The Look of Switzerland
A remarkably thorough, comprehensive look at the graphics output of this Swiss chemical company. The clean, elegant designs of the Geigy 'look' really took off in the early fifties though the head of the publicity department Rene Rudin, as early as 1944, said: 'We must take care that a certain artistic level is maintained, marked by impeccable typographic design, high quality illustrations and technically flawless reproduction'. An excellent example of this design approach is shown with two pack shots on page sixteen. A 1942 insecticide spay shows a dull, unimaginative can the total opposite of the 1959 version, now with clean type (Helvetica, of course) and a simple graphic.
Page forty-three reveals an interesting observation: Geigy had no style manual, except for the packaging. The company relied on choosing designers who all had a similar attitude to design and were mostly trained at the Allgemaine Gewerbeschule in Basel. Clearly this paid off judging by the high quality of the printed material shown throughout the pages.
As the leading Swiss chemical company with an impeccable corporate face (I would place Hoffman La Roche a close second during the fifties and sixties) the company exported this to divisions in other countries. There is a chapter on Geigy in America and another dealing with United Kingdom. An interesting chapter, by graphic historian Roger Remington, though not relating directly to the company deals with the influence of Swiss graphic design in America.
The first part of the book takes an overall look at the how Geigy organized and ran their Publicity department (a footnote says that before 1966 this was known as the Propaganda Department) in Basel. The rest of the pages cover ads and a wide range of promotional material for named products produced by the pharmaceutical, dyes and agricultural divisions. The last chapter looks at how the company presented itself as a responsible company to the public through books and other media.
The book itself is a sort of reflection of the design Geigy used until the seventies. Clean, orderly presentation of text and the 385 illustrations and well printed on a matt art paper. I think thanks should go to Steven Lindberg who did an excellent translation job from the original German text.
The title will certainly interest designers and anyone dealing with the way a company presents itself in printed material.
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