Graphic Design History

De Stijl

1917, Netherlands: A design movement with a distinct visual style. It embraced balance, simplicity and harmony by abstraction and reduction of elements down to its essential components. E.g. pure geometric straight lines and rectangular shapes, primary colors and primary values. All items are stripped from any objective reference but to itself. Painting, sculpture, architecture, industrial design, music, literature and graphic design are the main areas for De Stijls influence.


  • Impersonal
  • Unemotional
  • Collective
  • Continually refined
  • Movement
  • Reactionary
  • Reductional
  • Political
  • Utopian

Best known contributors:

  • Theo van Doesburg
  • Piet Mondrain


“Card Players”

“Card Players” by Doesburg
The abstraction and reduction is evident. Organic forms, curves, grades, depth are removed. Humans and objects is reduced to simple components.


1919, Germany: A school of art. Probably the most influential force on modern art, furniture, industrial design, architecture and visual communication. It distinguished itself by being more commercially biased with its tolerance for mass production and to merge art, craft and technology. Bauhaus focused on simplicity and that the characteristics of a design was rooted in the object itself. The design product was not fit into a particular style, but vice versa. Bauhaus did not chase any particular style. The item itself, or its purpose, would decide the outcome of its look and feel.


  • Subjective  and individual
  • Style driving
  • Reinventing constantly
  • School
  • Apolitical
  • Function determined design

Best known contributors:

  • Herbert Bayer
  • Walter Gropius
  • Laszlo Moholy-Nagy




Herbert Bayer
This poster shows a few of the ideas Bauhaus developed. Illustrations were replaced by photographs, typography were asymmetric and non traditional. The design is based on the product itself.

Swiss Movement

1940, Switzerland: Also called the International Typographic Style or International Style and rejected the academically correct and traditional ways of typography. Instead of highly decorative fonts, or layout elements, the movement cultivated a sans-serif style that emphasized legibility, readability and a convincing way to break the typographic rules. It also emphasized the use of grids as a framework for compositions, a clean composition and free for decorations.


  • Readability and legibility
  • Grid and white-space
  • Typography and geometric objects
  • Spacious and asymmetrical
  • Continually refined

Best known contributors:

  • Max Bill
  • Armin Hofmann
  • Richard Paul Lohse
  • Josef Müller-Brockmann
  • Emil Ruder


graphic design, international typography, logo, poster, swiss design, basel school

Armin Hoffman:
Layout grid, nontraditional placement of typography. The text is now a crucial part of the composition and not purely information.


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