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Dorothea Hofmann

The Birth of a Style

The Influence of the Basel Educational Model on Swiss Graphic Design

Book design: Matthias Hofmann,, Luzern

English edition
472 pages, 19 × 25 cm
ca. 400 images, softcover with flaps

Euro (D) 49.–, Euro (A) 50.40


ISBN 978-3-03863-077-7

CHF   49.00

• How did the famous Basel education model emerge and who were its protagonists?

• How Swiss graphics became the Swiss Style

In the second half of the 20th century, Swiss graphic design succeeded in causing quite a stir beyond national borders. Swiss Design and Swiss Style had become representative for high quality ground breaking graphic design that would shape a whole epoch with its love of precision, objectivity and reduction – and become a popular Swiss export with its innovative works.

The Basel education model of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, later known as Basel School of Design, was an important pioneer that led to the international breakthrough of new Swiss graphic design. Strict, yet undogmatic views coupled with a pragmatic attitude towards design issues, experimental audacity and a clear commitment to modernism triggered a broad graphic design movement reaching out from Basel to Europe and the USA.

Dorothea Hofmann tells the story of Swiss graphic design from a new perspective. Starting with a deliberate focus on Basel, she paints a differentiated picture of this national graphic design movement, which, in its complexity, overcomes the constraints of the Zurich constructive concrete direction with which Swiss Style has generally been associated until today. The author gives a detailed account of the movement’s origins, which date back to the 19th century, discussing the development of graphic design education in Switzerland and coherently describing its breakthrough as an international style.

Former teachers and students of Basel Allgemeine Gewerbeschule who have contributed decisively to the international reputation of Swiss Design with their works are at the centre of this book:  Hermann Eidenbenz, Emil Ruder, Armin Hofmann, Karl Gerstner, Gérard Ifert, Nelly Rudin, Pierre Mendell, Wolfgang Weingart, Kenneth Hiebert, Dan Friedman, April Greiman, and many more.

About the Author

Dorothea Hofmann (1929–2023) trained as a graphic artist at the Basel Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in the 1940s and 1950s. She was one of the first students to have passed through the famous Basel education model from start to finish and therefore knows most renowned protagonists of Swiss Design and Swiss Style personally. She has undertaken numerous educational trips to Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Mexico, Guatemala, Egypt, India and the USA. Moreover, she has taught at Yale University School of Art, New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Atlanta College of Art, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Mexico and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, amongst others. 

Many national and international exhibitions. Dorothea Hofmann has been married to Armin Hofmann (1920–2020) for over 60 years, they lived in Lucerne.

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