Walter Herdeg, [Editor]: GRAPHIS ANNUAL. Zurich: Graphis Press, 1952-1986. Parallel text in in English, French and German. Contents include Advertisements, Annual Reports, Book jackets, Booklets, Calendars, Christmas Cards, Film Advertising, House Organs, Indexes, Letterheads, Magazine covers, Packaging, Paperbacks, Posters, Record covers, Television, Trade marks and more.
We have an extensive and ever-changing selection of individual editions from 1952 to 1986. We welcome your inquiries for availability of specific editions.
Graphis was (and still is) one of the most important and influential European graphic design publication. Graphis has been revered for its artistic presentation, impeccable design, and exemplary production qualities. Global in scope, Graphis is a compelling record of the most significant and influential communication work being produced today. In visually driven articles, Graphis beautifully presents the best work produced internationally in Graphic Design, Advertising, Branding & Identity, Illustration, Publishing, Packaging Design, Typography and Photography with a focus on modern European designers. Graphis is still being published, but the most influential and groundbreaking years are from the 1940s to the early 1960s.
Walter Herdeg was awarded the AIGA Medal in 1986, the year he retired as Graphis Editor. Here are excerpts from Steven Heller's tribute from the AIGA.
. . . Graphis has been the clarion of a wide range of design approaches and the showcase for over four generations of fine talent. [Walter] Herdeg purposefully introduced Americans to Western Europeans in order that each might learn and share their visual ideas. To Eastern Europeans, Graphis was perhaps even more invaluable. Herdeg not only opened a window to the practice of the West but also made the world aware of the otherwise unknown graphic innovations taking place within the Soviet bloc. Herdeg devoted special issues to isolated design communities such as those in Japan and Finland. And he focused on a variety of applied arts genres, including comics, medical illustration and children's books, in an effort to create equality and respect for the various forms. Herdeg was helped in this only to the extent that he developed a network of trusted international correspondents and a Zčrich-based support staff, but the ultimate decision-making was his alone. In fact, Graphis was never simply the sum of its parts; it was always Walter Herdeg's statement.
He was its publisher, editor, designer and arbiter of taste. He analyzed, criticized and lovingly administered to every last detail. Hence, a feature story in Graphis was not merely a showcase for a designer, it was a verification that his or her work was admired by one of the most critical men in the field. Though certainly self-styled, the responsibility he gave himself was not misplaced. While those who were never paid notice in Graphis or in the Graphis Annuals might have been disappointed by his authoritarian rule, no one could fault his integrity or his standards in matters of design and illustration. He never succumbed to caprice, style or fashion, once stating that his rationale for whatever appeared in Graphis meant that a work "had to be fashionable for 50 or 100 years."
"I couldn't wait until the Nazis lost the war," he remembers. "When Stalingrad fell, I came out with the dummy of my project, and in September 1944, I was ready to send the magazine out. We began with a meager 1,000 subscribers in Switzerland, and immediately after the war, we did a subscription campaign in America which brought in 1,500 more."
Herdeg codified many rules, especially with typography, that underscored Graphis' distinct personality. There are critics who complained that his grid was too sanitized, too Swiss, too dogmatic, but Herdeg's organizing principle was not wed to any ism, but was based according to need. "My layout is not a Bauhaus layout. Nor was I ever in favor of the so-called 'Swiss typography,' which at the time practically only used 8 pt. sans serif type for everything. That was wrong. Typography has to serve a specific purpose; it has to be legible. Therefore my layout obeyed specific necessities: to show the work as much and as elegantly as possible." Although the format changed in minor ways a few times over the 42 years, he never deviated from his love of Garamond as a text type. "When I began Graphis, I decided Garamond was a face that would be up-to-date for the next 50 or 100 years. It's not only beautifully designed, but it gives a great surface, allowing the pictures to sit unencumbered."
Herdeg's tastes continued to be eclectic. He refused to subscribe to doctrine, and often during the early Fifties his preferences flew in the face of the prevailing Swiss International Style. Of the early period he recalls, "I appreciated Richard Lohse and Max Bill. They both did some exemplary work in typography, but I was more impressed by Jan Tschichold, the real typographic genius in Switzerland."
Herdeg was a conductor in the classic sense. He orchestrated the works appearing in his magazine with verve. The most important piece was the Graphis cover. For most artists, to be asked to do a cover was an honor, but then to have it accepted was a peak of professional recognition. Out of 246 (a few of which were done by Herdeg himself), there are some that have not aged well, but on balance the successes prevail. Herdeg had very definite ideas about what a cover should be, defining it this way: "In an ideal case, a cover should have meaning to everything that's inside. Therefore I couldn't use a Mondrian that has nothing to do with an issue. If it was something by an artist inside, that was a plus, but a cover should have a general appeal to the design world. However, that does not mean it should be a bottle of ink and a brush. In fact, there were often misunderstandings because that image is the first that comes to mind when an artist thinks about the arts."
Herdeg's process of scrutinizing and compiling work involved the exercise of looking at exhibitions, meeting a large number of practitioners, and being a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale. His job was made both easier and harder when he was convinced by his London correspondent, Charles Rosner, to begin publishing the Graphis Annual in 1952. Because there was never an entry or hanging fee, tens of thousands of pieces flooded his Zčrich office each year. And Herdeg alone would wade through the material. "No one else had any influence in the choice. I did the selection and, for the first five years, the layout. Then I started to organize the layout in such a way that a gifted designer on my staff, who had the same ideas of structuring a page, could do it under my supervision." The success of the Graphis Annual led the way for Photographis in 1966 and Graphis Posters in 1973, as well as a series of one-shot Graphis books including those on television graphics, comics, charts and diagrams, and ephemera.
For the historian, Herdeg's 246 issues are fascinating timelines. While they ignore the timely and superficial trends, they focus on the significant talents. What Herdeg says about the last few years applies to his entire output. "I think in recent issues there might even be some examples of Post-modernism in which I feel there was talent. But then I show them not even realizing that they are Post-modern. I leave that to others who are much more articulate than I. I am so much an 'eye' man. For me, it's all visual."
Copyright 1987 by The American Institute of Graphic Arts.