Josef Müller-Brockmann

From The Giant: The Definitive Obey Giant Site

Jump to: navigation, search

From Wikipedia:

Josef Müller-Brockmann, (May 9, 1914 – August 30, 1996), was a Swiss graphic designer and teacher. He studied architecture, design and history of art at both the University and Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich. In 1936 he opened his Zurich studio specialising in graphic design, exhibition design and photography. From 1951 he produced concert posters for the Tonhalle in Zurich. In 1958 he became a founding editor of New Graphic Design along with R.P. Lohse, C. Vivarelli, and H. Neuburg. In 1966 he was appointed European design consultant to IBM. Author of the 1961 publications The Graphic Artist and his Design Problems and Grid Systems in Graphic Design, and the 1971 publications History of the Poster and A History of Visual Communication.


Josef Müller-Brockmann

The highly modern, reductive style associated with the Swiss design ethic owes its existence in large part to Josef Muller-Brockmann, founder of the tri-lingual journal, New Graphic Design. Strongly influenced by Contructivism, Muller-Brockmann is best known for his work with posters and signage. His 1951 series of concert posters were a definitive statement of his style. Very geometric, strongly unemotional, and committed to total abstraction, these influential posters create a mathematical harmony that reflects the harmony of music. There is an utopian undercurrent to Constructivist art that rejects the past and looks forward to a world of understanding, unity, and peace. In Muller-Brockmann, this undercurrent manifests itself in his advocacy of socially responsible design and in his public health and safety posters. One poster he designed for the Swiss Automobile Club depicts a child dodging the tilted front wheel of a motorcycle. The text reads: "Protect that child."

Muller-Brockmann studied architecture, design, and art history in Zurich. He opened his own studio and, more than 30 years later, founded New Graphic Design, which was responsible for spreading the Swiss design ethic internationally. He also authored the books History of Visual Communications and History of the Poster.


1914 Born on May 9 in Rapperswil, Switzerland. Childhood in Rapperswil, Schmerikon and Uznach.

1930 Completed secondary school in Rapperswil. Started appreticeship as a graphic designer in Zurich.

1932 Broke off apprenticeship and audited courses by Ernst Keller and Alfred Willimann at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts.

1934 Work as a freelance designer and illustrator in Zurich.

1937 Member of the Swiss Werkbund.

1938 Designed the pavilion of honor for the Swiss universities and the "Physics and Medicine" and "History of Swiss Art" sections for the 1939 National Fair.

1939-45 Active service as a lieutenant in the Swiss army.

1943 Married violinist Verena Brockmann. Assumed the name Josef Muller-Brockmann.

1944 Birth of son Andreas.

1945 After the war continued to work as a designer, concentrating on exhibition design and illustration. Worked as a set designer for various theatres in Switzerland and abroad.

1950 Gradual move away from illustration to objective-constructive design. First typographical posters for the Tonhalle. Friendship with Samuel Hirschi, secretary of the Tonhalle, led to years of collaborative work (until 1972).

1951 Member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale.

1952-53 Left the theatre to concentrate on graphic design. Expanded his studio. First poster successes with "Watch that Child!" for the Swiss Automobile Club and poster series for the Zurich Tonhalle.

1956 Spoke at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. Traveled to Mexico, spent some time in New York.

1957 Appointed graphic design teacher at the Zurich School of Arts and Krafts. Successor to Ernst Keller.

1958 Founded the magazine New Graphic Design with Richard Paul Lohse, Hans Neuburg, and Carlo Vivarelli (18 issues appeared through 1965, published by Verlag Otto Walter, Olten).

1960 Left the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts. Spoke at the World Design Conference in Tokyo.

1961 Published: The Graphic Artist and his Design Problems. Visiting lecturer at design schools in Tokyo and Osaka. Returned to Europe by sea.

1962 Advisor and designer for Rosenthal-Porzellanwerke, Selb, Germany, and consultant and designer for Max Weishaupt GmbH, Schwendi, Germany.

1963 Visiting lecturer at the Institute of Design in Ulm.

1964 Verena Brockmann killed in an accident. Several pieces of new music commissioned in her honor. Designed the "Education, Science and Research" section for the 1964 Swiss National Fair.

1965 Founded "Galerie 58" in Rapperswil with Eugen and Kurt Federer. Renamed "galerie seestrasse" in 1974 and run by Brockmann alone until 1990.

1967 Appointed consultant to IBM Europe (until 1988). Founded the Muller-Brockmann & Co advertising agency with three other partners. Advertising and design work for industrial, commercial and cultural clients. Married artist Shizuko Yoshikawa.

1971 Published two books Geschichte der visuellen Kommunikation (A History of Visual Communication). Geschichte des Plakats (A History of the Poster), co-author Shizuko Yoshikawa.

1974 Produced a sculpture for the Interkantonales Technikum in Rapperswil.

1976 The partners in Muller-Brockmann & Co. split up. MB continues with the agency until 1984. Consultancy and design work for clients include Olivetti, Swiss Railways, Transatlantik magazine, Swiss Institute for Art Research, and Kunsthaus Zurich.

1978-83 Jury member for the German "Gute Form" prize, Darmstadt.

1981 Published Grid Systems in Graphic Design.

1985 Worked on the exhibition "Sprache der Geometrie heute - Suprematismus, De Stijl und Umkreis" (The Language of Geometry Today - Suprematism, De Stijl and their Circles) in the Kunstmuseum, Bern.

1985 Won the Brunel Award.

1986-93 Touring exhibition of posters in North, Central, and South America.

1987 Awarded the Gold Medal of the Canton of Zurich. Won the Brunel Award.

1988 Nominated "Honourable Royal Designer for Industry" by the Royal Academy of Art, London.

1989 Published Fotoplakate - Von den Anfangen bis zur Gegenwart (Photographic Posters - From their Origins to the Present Day), co-author Karl Wobmann.

1990 Awarded the Middleton Award of the American Center for Design, Chicago.

1990-91 Lecture tour of the USA and Colombia.

1993 Death of son Andreas.

1993 SBB (Swiss Railways) project awarded the Swiss Design Prize. Traveled to Japan and Israel.

1994 Touring poster exhibition in eastern Germany, including work by Shizuko Yoshikawa. Euro-Design Award, Ostend, Belgium. Won the Brunel Award.

1995 Trip to Beijing via Kashgar, following the ancient silk route. Paper presented at the International Graphic Design Conference, Cancun, Mexico. Second journey through Mexico, visiting ancient sites.

1996 STD-lecture at the Royal Institute for British Architecture, London. Honorary Member of the Brno Biennale. Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Graphic Design, Moscow.

1996 Died in Zurich, August 30.

Müller-Brockmann's 1960 work "Weniger Larm" served as the model for Shepard Fairey's 2006 print Obey With Caution 2006.

Müller-Brockmann's 1960 work "Weniger Larm"

© Copyright

This page contains an image or images of drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, or other two-dimensional works of art, for which the copyright is presumably owned by either the artist who produced the image, the person who commissioned the work, or the heirs thereof. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of works of art for critical commentary on the work in question, the artistic genre or technique of the work of art, or the school to which the artist belongs on the English-language website, hosted on servers in the United States, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.