Typography & Graphic design
André Freiermuth practices typography, typesetting and graphic design. Founded in 2014, the studio is specialized in developing new visual identities, editorial projects and type characters for all kinds of media.
Graphic design in Switzerland
The breakthrough of the personal computer and the consequent widespread access to new production and distribution tools characterize the turn of the early nineties. To an increasing degree the cultural technique of visual presentation could be appropriated also by non-professionals. The consequent multiplication of visual output shapes our ways of communication and representation. The computer integrates all the different design practices and breaks them down to one small box, bringing them next to each other at least on a computer physical / virtual level. While everyone can share this experience, people in general become more sensitive about communication through visual material. Having arrived in the middle of society, the discourse becomes diverse and blurry at the same time. As professionals it is our responsibility to continue the debate in a understandable language. Specific skills are required to mediate the process in a objective sense. Furthermore there is an urgent need for respectful project partners who are willing to adapt a few basics about design criticism. Only a well orchestrated dialogue can build up constructive trust, which is indispensable to come up with outstanding results.
Then, a new education policy was established in Switzerland along with the so called Bologna Process, and gradually came into effect at the turn of the millenium. Basically, the design education was divided into two parallel systems: On one side the vocational school with its traditional connection to the arts and crafts / applied arts, and on the other side the newly formatted design education on university level. This triggered a competition between these two educations. At the vocational school the amount of students is limited by the places for apprenticeship offered by local companies. In turn, the amount of students at the Universities is not anymore related to the job opportunities on the market.
Still a few years later, another economy crisis and the political shift to the right had their effects on the cultural sector including the graphic design, leading to a substantial degradation of intellectual / mental / brain work — a step back into the Middle Ages. As a standard, artists creating works for the king were sustained by the principle of artist in residence. The common sense didn’t allow to get paid for mental work with real money. In turn, those who took money for their services were not respected by their fellow artists. This syndrome about the appreciation of creative work has survived throughout the evolution until today, here we go.
To answer your question: I think we cannot deny that our general working conditions are quite challenging, and provocating radical survival strategies. But above all, I still believe in a progressive culture of graphic design.
Do you specialize in a particular domain or do you offer a more generalized service?
The project specification defines my context-related position as designer. It goes ahead of the research approach, which can include a talk, an interview or a problem-specific exercise, for example. The expertise of the studio is founded on highly specialised skills combined with interdisciplinary knowledge. The engagement may ask for various roles as an editor, typographer, graphic designer or printer. The executed works are mainly related to the cultural sector with a focus on editorial design, new identities and type characters for all kinds of media.
What is the required formation for a graphic designer? What is more valuable: experience or titulations? Is the graphic design titulation mandatory?
Social responsibility, motivation to deal with complexity and to induce / follow — or better: to design the change. An interest in graphic design and methodics, expertise in drawing, spatial imagination, photography, typography, typesetting, editorial work, reproduction techniques, language and, of course, and affinity for the various media.
I would definitely prefer experience and practice to well-sounding titulations.
Style & trends
Does a graphic designer need to have his own style or, for example, they have to follow the trends? Should a design be timeless, open for evolution or rather be adapted to the trends?
There is no need for anything, but having no style is equal to style. The style question depends on the attitude of the designer while it reveals a lot about the aims and the character of a person. I‘m not a trend expert. But, for example, beside the objective demands of a project the selection of the typeface is much influenced by emotional factors. On the font market we can observe a large output of new typefaces following individual ideas, while overlapping tendencies are recognized and manifested as trends. Here maybe one could ask: How does the designer deal with this situation? To see the big picture of the epoch requires more distance, and to capture the presence is a sophisticated matter. The characteristics of the actual / present moment arise while solving the problem in the best possible manner. Like this we might be able to create a contemporary document. Creating a contemporary document is maybe the starting point of something that may become timeless in the future.
So would you say that Switzerland is innovative, has its own style or just copying designs that already exist?
The fact that Switzerland was a sort of island during the Second World War allowed continuity in the development of typography, graphic design as well as in the manufacturing processes. Switzerland based designers progressively concentrated on objectivity during this period. This includes a clear presentation style and information ordered on a grid system, often based on a composition of sans serif linear antique fonts with classicist characters. Along with the technological progress the technical skills of printers, typographers, lithographers, bookbinders, or paper mills were gradually handed over to industrial production. Against the background of these formal and technical aspects design was more and more understood as a function.
The designer of the future
Does the profession of graphic design need a facelift? What could we improve?
“There must be no letting up in the determination to produce vital work reflecting the spirit of the times; doubt and perturbation are good antidotes against the tendency to follow the line of least resistance.” Emil Ruder, Typographie, 1967
With the boom of digital marketing and its focus on quantifiable results, many companies decide to raise their budget for this kind of service. How do you explain to your clients the benefits from investing in graphic design?
By now I haven‘t been in this situation.
Should we make changes to the vocational training / academic career of a graphic designer in schools / universities, and if so, which?
No matter which school system one chooses, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Still, small classes are more efficient in terms of learning, and for existential reasons school and practice strongly belong together.