A book, a day: Karl Gerstner
One of the most important innovators in typography, commercial art and corporate design, Karl Gerstner was a genius.
A painter and graphic designer alike Gerstner studied design at Allgemeine Gewerbschule in Basel under Emil Ruder. He set up his own graphic design studio in 1949, and by 1963 he had partnered with Markus Kutter, a writer and editor, to form the agency Gerstner + Kutter which then became GGK with the addition of architect Paul Gredinger.
Eventually GGK became one of the most successful advertising agencies in Switzerland, with offices in other European countries and the US and his pioneering work – in particular, his designs for Geigy- made him one of the most important exponents of modern commercial graphic design in Switzerland.
His everlasting body of work influenced numerous forms of art. Under his influence typography and graphic design transformed in systematic symmetry.
“He popularized the use of unjustified ragged-right text in typography” writes History of Graphic Design on Gerstner’s very Swiss influence in design.
“He also proposed what he called Integral Typography which extended on Max Bill’s typographic ideas. A message in the form of text can convey a meaning or some information, however, when typography is used in an informed manner, Gerstner felt that it could greatly contribute to the connection between the words and the actual meaning. Gerstner saw typography as a way to express a whole greater than the sum of words and meanings. For example, the large headline in one of his Citroën advertisements stated ‘Don’t buy this car’ which was followed with ‘if you don’t expect something out of the ordinary in a car’ in smaller type. While this may seem commonplace or trite today, Gerstner + Kutter trailblazed the clever use of type to make a point. In other words, Gerstner knew that the aesthetics of typography can aid the communication of ideas and information and that was the foundation of Integral Typography.”
His significant role in shaping the postwar graphic design scene is evident in “Designing Programmes” aka one of his most important and influential works ever published.
First published in 1964, and reissued in a new design by Lars Müller Publishers in 2007 “Designing Programmes: Programme as Typeface, Typography, Picture, Method by Karl Gerstner ” provides a basic introduction to his design methodology while suggesting a model for design in the early days of the computer era. G
erstner's innovation was to propose a rule set or system defined by the designer that would determine all aesthetic decisions for a given product: for example, a logo might also function as a layout grid system or inspire a font.
Today the book is especially topical in the context of current developments in computational design. With many examples from the worlds of graphic and product design, music, architecture and art, Designing Programmes inspires the reader to seize on the material, develop it further, and integrate it into his or her own work.
Buy your copy here.