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In 1980 Josef Müller-Brockmann laid the cornerstone for a uniform visual identity for the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) with his legendary Visual Information System at Train Stations and Stops. In view of Switzerland’s multilingualism, the manual proposed a signage system that largely did without language; with his functional typography, the pioneer of Swiss graphic design conceived an intuitively comprehensible signage system for use throughout the country to also guide passengers unfamiliar with the terrain to their destination with the help of pictograms. The visual concept was developed in dialogue with the SBB and still dominates the railways’ visual identity even today.
Müller-Brockmann’s manual, greatly expanded in 1992 and given the title Passenger Information System, is a prime example of a complex design project that succeeds through extreme rationality and consistency. It thus serves as a compass for designers worldwide in their daily work.
This reprint with a complete English translation makes the manual accessible for the first time to a broader public. Andres Janser examines the project in the context of Müller-Brockmann’s conceptual work and the systematic international design for which railways everywhere were striving during the period.
- Josef Müller-Brockmann, Switzerland (1980)
- 21 × 29,7 cm, 8 ½ × 11 ¾ in
- 222 pages
- 324 illustration
Josef Müller-Brockmann (1914–1996) was a leading figure in Swiss graphic design starting the 1950s, helping to pioneer the Swiss Style that would shape graphic design worldwide for decades. After an early career doing illustrations, he did a radical about-face in 1950, henceforth developing an uncompromisingly rational formal language. His posters are legendary, and the magazine he founded, “New Graphic Design” (1958–1965), spread the doctrine of sober design based on constructive principles across the continents. Large corporations and public institutions were soon adopting this objective approach as a model for design concepts that still remain valid today. As a teacher in Japan and at the design schools in Zurich and Ulm, as well as a lecturer and consultant (e.g. for IBM Europe), Müller-Brockmann was a distinctive voice in the design world. He was married to the Japanese-Swiss artist Shizuko Yoshikawa.