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The Swiss Style Graphic Design: An Easy Way To Create User-Friendly Interfaces

Once beauty was a purpose itself, now beauty is just a means of emphasizing a purpose. That’s what the founders of one of the simplest and most effective design styles, the Swiss style graphic design, had in mind when they first portrayed their ideas. Since the 1930s, the principle that ‘’form follows function’’ has become fundamental in the works of Swiss design followers who strive to develop practical, unique and visually appealing projects. With its affinity for clarity, uniformity and precision, the Swiss graphic design style brings a touch of refreshing simplicity to art ideas.

The Swiss design movement was launched in the 1920s in Russia, Switzerland and Germany and gained international popularity in the 1950s.  It has been primarily utilized for the creation of stamps, posters, street signs and other forms of information sources, with the goal of delivering clear, precise and direct messages in a pleasant and intriguing way.

The Swiss graphic design style doesn’t apply excessive elements of texture or illustration. Instead, it manipulates typography and layout techniques to create memorable and impressive art works (as seen in photos 1 - 2)  Even though the web didn’t exist in the early 90s,  the target of providing a project with an user-friendly interface had become a leading force behind designers’ endeavors.

What are the major characteristics of the Swiss graphic design style? A list of its principal features will help you recognize or/and reproduce it.

  • Extensive use of pictures - Visual imagery is a powerful tool for conveying both simple and complex art ideas. Photographic images have a much stronger impact than drawings and illustrations and depict ideas in the most credible and clear manner.
  • Varying Font Sizes - Contrasting font sizes do not only enhance the design’s aesthetics and visual impact, but they can also illustrate the importance of separate messages by choosing smaller/larger fonts to signify their hierarchy (as seen in photo 3)
  • Clean interface – One of the best ways to express your ideas clearly is to organize them in an efficient manner and avoid clutter. The Swiss graphic design style strives to remove unnecessary design elements. The followers of the Swiss style also manipulate the tools of typography to present a message that is both informational and aesthetic.
  • Use of sans-serifs - One of the typical characteristics of the Swiss style is its use of sans-serif typefaces, such as Akzidenz Grotesk and Neue Haas Grotesk, known for their ability to produce universal, clean and simple interfaces.
  • Defining structures – In modern web design, definition lists and other defining HTML elements could be successfully applied to mimic the Swiss design style. Although many contemporary designs try to avoid the heavy use of these elements, they are obligatory for those who want to achieve the universal look of Swiss design ideas.
  • Grid Systems –  Swiss design style teaches us that grid systems can be adopted not only to place art elements properly, but they can also assist us in the effective semantic data organization.

In the modern world of web art and graphics design, there are so many ideas and styles to choose from, but if you want to produce a clear, uniform and powerful artwork, the Swiss graphic design style may be your best option.

All photos courtesy of Smashing Magazine Staff