Inspired

Nowadays, it would be difficult to find a designer who didn’t claim to be inspired by Josef Müller-Brockman. But it wasn’t always the case.

Nowadays, it would be difficult to find a designer who didn’t claim to be inspired by Josef Müller-Brockman. But it wasn’t always the case. During my degree studies from 1978-81, I was heavily subjected to Swiss design and grid systems. This may be familiar now, but at the time it was deeply unpopular – the work that I was later to see for what it was looked old school to me and to plenty of others. I was interested in Jamie Reid and Malcolm Garrett and this guy from Switzerland looked every bit the enemy – characterless and definitely not subversive.

Why then, within weeks of finishing my course did I find myself specifying Helvetica and Univers into grids, which the typesetters always used to compliment me for? After several years of dabbling in what was looking more and more Swiss, and less and less fashionable at the time, I came across the early work of 8vo. Its take on Müller-Brockman was more subversive than I could possibly have imagined. I learned the difference between the superficial style of the times and the substance of what Müller-Brockman had to tell me. Much as I would want to be more original about my choice of inspiration, the truth is I – like so many others – owe so much to JMB.

Ian Thompson, Thompson

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