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Basel: Swiss Design?

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The Basel School of Design - more than grids and Helvetica.

If you are not familiar with the term "Swiss Design," let me explain that it is often wrongly identified with the rigid use of grids for layout and a preference for the Helvetica type face. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the Swiss have a tradition of design that is based on craftsmanship and draftsmanship. The works of Armin Hoffman, Donald Brun, and Herbert Leupin, to mention a few of the old guard, are as different from each other as Bach's music is from Beethoven's. What most Swiss share is a culture and educational system that respects both intellect and manual skill.

These values describe the philosophy of the Basel School of Design, where I attended the four-year graduate design program ("Grafikfachklasse"). There, teaching focused on

  • design both as a mental discipline and as a set of skills,
  • techniques not for their own sake but as a means to improve communication,
  • learning the principles of space and proportions through drawing and more drawing,
  • the process of arriving at a solution rather than the solution itself, and
  • preparing the student comprehensively for any number of different jobs and positions.

The Basel education prepared me to:

  • think more clearly,
  • analyze a problem thoroughly,
  • to be able to arrive at more than one solution to a problem,
  • strive to learn new techniques and technologies, and
  • to communicate equally well with words and pictures.

For that I remain very grateful to the school and my teachers.

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