The International Typographic Style, or Swiss Style, is a design movement that was established in the 1950s in reaction to the propaganda of the second world war. This style rejected personal expression in favour of creating design that was universal, neutral and objective. The International Typographic Style is identified by its significant use of text, specifically sans serif, the use of a grid structure and its prioritization of clarity and simplicity. However there are variations in this style depending on location. Specifically, the International Style was developed in Zurich, which had a more direct and formal approach, and Basel. In Basel designers were more liberal around the rules of the International Typographic Style, using expressive photography and vertical text. This poster for the ballet performance of Giselle was created by Armin Hofmann, who taught typography at the Basel School of Design, and is a strong example of the International Style that came out Basel:
As a whole, the International Typographic Style was a very successful movement and its influence is still found today. For example, this tour poster for Mitski’s Be The Cowboy spring tour clearly references the International Typographic Style as it developed in Basel.
Typical to the International Style, this poster uses solely sans serif type and follows a clear grid structure. Similar to Hofmann’s work, text stands out using white on a black background and is flush to the border of the poster. There is also the incorporation of photography typical to the International Style in Basel. Here, Mitski is just as expressive as the the abstract dancer in Giselle.
The purpose of Mitski’s tour poster is quite similar to the original function of the International Typographic style. The International Style was originally used to advertise artistic and cultural events such as the ballet, just as this poster advertises Mitski’s concert tour. This style was most likely also selected because of its associations with universality, which is good for a poster that is used to advertise shows in many different countries. The use of the International Style is also well selected for a tour poster because of its clarity in presenting a large quantity of information. Overall, the similarities in style and purpose shown between these two posters shows the timelessness and functionality of the International Typographic Style.
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“Swiss School.” The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Design Since 1900, Guy Julier, Thames & Hudson, 2nd edition, 2004. Credo Reference, http://ocadu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/thdesign/swiss_school/0?institutionId=4079. Accessed 05 April 2019.