Graphic design is an industry that has been growing and changing for centuries at the hand of countless designers. To celebrate this rich and exciting history, here is a list of famous designers that have done their part in shaping graphic design in some way.
From those who specialize in typography or magazine design, through to album covers and political posters, each of these people have made their mark on the industry and shaped it in some way through hard work and some great designs. These are the designers who have changed the way graphic design is seen in the contemporary world. They are the mavericks, the thinkers, and those who have made a difference to design.
01. David CARSON: Break the Rules
Appropriately dubbed ‘the Godfather of Grunge’, David Carson revolutionized the design industry by taking a unique, rule-breaking attitude toward design. His strikingly shredded, warped, and sometimes illegible layout designs remain to be a constant source of radical inspiration for designers around the globe.
As art director of music and lifestyle magazine Ray Gun, David Carson became the most influential graphic designer of the 1990s. His unconventional grunge typography style was a new era in design.
An example of his genius? Setting what he thought was a dull interview with Bryan Ferry entirely in the Dingbat symbol font.
The first edition of his End of Print monograph, first published in 2000, sold 35,000 copies – and many many more since. It’s essential reading for any graphic designer – new or established.
“What matters is that you have an intuitive design sense, listen to it and explore your uniqueness through your work. Create rules that work for you and the type of work you’re doing. I never learned all the things in school I wasn’t supposed to do, so I just did, and still do, what makes sense to me.” – David Carson
02. Saul BASS: Design the Iconic
A household name in the world of design, Saul Bass is a legend whose work you’ve likely encountered before. Bass made his mark on the design world with his work in the 1950s designing iconic movie posters and motion picture title sequences for films such as Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm, and North by Northwest.
Bass was also an accomplished logo designer, having designed a plethora of timeless brand marks that have an average lifespan of about 35 years. Much of his work is still in effect to this day – just check out the Kleenex, Girl Scout or AT&T logos.
It sounds like hyperbole, but Bass was probably the most important graphic designer of the 20th century. His work transcended graphic design, poster design, film titles, logos and more – with perhaps his most iconic work being opening sequences for Hitchcock.
In fact, his opening credit work spanned five decades – right up to his death in 1996. Some of his last work was for Martin Scorcese on Goodfellas and Casino.
As a logo designer Bass was also prolific, designing the marks for AT&T, Kleenex, United Airlines, Minolta and many, many more.
“I had an idea of what I wanted for the [Goodfellas] titles, but couldn’t quite get it. Someone suggested Saul, and my reaction was: ‘Do we dare?’ After all, this was the man who designed the title sequences for Vertigo, Psycho, Anatomy of a Murder… and so many other pictures that defined movies and moviegoing for me”. – In a 2011 article for the Telegraph, Scorcese.
03. Stefan SAGMEISTER: Blend Inspiring Qualities
Stefan Sagmeister is an accomplished contemporary designer with an impressive client list, ranging from The Rolling Stones and HBO to the Guggenheim. Sagmeister’s work often blends humor, sexuality, the unorthodox, and painstaking detail to create jarringly modern designs that continue to inspire and shake the design community.
Born in Austria, New York-based graphic designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister enjoyed a career resurgence in 2012 when he made Jessica Walsh (number 22 in our list) a partner at his studio, now named Sagmeister & Walsh.
Just as he had done when he launched his own studio, Sagmeister announced the partnership with a naked photoshoot. It did the PR job.
But there’s more to Sagmeister than nudity. His often conceptual, thought-provoking work has turned just as many heads as his PR stunts: particularly his ‘cutting’ work for AIGA and his incredible album artwork for Lou Reed.
04. Paula SCHER: Treat Type as a Visual Image
Paula Scher was the first woman to sit in a principal position at the acclaimed graphic design firm Pentagram, and for good reason. Her impressive body of design shaped the perception and application of graphic design in many ways, particularly her technique of treating type as a visual image in her work for the New York City’s Public Theater which continues to have a lasting impression on modern design.
Partner at Pentagram and almost certainly the most influential female graphic designer alive today.
Paula Scher’s branding and identity work for the likes of MOMA, New York City Ballet, Microsoft and NYC Transit are some of the finest examples of the genre you’ll ever see. Her typographic maps are also sublime.
“When I worked at CBS, from the mid-1970s to near the end when the money ran out, that was a pretty wonderful time for designing because I could make discoveries in a free way – largely because I had a lot of work to do and so much of what I did was terrible.
…To get good, you have to get really bad. You have to make some terrible, horrible mistakes.” – interview with Scher in 2009
05. Michael BIERUT: Make Complex Content Accessible
Michael Bierut is often credited with “democratizing design”, thanks to his unique and ubiquitous approach to graphic design. Bierut paved the way for ‘accessible’ design whereby complex content was made more easy and enticing to read and consume through a sharp, direct design.
There aren’t many design agencies that are more respected than Pentagram – and becoming a partner is one of the ultimate design accolades. Designer and educator Bierut has been a partner for 27 years now and has won hundreds of design awards (he’s also got permanent work in MoMA). Before Pentagram, Bierut worked for 10 years at Vignelli Associates.
The designer’s projects at Pentagram include identity and branding for Benetton, the New York Jets, Walt Disney and design work on Billboard magazine. This is of course, just a small slice of his sprawling portfolio. Bierut is also a senior critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art. Check out his Monograph – How To – published in 2015.
“The best are people who are bright and articulate, and have great work in their portfolio. I could sit with them all day… The second best have great work but can’t talk about it intelligently. That takes work, but still it’s worth the effort… I like people who, in talking about their work, scratch below the surface. Don’t talk about typefaces and Photoshop effects; talk about the subject matter, and how that interested and inspired you.” – he said in 2013.
06. Massimo VIGNELLI: Convey Ideas
Massimo Vignelli is considered by many as one of the most influential designers of the past century. A self proclaimed ‘information architect’, Vignelli endeavoured to condense large, busy ideas into more digestible, understandable formats through design. This is highly evident in his 1972 redesign of the New York City Subway Map whereby he chose an experimental, abstracted design that was heavily debated but later proved incredibly effective.
Massimo Vignelli died in 2014, taking with him a legacy of some of the most iconic design work of the past 50 years.
Counting IBM, Ford, Bloomingdale’s (his ‘Brown Bag’ designs are still in use today), Saks, American Airlines and many more as clients, and counting Micheal Bierut among his protégés, Vignelli’s legacy lives on. It lives on perhaps most prominently in the subway map and signage he designed for New York City in 1972.
At the time of his death in 2014, web designer Justin Reynolds wrote and in-depth guide for us on what we can all learn from Vignelli’s design principles.
In it, Reynolds wrote: “He was celebrated for his teaching as well as his work… Which means Vignelli’s legacy is of fundamental importance to all designers.
“The web emerged too late in his career to allow him to make a direct contribution to the medium, but the design principles that guided his work have had a profound impact upon the processes and aesthetics of both traditional and digital design.” – anonymous.
07. Milton GLASER: Bridge the Gap Between Seeing and Understanding
Creator of the iconic I ♥ NY branding, logos for Target and JetBlue, the opening title sequence to Mad Men, and poster designs for musician Bob Dylan, Milton Glaser has transformed what it means to create a powerful, timeless design. “You want to move the viewer in a perception so that when they first look at the design,” Glaser explains, “They get the idea, because that act between seeing and understanding is critical.”
Milton Glaser is one of the world’s most celebrated graphic designers. His most famous work is undoubtedly the logo he designed for New York to promote tourism in the city in 1977.
Much used, adapted and adored, the I ❤ NY logo is set in American Typewriter, a rounded slab serif.
But Glaser is much more than the one logo. His work for Bob Dylan, DC Comics and The Brooklyn Brewery are just some of the logo masterpieces that cement him as one of the most prominent designers in history.
He’s also the man behind the geometric Glaser Stencil font and the subject of a 2008 documentary film Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight.
“The most important thing in design, it seems to me, is the consequence of your action, and whether you’re interested, fundamentally, in persuading people to do things that are in their interests.” – Milton Glaser, in an exclusive interview in 2009.
08. Paul RAND: Merge Copy With Design
Paul Rand is a big name in the design world, credited with visually transforming America post WWII by developing radical new methods of approaching advertising, logo creation and design. One of Rand’s greatest legacies in his design career was his removal of copywriting from the principal position in design, instead placing it on the same tier as design, suggesting that by simplifying the amount of type, and instead letting form and function interact, rather than one overpowering the other, the design would work better.
Born in 1914, Paul Rand was an American art director and graphic designer. He was undoubtedly best known for his logo work, including that for one of America’s biggest companies, IBM. Rand’s first IBM logo was revealed in 1956 as part of the company’s new focus on the importance of design. Using a big, slab serif face, its statement was bold and confident.
Later on in 1972 Rand refined the logo, breaking it into eight horizontal stripes (reminiscent of the scan lines on the cathode ray tube monitors of the day) and introducing the distinctive IBM blue.
Interesting fact: Rand was actually born Paul Rosenbaum but when he established himself as a designer he shortened his name to Paul Rand – four letters for name and surname. His name became a symbol in its own right.
Rand who was passed away in 1996 also designed the logo for Steve Jobs’ post Apple venture, NeXT.
“I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’” – Steve Jobs.
09. Alan FLETCHER: Be Expressive With Typography
Dubbed the British ‘father’ of graphic design, amongst producing inspiring designs himself, Alan Fletcher changed the way design was thought of. His expressive typography, bold colors and strong visual language helped pave the way for graphic design to be thought of as a key and crucial element to businesses, not just an optional decorative extra.
Alan Fletcher was one of the founding partners of Pentagram, and one of the most highly regarded graphic designers of his generation (and in fact, any generation). His work spans decades, but he was perhaps most prolific and recognized in his Pentagram years.
Fletcher’s logo for London’s V&A museum is testament to the timeless appeal of his work – designed in 1989, it’s still going strong. The relatively fragile Bodoni-style serifs work brilliantly with negative space to create a high-contrast, confident logotype.
Fletcher passed away in 2006, but check out the Alan Fletcher archive for a comprehensive journey through his career.
10. Chip KIDD: Master Visual Language
Chip Kidd is a contemporary designer specialising in book jacket designs whose work has been described by NPR as having “spawned a revolution in the art of American book packaging”. Chip Kidd’s unique approach to book cover design consists of working to embody the book’s narrative in a visual way, through visual language. It’s this radical way of thinking about design that sets him apart from the rest, and keeps his designs memorable, timeless and a credit to the design community.
Jurassic Park is one of his most notable book covers, and in his 2005 monograph he explained the thinking behind it: “When trying to recreate one of these creatures, all anyone has to go on is bones, right? So that was the starting point…
“Not only was the drawing integrated into the movie poster, it became the logo in the film for the park itself. I think it’s safe to say that the Jurassic Park T-Rex became one of the most recognisable logos of the 1990s.” – anonymous.
11. Herb LUBALIN: Have Some Pun
Herb Lubalin is one of the biggest names in typographical design, or as he calls it ‘typographics’. Lubalin’s typographics were said to have transformed and enhanced written messages in ways that copywriting simply couldn’t, and his firm grasp on visual language, puns, and simplicity are what helped his designs leave their mark on the design industry.
Advertising director, graphic designer and typographer Herb Lubalin was perhaps most recognised for his work on magazines published by Ralph Ginzburg. Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde – all of which gave Lubalin unprecedented room for typographic experimentation.
He also gained acclaim for designing the typeface ITC Avant Garde, based on the logo font from the magazine of the same name. Lubalin passed away in 1981, having won the 1980 AIGA Medal.
“Herb Lubalin’s unique contribution to our times goes well beyond design in much the same way that his typographic innovations go beyond the 26 letters, ten numerals and the handful of punctuation marks that comprise our visual, literal vocabulary. Lubalin’s imagination, sight and insight have erased boundaries and pushed back frontiers.”
“Typography is the key. It is where you start with Lubalin and what you eventually come back to. However, ‘typography’ is not a word Lubalin thought should be applied to his work. ‘What I do is not really typography, which I think of as an essentially mechanical means of putting characters down on a page. It’s designing with letters. Aaron Burns called it, typographics, and since you’ve got to put a name on things to make them memorable, typographics is as good a name for what I do as any.’” – AIGA.
12. Erik NITSCHE: Communicate Powerful Ideas
Over his 60 year career, designer Erik Nitsche has made a large impact on the world of design. Having dabbled in just about every facet of the design industry and branding it with his own personal modernist flair, Nitsche’s work has not only remained a source of inspiration but it has also set the trend for design being a powerful tool in communicating ideas in an industrial sense as well as commercial one.
Erik Spiekermann has enjoyed a distinguished career in both graphic design and typography, but he’s best known for designing some of the most successful fonts of the last century.
FF Meta is possibly one of the most prominent, originally having being designed for the German Post Office.
So what makes a good typeface in Spiekermann’s expert eyes? “The alphabet hasn’t changed,” he smiles. “If it deviates too far then it will be disturbing. A shoe is a shoe. A triangular shoe is not going to work.
“But it has to have that little element in there that most people won’t even notice – something a little different. It has a different take; it may feel warmer or colder or squarer or whatever.”
13. Neville BRODY: Design With A Punchy, Unique Edge
Neville Brody revolutionized magazine, advertisement, album cover and packaging design in the 1980s by taking the ‘rules’ and breaking them. Inspired by the punk movement and unperturbed by the limitations of the commercial market, Brody experimented and played with design, which gave his work a punchy, unique edge that would go on to influence much of modern day design.
English designer, typographer and art director Neville Brody shot to fame with his incredible art direction of cult UK magazine The Face between 1981 and 1986. He’s also well known for art directing Arena magazine (1987-1990) and designing record covers for artists such as Cabaret Voltaire and Depeche Mode.
Brody also founded Research Studios and redesigned The Times in November 2006 (with the creation of a new font, Times Modern) and the BBC’s website in September 2011.
“The mistake people have made is to assume that the computer is just a tool. It’s not just a labour saving device like a food mixer or washing machine. The computer is a new medium like television or cinema. Or books.” – Neville Brody in 1995.
“You can’t even think about that. You don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey! I’m a design icon! What shall I do today?’ You’re finished if you do that! Imagine!” – from an interview with Neville Brody.
14. Peter SAVILLE: Be Bold And Expressive
Peter Saville is nothing short of an iconic record and album cover designer. His work included Joy Division’s iconic Unknown Pleasures cover, as well as work with New Order, Roxy Music, and many other high profile names in music. In short, Saville’s bold, expressive style helped establish a new standard by which album covers were to be judged.
Peter Saville is best known for his record sleeve designs for Factory Records artists – think Joy Division and New Order (Unknown Pleasures, Transmission, Blue Monday and more). But his sleeve work spans five decades. Saville is one of the most prolific record designers of all time, if not the most prolific.
But the Manchester-born designer’s work doesn’t stop at sleeve design. In 2004 he became creative director of the City of Manchester; he has worked with fashion’s elite including Jil Sander and Stella McCartney; and in 2010 he designed the England football home kit.
“The red and white thing has been entirely marginalised by one kind of person. It’s synonymous with an attitude that is naive, xenophobic, bullying and self-marginalising. I thought, that’s not reflective of the team, or football, or of the nation at all.”
“But it turns out the market for those shirts are those bloody-minded xenophobic individuals with the shaved heads. When it came out, they did not like it. They did not like it at all.” – Peter Saville in 2013.
15. Rob JANOFF
Why do you need to know about Rob Janoff? Simple: he designed the Apple logo. Janoff masterminded possibly the most famous mark in the world today while at ad agency Regis McKenna back in 1977. And although it’s been tweaked, the basic form has remained the same ever since – a testament to its simplicity and longevity (and it was created in only two weeks).
Back in 2013, Janoff told us that the idea of an apple with a bite taken out of it was “really a no-brainer”. He continued:
“If you have a computer named after a piece of fruit, maybe the image should look like the fruit? So I sat for a couple of weeks and drew silhouettes of apples.”
“Bite is also a computer term. Wow, that was a happy accident. At that point I thought ‘this is going to have a wink and a nod with it, and give it personality’.”
And as for the now forgotten coloured stripes? “The big deal about the Apple II was that it was the only computer that reproduced colour images on the monitor, and it was the only computer that you could plug into your home colour TV.”
“Also, a lot of it had to do with the aesthetic origins of both Steve Jobs and I, which was a kind of hippy aesthetic and The Beatles and Yellow Submarine.”
16. Carolyn DAVIDSON
Graphic designer Carolyn Davidson designed the logo as a student at Portland State University in 1971 – and was paid $35 for it by Nike founder Phil Knight (Knight met Davidson in an accounting class he was teaching).
The tick-like logo was seen as a symbol of positivity, but it’s actually the outline of the wing of the Greek goddess of victory whom the brand was named after. In 2011, Davidson told OreganLive.com that “it was a challenge to come up with a logo that conveyed motion” and that Philip Knight was very impressed with the stripes of rival company Adidas – it was increasingly hard to come up with something original.
As Nike grew in the 1980s, Philip Knight gave Davidson an undisclosed amount of Nike stock (making up for the tiny fee for the logo, we’re sure).
17. Lindon LEADER
Leader by name, leader by nature, Lindon Leader is responsible for one of the cleverest logos out there, utilising negative space in a way never done before (at least for a huge global company). In 1994, Leader was senior design director at Landor Associates when the FedEx logo was designed. It was subsequently applied to 600 aircraft and 30,000 ground vehicles. Now there’s a portfolio piece.
Leader told us, in an interview in 2013, that Landor did around 200 designs for the logo before settling on a shortlist of 10 to show to the FedEx brand manager. And the use of white? Particularly that hidden arrow between the E and the X? “I cannot tell you how many times I fight with a client who says ‘I’m paying an enormous amount of money to pay for an ad in a magazine and you’re telling me you want 60 per cent of it to be empty space?’” he smiles.
“On the one hand I can understand where they’re coming from, but basically the average client does not have a sophisticated enough appreciation of whitespace to understand that it can be a strategic marketing tool.”
As well as FedEx, Leader worked on many high-profile branding projects while at Landor, quoting his favourites as Hawaiian Airlines, Cigna Insurance and Banco Baresco. But Leader understands just what the FedEx logo means:
“While I think I’m blessed and privileged to have said I designed the FedEx logo, sometimes I think I’m going to go to my grave and that’s the only thing people are going to remember me for.” – Lindon Leader.
18. Max MIEDINGER
Neue Haas Grotesk. Designed in 1957. Familiar? No? Well if not, this is the typeface that was renamed Helvetica in 1960. And Max Miedinger was the man behind the now-omnipresent typeface. As neutral as it is legible, Helvetica’s ubiquity has no doubt made it the love/hate typeface of today.
Meidinger learnt his trade in the 1930s, and after the Second World War he worked at Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. The story behind Helvetica goes as such: the foundry needed a typeface to rival Akzidenz-Grotesk by H Berthold. It took Meidinger months to draft the new typeface before presenting it to the company’s director Eduard Hoffmann.
Neue Haas Grotesk was soon changed to Helvitia (to denote the typeface’s Swiss origins) before another tweak made it Helvetica.
It’s been used everywhere – from the American Airlines logo to BMW to, well, hundreds of big brands. And even today it’s the choice of designers wanting a clean, legible typeface that’s an expression of modernist perfection.
But Helvetica isn’t for everyone – after all, familiarity breeds contempt. If Helvetica is a bit too familiar for you, check out our list of alternatives to Helvetica.
19. Hermann ZAPF: Change the Game
Hermann Zapf changed typography in a lot of ways. Primarily, he was the creator of the popular typefaces Zapf Dingbats, Palatino, and Optima amongst many others. He also pioneered computerized typography being a big advocate for the move from press printed designs to computerized ones. And to top off the already impressive list of accolades, he also invented a typesetting program that would later go on to inform a lot of modern day software developments.
In the late 1970s, he created more than a thousand simple symbols, a subset of which were selected for the font Zapf Dingbats. (Dingbats are a type of font in which symbols are represented by letters and numbers.) Zapf Dingbats became famous when it was selected for inclusion in several early computers, including Apple’s LaserWriter Plus.
20. Lester BEALL: Be A Problem Solver
Lester Beall left his mark on the design community both through his own inspirational, avant-garde designs, as well as his revolutionary attitude toward design. Beall brought forth the idea to American businesses that graphic designers should be seen and treated as creative problem solvers who should be more heavily involved in the marketing side of business. Beall’s attitude toward design as well as his own powerful designs are what keep his work timeless and a standard by which current designers can measure their own work by.
His clear and concise use of typography was highly praised both in the United States and abroad. Throughout his career he used bold primary colors and illustrative arrows and lines in a graphic style that became easily recognizable as his own. He eventually moved to rural New York and set up an office, and home, at a premises that he and his family called “Dumbarton Farm”. He remained at the farm until his death in 1969.
21. Claude GARAMOND: Invent the Wheel
Born circa 1505, Claude Garamond shaped design right from its inception by becoming the first person to ever specialize in type design as a profession. During his career, Garamond produced a series of iconic typefaces, many of which are still in use, such as Garamond, Granjon, and Sabon to name a few. Garamond’s work not only paved a path for type design, but it set the wheels in motion for what would become the evolution of the graphic design industry.
22. Jan TSCHICHOLD: Strive for New Techniques
Jan Tschichold’s career is prolific and left a great imprint on design. Tschichold authored the widely credited book Die Neue Typographie in which he established new typographical standards, pushed for the standardization of paper sizes and formed guidelines for typographical hierarchy – many of which are still referred to to this day.
Tschichold was also the designer behind the iconic orange Penguin Books cover design during his work with the company, where he oversaw over 500 books go to print. Tschichold’s constant striving for new techniques and practices are what keep his name in the spotlight as a heavily influential graphic design icon.
23. William GOLDEN: Lead and Pioneer
Described by AIGA as “(a member of) a distinguished group of pioneers in the post-World War II era who gave shape to the emerging field of graphic design,” William Golden is an accomplished designer who changed the industry both stylistically through his bold, punchy work at CBS. He also pushed for the recognition that an artist and a designer were to be thought of as two different things, thus helping shape the graphic design industry in a more defined way.
24. Jacqueline CASEY: Pair Strong Meaning With Your Designs
Jacqueline Casey was a graphic designer known for her heavily influential Swiss-inspired posters. It was her work that helped to introduce the America and the MIT community of which she was a part of to the emerging European Swiss typography and design, which would later go on to shape much of contemporary design. Casey’s work is still considered a paragon of what can happen when you pair a clean, strong design with a powerful and impactual meaning.
25. Cipe PINELES: Break Free From Limitations
Cipe Pineles’ design career extended over a lot of high profile magazines, from Vogue and Vanity Fair to Glamour, Seventeen, and Charm. Her career was also full of a lot of firsts; She was the first female designer to become a member of the Art Directors Club in New York, the first autonomous female art director for a magazine.
She was also the first designer to hire fine artists to illustrate mass market publications which began a long standing trend within magazine design that would go on to shape the magazine design industry.
26. Susan KARE: Bring Your Designs to Technology
Susan Kare is a contemporary designer who left a large mark on design when she developed a series of interface element designs for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980’s at Apple and Steve Jobs’ NeXT. Some of her work you may be familiar with is the Monaco typeface, Geneva typeface, the Command key symbol on Apple keyboards, as well as icons like the trash can, the paint bucket tool, the lasso tool, the floppy disk save icon etc. Many of these examples of Kare’s work are still in use in some capacity, and a majority have influenced much of current interface design.
27. Abram GAMES: Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means
Abram Games was an official WWII artist who is well recognized for his 100s of punchy, politically-driven poster designs. Games’ work set a trend for designers everywhere by exemplifying his own personal motto of “maximum meaning, minimum means”, meaning that while the message and communication should be strong, the design should stay simple, clean, and direct.
“I wind the spring and the public, in looking at the poster, will have that spring released in its mind.” – Abram Games.
28. Armin HOFMAN: Blend Minimalism with Context and Meaning
Hailed as a legend of Swiss design, Armin Hofmann was a designer who inspired designers past and present with his powerful, clean, designs and his consistent encouragement of designing with context and meaning. Hofmann’s work typifies Swiss design and design with purpose making his work a paragon of effective, timeless and thoughtful design.
He taught for several years at the Basel School of Design and he was not there long before he replaced Emil Ruder as the head of the school. The Swiss International Style, and Hofmann, thought that one of the most efficient forms of communications was the poster and Hofmann spent much of his career designing posters, in particularly for the Basel Stadt Theater. Just as Emil Ruder and Joseph Müller-Brockmann did, Hofmann wrote a book outlining his philosophies and practices. His Graphic Design Manual was, and still is, a reference book for all graphic designers.
29. Josef MULLER-BROCKMANN: Go with the Grids
Arguably one of the most well known Swiss designers, Josef Muller-Brockmann’s body of work captures the ins and outs of Swiss design, from the geometric shapes, clean sans-serifs and the vibrant colors. Though, one of Muller-Brockmann’s greatest legacies is his role in the development and use of the grid system in graphic design, a tool which is still widely credited and used daily by designers.
As with most graphic designers that can be classified as part of the Swiss International Style, Joseph Müller-Brockmann was influenced by the ideas of several different design and art movements including Constructivism, De Stijl, Suprematism and the Bauhaus. He is perhaps the most well-known Swiss designer and his name is probably the most easily recognized when talking about the period. He was born and raised in Switzerland and by the age of 43 he became a teacher at the Zurich school of arts and crafts.
30. Seymour CHWAST: Combine Your Design Disciplines
Seymour Chwast is often credited as the designer who shaped contemporary design and illustration, thanks to his expressive and iconic style that worked to blend the two disciplines in radical, playful ways that directly counteracted the clean, minimalist nature of Swiss design.
Chwast helped develop a new, unique way of approaching design, as AIGA notes, that approach was “based on knowledge, appreciation and reapplication of past styles and forms”. Both Chwast’s visual work and this unique approach to design have had lasting impacts on the graphic design industry.
31. Alexey BRODOVICH: Experiment With Trends
This was not his only dabbling in trends though, throughout his famous 15 years at Harper’s Bazaar, Brodovich would consistently experiment with new trends in photography, typography and layout design, all of which helped to catapult the magazine into the spotlight.
32. Max MIEDINGER: Look To Be Transformative
Max Miedinger was a Swiss typeface designer. He was famous for creating the Neue Haas Grotesk typeface in 1957 which was renamed Helvetica in 1960. Marketed as a symbol of cutting-edge Swiss technology, Helvetica went global at once.
Between 1926 and 1930 Miedinger trained as a typesetter in Zürich, after which he attended evening classes at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich.
At the age of sixteen Max became an apprentice typesetter at a book printing office for Jacques Bollmann (in Zürich). After four years as an apprentice, Miedinger enrolled in the School of Arts and Crafts. When he was 26 years old, he went to work for an advertising studio called Globe. Here he worked as a typographer and improved his skills. After ten years of working at Globe, Miedinger then gained employment with Haas Type Foundry as a representative. This is where he made his mark on history and designed the most used typeface of the 20th century, Helvetica.
In 1956 Miedinger became a freelance graphic designer and about a year later he collaborated with Edouard Hoffman on the typeface which would later be called Helvetica.
33. April GREIMAN: Pursue New Technologies
April Greiman in many ways helped to put the ‘graphic’ in ‘graphic design’. Greiman is recognized as one of the first designers to influence and encourage the acceptance and use of technology in graphic design and the arts during the 1980s.
Before Greiman championed this move, computers had been seen solely as information processing tools, but after her Greiman’s shift, the industry followed suit and never looked back.
34. John MAEDA: Be Interactive
Maeda’s work explored the boundaries of every medium he had access to, both digital mediums and analogue. This exploration and his resulting work became fundamental in the development of interactive motion graphics which are used so frequently in modern graphic design.
“While working in venture capital at KPCB in Silicon Valley, I became a fan of startups and launched the #DesignInTech Report to share emerging insights about design, investing, tech, and business. Right now I look to advance thinking around design and inclusion in the tech industry. I began as an engineer, then moved to art / design, and then to research / leading / operating, and then into business / tech / investing.” – John Maeda.
35. El LISSITZKY: Blend Stylized Shapes Colors
El Lissitzky was a Russian born artist, designer, typographer, photographer and architect who designed many exhibitions and propaganda for the Soviet Union in the early 20th century. His development of the ideas behind the Suprematist art movement were very influential in the development of the Bauhaus and the Constructivist art movements. His stylistic characteristics and experimentation with production techniques developed in the 1920s and 30s have been an influence on graphic designers since.
In his early years he developed a style of painting in which he used abstract geometric shapes, which he referred to as “prouns”, to define the spatial relationships of his compositions. The shapes were developed in a 3-dimensional space, that often contained varying perspectives, which was a direct contrast to the ideas of suprematist theories which stressed the simplification of shapes and the use of 2D space only.
36. Ladislav SUTNAR: Use Design To Convey Information
Ladislav Sutnar was a designer famous for making sense out of nonsense through design. His specialty was information design, the practise of using a clear and clever design to help make information more accessible and consumable for the general viewer. One of Sutnar’s techniques to aid the clarity of his designs was to limit his color and type palettes, which is a design technique still very much in play today.
37. Alvin LUSTIG: Suggest, Don’t Tell
Alvin Lustig is a designer who radically changed the way book cover design was approached, displayed, and thought of. While the common practise at the time was to create a cover that directly summarized the book contents, Lustig instead operated under a ‘suggest, don’t tell’ approach to his cover designs where he would read the book first and then create a cover that visually captured the tone of the text. This approach was radical at the time and quickly caught on to the point where it is now common practise in most book cover designs.
38. Muriel COOPER: Experiment With 3D Design
In her designs by using computers, which at the time was otherwise unseen and groundbreaking. These designs and developments from Muriel Cooper would go on to inform and shape a lot of modern day digital design.
“She often wandered around barefoot… and climbed up on tables when she was excited about a project… Muriel was clearly in her element, making trouble…” – Larry Cohen and Roger Conover, MIT Press editors.
39. Lucian BERNHARD: Master Minimalism
At a time when art nouveau was king, Lucian Bernhard forged a new path and embraced a more minimal, drawn back approach to design. While working as an art director, Bernhard created advertisements that consisted of flat colors, no slogans, just a simple illustration and logo. This small spark of minimalism from Bernhard would later grow into a raging inferno, and one that has very much carried on into modern design practises.
Lucian Bernhard also worked as an architect, designing office buildings, factory buildings and numerous private dwellings. Around 1930, however, he completely turned to painting and sculpture.
40. Otl AICHER: Create Stunning Identities
Otl Aicher was an accomplished graphic designer, best known for his work for the 1972 Summer Olympics where he boldly used pictograms, vibrant colors and a strict grid system to create a stunning identity. Aicher also created an influential public signage system that utilized simple stick figure graphics which grew to have a great impact on graphic design.
41. Ivan CHERMAYEFF: Design Logos With Abstracted Shapes
Designer Ivan Chermayeff is easily referred to as a legendary logo designer, having created a series of powerful, memorable and seemingly timeless logos during his career ranging from the NBC peacock to the blue Pan Am globe. What made Chermayeff’s work so legendary and impactual on the design community was his use of abstracted shapes for logos rather than letterforms as had prior been the norm.
Over the years Ivan designed a range of children’s books that feature bold illustrations and sparse texts. For Ivan, collage was a favorite means of personal expression apart from his professional work. Bright, colorful, and highly graphic, each collage is made from mailing envelopes, scraps of packaging, ticket stubs, bits of type, etc. This artwork has been featured in over 40 one-man exhibitions throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Nearly all the collages are variations on the theme of the human face, each made with a style and visual wit characteristic of Ivan’s work.
42. Adrian FRUTIGER: Create Beautiful and Readable Typefaces
Over his career, Frutiger often spoke about the necessity for typefaces to be both beautiful and readable, and he backed these claims up by creating over 30 very popular typefaces.
“(Frutiger) amplified his personal aesthetic for typefaces into large families. This work inspired younger type designers to think on their own.” – Roger Black, founder of Font Bureau.
43. Bradbury THOMPSON: Experiment. With Everything.
Considered an overall master of design, Bradbury Thompson is another big name in the design biz. Thompson’s style is best described as one that pushes the limits of the printed page, by layering, cutting, pasting and experimenting with photography, color, and type he created designs that would go on to inspire generations of designers.
Another significant point in his career, in the field of typography, was his publication of Alphabet 26, which was labeled as a monoalphabet. It contained only 26 unique characters, case was established by size only instead of entirely new characters (i.e. r/R, e/E, a/A). Thompson’s work garnered him the highest award of every major design organization including AIGA, the Art Directors Club and the Type Directors Club. He died in 1995.
44. Wolfgang WEINGART: Experiment With Typography
Never one for conformity, Wolfgang Weingart’s impact on the history of design lays in his experimental use of typography. Weingart’s work is best described as experimental and spontaneous Swiss design, with bold, punchy designs and dramatically scaled sans serif type. This radically experimental approach to design was imparted to Weingart’s students during his teachings, directly influencing a new generation of expressive typographers.
He taught a new approach to typography that influenced the development of New Wave, Deconstruction and much of graphic design in the 1990s. While he would contest that what he taught was also Swiss Typography, since it developed naturally out of Switzerland, the style of typography that came from his students led to a new generation of designers that approached most design in an entirely different manner than traditional Swiss typography.
Graphic design is by no means a stagnant industry, in fact, it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s ever growing and ever evolving, thanks to the work and dedication of countless designers, both past and present.
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Credits: Mary Stribley (Canva) and Rob Carney (Creativebloq)