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The new graphic art, 1959
Detail from the slipcase for die neue Graphik (Schwitter AG/Hastings House, 1959) edited by Karl Gerstner and Markus Kutter
May 21, 2013

The new graphic art, 1959

Another of the books recently donated by Ivan Chermayeff was the beautiful slipcased hardcover The new graphic art, a trilingual history detailing the foundations for mid-century Swiss design, compiled by Karl Gerstner and Markus Kutter in 1959 (with translations by Dennis Quibell Stephenson and Paule Meyer). The subtitle holds that it surveys “its origins, its evolution, its peculiarities, its tasks, its problems, its manifestations, and its future prospects.” It’s a big claim but the contents of the book nimbly take on that challenge, essaying such diverse topics as vernacular styles, pure typography, and industrial aesthetics, as well as looking at specific forms like the book cover and catalogue. In the final section they make predictions for the future through the lens of several significant organizations and corporations of the time — including Geigy (the Basel pharmaceuticals firm now incorporated into Novartis), Knoll (the eminent New York furniture producer), Ulm University, and Feller AG (a Swiss electrical fixtures manufacturer).

The three-column layout is maintained throughout, but its basic geometry has a confident airiness in its setting and, building on that, it manages to be appealingly pliant. The book’s design echoes that of the magazine Neue grafik and, presumably not coincidentally, the examples chosen by Gerstner/Kutter include a lot of work by that publication’s founders: Richard Paul Lohse, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Hans Neuburg, and Carlo Vivarelli. Click any of the images below for larger versions, via Flickr.

Yellow slipcase; text reads "die neue Graphik, the new graphic art, le nouvel art graphique" above columns of text


Book cover; header text is in white, black and red against dark brown


Book spread; blank except for title text on right page


Book spread: table of contents


Book spread: table of contents closeup


Book spread: left side contains text and a small photograph of a bus stop, right side contains a blurred photo of a street scene


Book spread: both sides contain text and photos of car parts


Book spread: left side is a photo of something with a geometric star shape; right side contains blue and red graphics of the letter R in a grid arrangement


Book spread: both sides contain black and white ads; one with a row of microphones


Book spread: left side contains a black and white infinity symbol, right side black and white geometric shapes


Book spread: left side contains black and white shoes in a grid, right side contains color photo of a woman wearing high heeled shoes against a wall of colorful blocks


Book spread: Both sides contain red, white and black graphics of schematics and tables


Book spread:both sides contain black and white ads


Book spread: both sides contain columns of text


Book spread:both sides contain photos of wall outlets


Book spread: both sides contain columns of text


I especially dig the index formatting, which is spanned across the center of each of the columns and is both more readable and more logical than a traditional hanging list.