an interface to the content.

Photography. Yes, photography. Link

Despite not being particularly famous for it, one important part of the Swiss Style is its remarkable use of photography. Following the modernist ideas in which photography was a much better tool to portray reality than drawings and illustrations, the Neue grafik magazine, a very important Swiss graphic design publication at the time, dedicated a big part of its content to photography and its application in design.


Showcase of Swiss Graphics Design Link

“de profundis”, oscar wilde23

Swiss Graphic Design - 24

Paul Rand25

Swiss Graphic Design - Paul Rand26

Penrose Annual 195827

Swiss Graphic Design - Paul Rand28

Book Cover29
A book cover with an interesting use of geometric forms.

Vintage and Retro - FFFFOUND!30

Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry31

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry32

Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry33

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry34

Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry35

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry36

Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry37

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss modern graphic design for the chemical industry38

Basic Typography – Ruedi Rüegg/Godi Fröhlich 197239

Swiss Graphic Design - Basic Typography – Ruedi Rüegg/Godi Fröhlich 197240

publicity and graphic design in the chemical industry41

Swiss Graphic Design - publicity and graphic design in the chemical industry42

Corporate Design International – Wolfgang Schmittel43

Swiss Graphic Design - Corporate Design International – Wolfgang Schmittel44

Karl Gerstner: Review of 5×10 years of graphic design45

Swiss Graphic Design - Karl Gerstner: Review of 5x10 years of graphic design46

Karl Gerstner: Review of 5×10 years of graphic design47

Swiss Graphic Design - Karl Gerstner: Review of 5x10 years of graphic design48

Publicite 11 196449

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 11 196450

Publicite 11 196451

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 11 196452

Karl Gerstner: Review of 5×10 years of graphic design53

Swiss Graphic Design - Karl Gerstner: Review of 5x10 years of graphic design54

Graphis Annual – 1965/6655

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Annual - 1965/6656

Graphis Diagrams ? 197457

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams ? 197458

Graphis 113 ? 196459

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 113 ? 196460

Odermatt & Tissi: Graphic Design61

Swiss Graphic Design - Odermatt & Tissi: Graphic Design62

TM Typografische Monatsblätter – 196863

Swiss Graphic Design - TM Typografische Monatsblätter - 196864

TM Typografische Monatsblätter – 196865

Swiss Graphic Design - TM Typografische Monatsblätter - 196866

1960’s Advertising – Magazine Ad – Film special (Italy)67
1969 Magazine Advertisement. “Film Special: bimestrale sui problemi della comunicazione audiovisia”. Advertising Office: Studio S & F Cappellato. Milano, Italy

Vintage and Retro - 1960's Advertising - Magazine Ad - Film special (Italy)68

Film + Design by Peter Von Arx69

Swiss Graphic Design - Film + Design by Peter Von Arx70

Publicite 1271

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 1272

Publicite 1273

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 1274

Publicite 1275

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 1276

Publicite 1277

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicite 127815

abc verlag_publicity and graphic design in the chemical industry (82/91)79

Swiss Graphic Design - abc verlag_publicity and graphic design in the chemical industry (82/91)80

FFFFOUND! | Swiss Graphic Design81

Swiss Graphic Design - FFFFOUND! | Swiss Graphic Design82

FFFFOUND! | but does it float83

Swiss Graphic Design - FFFFOUND! | but does it float84

Graphis Diagrams85

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams86

Corporate Diversity – Swiss Graphic Design and Advertising by Geigy 1940-197087

Swiss Graphic Design - Corporate Diversity – Swiss Graphic Design and Advertising by Geigy 1940-19708818

Graphis 115 ? 196489

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 115 ? 196490

Graphis Diagrams –– 197491

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams –– 197492

Graphis 121 –– 196593

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 121 –– 196594

Graphis Annual – 1965/6695

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Annual - 1965/669613


Swiss Graphic Design - Archigraphia9812

Graphis Packaging 399

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Packaging 310021

Graphis Annual – 1965/66101

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Annual - 1965/66102

Graphis International – Wim Crouwel interview103

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis International – Wim Crouwel interview104

TM SGM 2/1962105

Swiss Graphic Design - TM SGM 2/1962106

Graphis Diagrams –– 1974107

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams –– 1974108

Graphis Diagrams 1109

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams 1110

International Graphic Design111

Swiss Graphic Design - International Graphic Design112

Waldi by Otl Aicher113

Swiss Graphic Design - Waldi by Otl Aicher114

otl aicher visual communication – munich olympics – münchen olympia 1972115

Swiss Graphic Design - otl aicher visual communication - munich olympics - münchen olympia 1972116

otl aicher – nein117

Swiss Graphic Design - otl aicher - nein11817

Otl Aicher ERCO Pictograms119

Swiss Graphic Design - Otl Aicher ERCO Pictograms120

1972 Munich Olympics121

Swiss Graphic Design - 1972 Munich Olympics122

Erscheinungsbild Flughafen München123

Swiss Graphic Design - Erscheinungsbild Flughafen München124

Participation Medal – Back125

Swiss Graphic Design - Participation Medal - Back126

1972 Munich Olympics127

Swiss Graphic Design - 1972 Munich Olympics128

Meal Voucher129

Swiss Graphic Design - Meal Voucher130

Graphis Annual – 1965/66131

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Annual - 1965/66132

Graphis 113 –– 1964133

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 113 –– 1964134

graphis Posters 86135

Swiss Graphic Design - graphis Posters 8613610

Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik137

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik138

Swiss Sports Posters139

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss Sports Posters140

Swiss New Graphic Design141

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss New Graphic Design142

Swiss New Graphic Design 41143

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss New Graphic Design 41144

Swiss Graphic Design145

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss Graphic Design146

International Typographic Style 7147

Swiss Graphic Design - International Typographic Style 7148

Swiss Graphic Design149

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss Graphic Design150

The ABCs of Bauhaus151

Swiss Graphic Design - The ABCs of Bauhaus152

Bauhaus advertising153

Swiss Graphic Design - Bauhaus advertising154

wallpaper bauhaus155

Swiss Graphic Design - wallpaper bauhaus156

American Graphic Design157

Swiss Graphic Design - American Graphic Design158

History Swiss Graphic Design, Wohnbedarf159

Swiss Graphic Design - History Swiss Graphic Design, Wohnbedarf160


Swiss Graphic Design - 20_carto162


Swiss Graphic Design - typo-sample-y164

Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik165

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik166

Swiss Sports Posters167

Swiss Graphic Design - Swiss Sports Posters168

Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik169

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphic Design in Swiss Industry / Schweizer Industrie Grafik170

Penrose Annual 1964171

Swiss Graphic Design - Penrose Annual 196417220

Schiff nach Europa –– Markus Kutter/Karl Gerstner 1957173

Swiss Graphic Design - Schiff nach Europa –– Markus Kutter/Karl Gerstner 195717419

Publicity and Graphic Design in the Chemical Industry / Chemie Werbung Und Grafik175

Swiss Graphic Design - Publicity and Graphic Design in the Chemical Industry / Chemie Werbung Und Grafik176

Schiff nach Europa –– Markus Kutter/Karl Gerstner 1957177

Swiss Graphic Design - Schiff nach Europa –– Markus Kutter/Karl Gerstner 1957178

graphis Posters 86179

Swiss Graphic Design - graphis Posters 8618011

Graphis 124 –– 1966181

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 124 –– 1966182

Graphis 92 –– 1960183

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 92 –– 1960184

Graphis 113 –– 1964185

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis 113 –– 1964186

Graphis Diagrams –– 1974187

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams –– 1974188

Graphis Diagrams 1189

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams 1190

Graphis Diagrams 1191

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams 1192

Graphis Diagrams 1193

Swiss Graphic Design - Graphis Diagrams 1194

FFFFOUND! | swissmiss195

Swiss Graphic Design - FFFFOUND! | swissmiss196

Masters Link

Theo Ballmer Link

Theo Ballmer is best known for his posters, but he also worked as a photographer, lettering designer, teacher and typographer. He demonstrated talent from a very early age when he studied at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule, where he had Ernst Keller as one of his professors. Like many other Swiss Graphic designers Ballmer went to the Bauhaus, but only after he was already an established designer.

Theo Ballmer's work

Theo Ballmer's work

Theo Ballmer's work

Max Bill Link

Max Bill was an architect, painter, typographer, industrial and graphic designer. He studied at the Bauhaus until late 1920’s when he moved to Zurich where he became a teacher and prime member of the Allianz group of graphic designers.

Max Bill's work

Max Bill's work

Max Bill's work

Max Bill's work

Adrian Frutiger Link

Adrian Frutiger is the master typeface designer behind the Univers, Frutiger and Avenir typefaces, just to mention a few. He studied calligraphy at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule, which along with his interest in sculpture helped shape his style as a typeface designer.

In the early 1970’s he designed the Paris Metro signature with a variation of Univers, he was then asked to design the ‘way-finding signature’ for Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport. His work on that resulted in the Frutiger typeface.

Adrian Frutiger's work

Adrian Frutiger's work

Adrian Frutiger's work

Karl Gerstner Link

Painter, graphic designer and typographer, Karl Gerstner is as important for his design as for his ideas about design as a process. He developed ideas of a flexible grid with computational systems in mind. He also developed the notion of ‘integral’ typography: where the message and its form are inseparable and interdependent, the idea being inseparable from typography.

Karl Gerstner's work

Karl Gerstner's work

Karl Gerstner's work

Armin Hofmann Link

Armin Hofmann taught and worked as a director at the Basel school of Design. Basel was a small city of about 250.000 inhabitants that became very important for the development of the Swiss modernism, most due to the direction of Hofmann of his predecessor Emil Ruder.

Armin Hofman's work

Armin Hofman's work

Armin Hofman's work

Armin Hofman's work

Armin Hofman's work

Ernst Keller Link

Ernst Keller was a professor at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule from 1918 to 1956 where many of his pupils went on to become influential graphic designers, for what he’s consider one of the fathers of the Swiss school of graphics

Ernst Keller's work

Ernst Keller's work

Herbert Matter Link

Matter was a pioneer in the use of photomontage, which with its talented use of type earned him great international acclamation. After working for the Swiss National Tourist Office and Swiss resorts he moved to the United States in 1936 and started teaching Photography at Yale University in 1952.

Herbert Matter's work

Herbert Matter's work

Herbert Matter's work

Jan Tschichold Link

Jan Tschichold became a leading advocate of modernist design after visiting the Wiemar Bauhaus exhibition in 1923. His most famous work is the book Die neue Typographie which organised most of the modernist design principles. He went to England in 1947 were he was wired to Penguin Books and directed the creation of the famous Penguin Composition Rules. He is the designer of the Sabon typeface.

Jan Tschichold's work

Jan Tschichold's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann Link

Müller-Brockmann studied at the Zürich Kunstgewerbeschule and years later returned as a professor, succeeding Ernst Keller. He opened his own studio specialised in graphic design and photography where he produced the famous concert posters for the Tonhalle in Zurich. In 1966 he was appointed European design consultant to IBM.

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Josef Müller-Brockmann's work

Cases Link

Subtraction.com Link

subtraction.com197 is the personal web site of Koi Vinh, the Design Director at NYTimes.com198. Vinh is famous for his advocacy of the use of grid systems and is often quoted as an authority on the subject.

Subtraction Home page

Apart from the simplicity and the obvious use of a grid, Subtraction employs a very well defined structure that makes it very intuitive to understand the content that’s presented and how we can interact with it.

Subtraction Structure

V+Lourenco Link

vlourenco.com199 is the home site and portfolio of a Brazilian interactive designer Vitor Lourenço. Amongst many other interesting works, Vitor was in charge of the latest redesign of Twitter200.

vlourenco Home page

Vitor’s site stands on the edge of simplicity: if there were less elements it would be too hard to navigate, but if there was more it wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is. The beautiful Helvetica Neue Light gets all the whitespace it deserves and the minimal content is organized simply by contrast and color.

vlourenco whitespace

Design Judge Link

designjudge.co.uk201 is the online portfolio of Matt Judge, a London based designer.

design judge

This site employs many of the lessons from the Swiss Style: beautiful typography along with the strong background colors, a hint of a grid structure and a nice use of a font size.

design judge

Kingston University – Out There Link

kingston.ac.uk/outthere202 is the site of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture of the Kingston University in London.

Kingston University

The great visual impact of this site are the big photographs that stand from the background. Along with that, there’s only typography.

Kingston University

WilsonMiner.com Link

wilsom miner homepage

wilsonminer.com203 is the home of Wilson Miner, designer and co-founder at EveryBlock.com204. Miner worked on the first major redesign of apple.com205 and designed the identity (and the admin interface) of the Django206 web framework.

wilsom miner internal page

This site’s post page has a very interesting use of typography – it mixes big bold Helveticas with greyish Palatino, sometimes on the same text line. The contrast looks very beautiful and shows that there are use cases for both serif and sans-serif typefaces. Along with that, there’s a significant amount of whitespace that greatly leverages readability.

wilsom miner use of typography

Please compare this design with Dustin Curtis207‘s minimal design that also makes use of beautiful typography and spacing.

wilsom miner use of typography

Further Resources Link

Here are some interesting resources on some of the core subjects of this article:

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/2366966705/in/set-72157603921499642/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530252783/in/set-72157614426991414/
  3. 3 http://Swissposters.library.cmu.edu/Info.html
  4. 4 http://www.blanka.co.uk/
  5. 5 http://www.amazon.com/Swiss-Graphic-Design-International-1920-1965/dp/0300106769/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244680530&sr=1-1
  6. 6 http://www.internationalposter.com/style-primer/international-typographic.aspx
  7. 7 http://www.flickr.com/photos/blankaposters/sets/72157605199393277/
  8. 8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/sets/72157594296535170/
  9. 9 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/sets/72157617966230965/
  10. 10 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281206189/in/set-72157601878546708/
  11. 11 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281996744/
  12. 12 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/489616894/
  13. 13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569689959/
  14. 14 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/04/14/designing-with-grid-based-approach/
  15. 15 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3531071092/in/set-72157614426991414/
  16. 16 http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/lists.html
  17. 17 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scleroplex/2335457248/
  18. 18 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3359960642/
  19. 19 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2211264245/
  20. 20 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485241706/
  21. 21 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommy_c/2113016295/
  22. 22 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/269418224/in/set-72157594267445832/
  23. 23 http://www.flickr.com/photos/arm79/376537556/
  24. 24 http://www.flickr.com/photos/arm79/376537556/
  25. 25 http://www.flickr.com/photos/rumberodesign/469618124/
  26. 26 http://www.flickr.com/photos/rumberodesign/469618124/
  27. 27 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uppercaseyyc/3185771455/
  28. 28 http://www.flickr.com/photos/uppercaseyyc/3185771455/sizes/l/in/set-72157612416406180/
  29. 29 http://ffffound.com/image/ee5bd568f4a3a0ae56cebbba304a0b25080b138c
  30. 30 http://ffffound.com/image/ee5bd568f4a3a0ae56cebbba304a0b25080b138c
  31. 31 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606704/
  32. 32 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606704/
  33. 33 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2256808843/
  34. 34 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2256808843/
  35. 35 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606764/
  36. 36 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606764/
  37. 37 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606836/
  38. 38 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2257606836/
  39. 39 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2250171581/
  40. 40 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2250171581/
  41. 41 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2256809327/
  42. 42 http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/2256809327/
  43. 43 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/503198024/in/set-72157603812598191/
  44. 44 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/503198024/in/set-72157603812598191/
  45. 45 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223077/in/set-72157614426991414/
  46. 46 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223077/in/set-72157614426991414/
  47. 47 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223071/in/set-72157614426991414/
  48. 48 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223071/in/set-72157614426991414/
  49. 49 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485250856/in/set-72157614426991414/
  50. 50 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485250856/in/set-72157614426991414/
  51. 51 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485250838/in/set-72157614426991414/
  52. 52 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485250838/in/set-72157614426991414/
  53. 53 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223033/in/set-72157614426991414/
  54. 54 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/509223033/in/set-72157614426991414/
  55. 55 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569690045/in/set-72157614426991414/
  56. 56 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569690045/in/set-72157614426991414/
  57. 57 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2216724982/in/set-72157614426991414/
  58. 58 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2216724982/in/set-72157614426991414/
  59. 59 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2242017570/in/set-72157614426991414/
  60. 60 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2242017570/in/set-72157614426991414/
  61. 61 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2633957438/in/set-72157614426991414/
  62. 62 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2633957438/in/set-72157614426991414/
  63. 63 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2635904323/in/set-72157614426991414/
  64. 64 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2635904323/in/set-72157614426991414/
  65. 65 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2636728364/in/set-72157614426991414/
  66. 66 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2636728364/in/set-72157614426991414/
  67. 67 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/04/21/celebration-of-vintage-and-retro-design/
  68. 68 http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkponk/505573116/in/set-72157600267969060/
  69. 69 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2699097852/in/set-72157614426991414/
  70. 70 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2699097852/in/set-72157614426991414/
  71. 71 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530252783/in/set-72157614426991414/
  72. 72 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530252783/in/set-72157614426991414/
  73. 73 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530261199/in/set-72157614426991414/
  74. 74 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530261199/in/set-72157614426991414/
  75. 75 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530252423/in/set-72157614426991414/
  76. 76 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3530252423/in/set-72157614426991414/
  77. 77 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3531071092/in/set-72157614426991414/
  78. 78 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3531071092/in/set-72157614426991414/
  79. 79 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebhayez/3590734625/
  80. 80 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebhayez/3590734625/
  81. 81 http://ffffound.com/image/719a9f46d67889c738d235a36e45fd4866cae889
  82. 82 http://ffffound.com/image/719a9f46d67889c738d235a36e45fd4866cae889
  83. 83 http://ffffound.com/image/f935a0764824642cf9bfc6b9735148a79bfbcb8b
  84. 84 http://ffffound.com/image/f935a0764824642cf9bfc6b9735148a79bfbcb8b
  85. 85 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joekral/231784409/
  86. 86 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joekral/231784409/
  87. 87 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3359960642/
  88. 88 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/3359960642/
  89. 89 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1318841411/
  90. 90 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1318841411/
  91. 91 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2215924045/
  92. 92 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2215924045/
  93. 93 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1329160334/
  94. 94 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1329160334/
  95. 95 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569689959/
  96. 96 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569689959/
  97. 97 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/489616894/
  98. 98 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/489616894/
  99. 99 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommy_c/2113016295/
  100. 100 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommy_c/2113016295/
  101. 101 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569690037/
  102. 102 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569690037/
  103. 103 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2492365479/
  104. 104 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2492365479/
  105. 105 http://www.flickr.com/photos/59825996@N00/2324167395/
  106. 106 http://www.flickr.com/photos/59825996@N00/2324167395/
  107. 107 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2215924031/
  108. 108 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2215924031/
  109. 109 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293219499/
  110. 110 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293219499/
  111. 111 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/3053656134/
  112. 112 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/3053656134/
  113. 113 http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcosdopico/543933101/
  114. 114 http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcosdopico/543933101/
  115. 115 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scleroplex/457225079/
  116. 116 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scleroplex/457225079/
  117. 117 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scleroplex/2335457248/
  118. 118 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scleroplex/2335457248/
  119. 119 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tal_ent/3486822570/
  120. 120 http://www.flickr.com/photos/tal_ent/3486822570/
  121. 121 http://www.flickr.com/photos/blankaposters/2514401816/
  122. 122 http://www.flickr.com/photos/blankaposters/2514401816/
  123. 123 http://www.flickr.com/photos/9713498@N08/2183737574/
  124. 124 http://www.flickr.com/photos/9713498@N08/2183737574/
  125. 125 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joakimjansson/2837927302/
  126. 126 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joakimjansson/2837927302/
  127. 127 http://www.flickr.com/photos/blankaposters/2513577615/
  128. 128 http://www.flickr.com/photos/blankaposters/2513577615/
  129. 129 http://www.flickr.com/photos/9713498@N08/1391584882/
  130. 130 http://www.flickr.com/photos/9713498@N08/1391584882/
  131. 131 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569689965/in/set-72157601878546708/
  132. 132 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/569689965/in/set-72157601878546708/
  133. 133 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2241231845/in/set-72157601878546708/
  134. 134 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2241231845/in/set-72157601878546708/
  135. 135 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281206189/in/set-72157601878546708/
  136. 136 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281206189/in/set-72157601878546708/
  137. 137 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2429382221/
  138. 138 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2429382221/
  139. 139 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2426824938/
  140. 140 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2426824938/
  141. 141 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/269418244/
  142. 142 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/269418244/
  143. 143 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/269418235/in/set-72157594267445832/
  144. 144 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/269418235/in/set-72157594267445832/
  145. 145 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/267876875/in/set-72157594267445832/
  146. 146 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/267876875/in/set-72157594267445832/
  147. 147 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/241535762/in/set-72157594267445832/
  148. 148 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/241535762/in/set-72157594267445832/
  149. 149 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/447820267/in/set-72157594267445832/
  150. 150 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/447820267/in/set-72157594267445832/
  151. 151 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2122123252/
  152. 152 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2122123252/
  153. 153 http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurapopdesign/3297165580/
  154. 154 http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurapopdesign/3297165580/
  155. 155 http://www.flickr.com/photos/fenasteinz/1655485527/
  156. 156 http://www.flickr.com/photos/fenasteinz/1655485527/
  157. 157 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/374596322/
  158. 158 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/374596322/
  159. 159 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/487248210/
  160. 160 http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/487248210/
  161. 161 http://www.flickr.com/photos/kdj/2844449995/
  162. 162 http://www.flickr.com/photos/kdj/2844449995/
  163. 163 http://www.flickr.com/photos/28229085@N06/3675256607/in/pool-neuetypography
  164. 164 http://www.flickr.com/photos/28229085@N06/3675256607/in/pool-neuetypography
  165. 165 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2429384433/
  166. 166 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2429384433/
  167. 167 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2426822816/
  168. 168 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2426822816/
  169. 169 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2430197758/
  170. 170 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2430197758/
  171. 171 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485241706/
  172. 172 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/485241706/
  173. 173 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2211264245/
  174. 174 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2211264245/
  175. 175 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2430223796/
  176. 176 http://www.flickr.com/photos/yearofthesheep/2430223796/
  177. 177 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2212046938/
  178. 178 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2212046938/
  179. 179 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281996744/
  180. 180 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2281996744/
  181. 181 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1334211315/
  182. 182 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1334211315/
  183. 183 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1310266079/
  184. 184 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/1310266079/
  185. 185 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2241231845/
  186. 186 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2241231845/
  187. 187 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2216724974/
  188. 188 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2216724974/
  189. 189 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2294006850/
  190. 190 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2294006850/
  191. 191 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293218681/
  192. 192 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293218681/
  193. 193 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293218979/
  194. 194 http://www.flickr.com/photos/insect54/2293218979/
  195. 195 http://ffffound.com/image/8abc8ed9cfc71f67f3e334761c9ba62449b7b61a
  196. 196 http://ffffound.com/image/8abc8ed9cfc71f67f3e334761c9ba62449b7b61a
  197. 197 http://www.subtraction.com/
  198. 198 http://www.nytimes.com/
  199. 199 http://www.vlourenco.com/
  200. 200 http://www.twitter.com/
  201. 201 http://www.designjudge.co.uk/
  202. 202 http://www.kingston.ac.uk/outthere/
  203. 203 http://www.wilsonminer.com/
  204. 204 http://www.everyblock.com/
  205. 205 http://www.apple.com/
  206. 206 http://www.djangoproject.com/
  207. 207 http://dustincurtis.com/you_should_follow_me_on_twitter.html
  208. 208 http://www.webtypography.net/
  209. 209 http://www.w3schools.com/TAGS/tag_dl.asp
  210. 210 http://www.thegridsystem.org/
  211. 211 http://www.beyondstandards.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/penguin_rules_for_the_web.html

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Diogo Terror is a web developer that is passionate about good design, whether that's in the graphic sense or in the computer science sense.

  1. 1


    July 17, 2009 12:07 pm

    Very nice!

  2. 2

    Ricardo Machado

    July 17, 2009 12:20 pm

    Cool Post….

    Specially the grids example :)

  3. 3

    Great Inspiration! Thanks SM.

  4. 4

    Inspirational typography use.
    Another great post.

  5. 5

    Awesome demonstration of Graphic Design. As always we must take of our hats to Smashing Magazine team! Thank you guys.

  6. 6

    The amount of “craft” that was involved in designing layouts pre-computer era simply baffles me…

    Great stuff…

  7. 7

    Nikolaj Sokolowski

    July 17, 2009 1:37 pm

    Well done. I simply love this style!
    Not only because, but especially because of the Showcase, this post lands in my favs.

  8. 8

    Lovely stuff – more of this kind of thing please.

  9. 9

    Bruno Henrique Stein

    July 17, 2009 3:52 pm

    Great information and inspiration.

  10. 10

    a bit cheesy – suprised no toblerone

  11. 11

    One of my favourite articles on Smashing Magazine for a while. A great and interesting introduction to a fascinating subject. More like this please!

  12. 12

    Joseph Spurling

    July 18, 2009 12:56 am

    Very insightful post. Being untrained it’s nice to learn where exactly I’ve taken my influences from.

  13. 13

    Nice work… But if you’d die tonight, where will you spend eternity?

  14. 14

    W 0 W !

  15. 15

    Supeeeer!!! Thx Smashing!!!

  16. 16

    just fantastic!!! thanks so much for this beautiful design compilation.

  17. 17

    What does “Enter Definition Lists” have to do with Swiss Design with reference to W3C recommendation? it can be found between “More than grids, structured information” and “Elementary” – odd!!

  18. 18


  19. 19

    Matthew Litherland

    July 18, 2009 6:50 am

    There’s alot of good points to this article, but there is also alot of rubbish that has no relevance. Articles like this are bad because the people who are writing them dont fully understand the subject matter. Also to publish this much content on one post is a crime in its self. Go and buy a book!

  20. 20

    I don’t know if the article is wiggin’ out on me or anything, but several of the images you posted appear more than once (like the three images in Uniformity and Geometry are linked again towards the bottom). And there were two instances where there is just a huge blank space (unless you are linking to a white picture on purpose…)

  21. 21

    i love this style, I tried something similar in my portfolio, especially in the footer …

  22. 22

    Very tasty post. Thanks.

  23. 23

    This is truly the best inspiration and showcase I have ever seen! I love looking back in time, and see that design doesn’t age. I love it.

    I have a question. Is pictograms a part of Swiss Style??

  24. 24

    bharani padmanabhan md phd

    July 18, 2009 3:14 am

    classic :-)

  25. 25

    All i can say is a big THANK YOU!!!!!!!

    Great post!!!

  26. 26

    Incredible post! Thanks Diogo. A showcase of the masters of graphic design.

  27. 27

    I’ve only been following SM for a couple of months now and I must say this front page is perhaps the best I’ve seen here

    PNG techniques, a Google Analytics guide, a run-down of HTML5, a CSS3 cheat-sheet and this awesome article that helps not only with designing websites (so you can use all the info in the articles listed above :D) but also desigining for print.


  28. 28

    Great post! – Really inspiring! – I’ve been following SM for over a year now and I agree with Jamie (24) – The last 6 posts have been some of SM’s best! Well Done! –

    Thank you for making my job so much easier!

    Although, I must say, after reading this post… my scroll-finger hurts! :(

  29. 29

    @Kenneth B: Pictograms, yes, to a certain extent. While I believe a swiss-style artist would prefer pure typography in many cases where others would use pictograms, it certainly has its use case.
    Here’s a sample of Zurich’s Airport pictograms – designed by Ruedi Rüeg http://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofsound/433351097/in/pool-airport_pictograms

    And the amazing 1972 Munich olympics pictograms, designed by Otl Aicher http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryangerald/2928488318/

    @gideon Thanks!

  30. 30

    love the quote from Antoine de Saint
    “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.”

  31. 31

    SuperB article. I love the Swiss Style and to see such a good collection it’s great. I love the simplicity and the strong typographic presence of all of this works. Good job!.

  32. 32

    Best article ever!

  33. 33

    Martin Leonhard

    July 18, 2009 11:36 am

    Nice article! Maybe one of the best sources for Swiss Design is the growing . collection of the Zurich University of the Arts – Museum of Design Zurich (Switzerland). Have fun!

  34. 34

    Wow really inspirational article, good to read up on some forgotten design principles…it’s easy to get caught up in what’s on trend without thinking about where it originated!

  35. 35

    Wow, I’m born & still live in Switzerland but I’ve never heard about this style, but the samples look familiar to me =) Great article!

  36. 36

    Just wanted to point out a typo, the subheading “Whitespace: Let The Text Breath” should actually be “Whitespace: Let The Text Breathe“.

    Great article as always, and great examples of Swiss Style!

  37. 37

    Very thorough article! Loved all the photos and illustrations – thanks for giving us so much in-depth information. Sometimes I’ve wished that SM articles were longer; I was not disappointed today. Excellent!

  38. 38

    Nice article and very well researched. Clearly shows humanity doesn’t need computers to be creative.
    Which some, especially younger ones, seem to be of opinion. If it isn´t digital and doesn´t vaporize in three years it cannot be good.

  39. 39

    This is my favourite post this year buy far. Thanks so much for this.

    I really can’t say anything more, just brilliant fun.


  40. 40

    Very impressive.

  41. 41

    Great Inspiration…thanks

  42. 42

    thx a lot, This post has been a textbook for me, what more do i say…

  43. 43

    Utterly captivating. All the things I love most about design.

  44. 44

    Oh my God! This post is sooooooo long.. Just unbelievable that editors didn’t split it to a few..

  45. 45

    Huge and useful

  46. 46

    Great article, thank you!

  47. 47

    this is a very impressive collection of images…. will take me a while to get through it all, but great article!

  48. 48

    Yameeee….and Impressive!

  49. 49

    Hopp Schwiiz!

  50. 50

    splendid article!
    cheers for that.


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