Graphis Magazine - Graphic Design History

Feature by

Graphis – An inspiring magazine from cover to cover

Graphis is one of the industries most long-standing magazines. It was first published in 1944 and founded by Walter Herdeg and Walter Amstutz in Zurich, Switzerland. It was released bimonthly and was trilingual, with articles in English, French and German.

Graphis is one of the industries most long-standing magazines. It was first published in 1944 and founded by Walter Herdeg and Walter Amstutz in Zurich, Switzerland. It was released bimonthly and was trilingual, with articles in English, French and German.

Each magazine contains a visual feast of exemplary design and illustration, complemented with short but informative articles. From advertising theatres to French tapestry and Swiss stamps to Japanese packaging, there’s something in the magazines to inspire anyone interested in the history of graphic design. Even the advertisements throughout the magazine are a treat; Olivetti by Giovanni Pintori, Schwitter AG by Karl Gerstner and Pirelli by Massimo Vignelli can be seen on the back covers and throughout.

100 Classic Graphic Design Journals by Steven Heller & Jason Godfrey states:
“Herdeg encouraged a standard of excellence that helped define the postwar design aesthetic and scene. All designers aspired to be in Graphis, and before the proliferation of annuals, acceptance in the Graphis Annual was the top honour in the field.”

Many of the most talented designers from across Europe and beyond had artwork featured on the covers. Franco Grignani, Tom Eckersley, George Giusti and Hans Hartmann, to name a few, with the occasional cover design by Walter Herdeg himself. Walter Herdeg remained editor until 1986 when he sold the magazine to B. Martin Pedersen. Graphis Inc is now based in New York City and continues to publish annuals and books.

Since collecting the magazine, I have always been excited to tick off another fantastic cover design. The covers themselves have introduced me to some of the greatest illustrators and designers from across the globe. They have made me aware of the work of Joseph Binder, Hans Erni and Umetaro Azechi. Whilst filling my shelves with artwork by designers I had previous knowledge about, such as Franco Grignani, Kurt Wirth and Abram Games.

Here’s a section of eight of my favourite covers from the collection:

Graphis 23, 1948. Cover design by Joseph Binder
Graphis 23, 1948. Cover design by Joseph Binder. 

 

Graphis 47, 1953. Cover design by Abram Games
Graphis 47, 1953. Cover design by Abram Games

 

Graphis 09-10, 1945. Cover design by Hans Erni
Graphis 09-10, 1945. Cover design by Hans Erni

 

Graphis 39, 1952. Cover design by Olle Eskell
Graphis 39, 1952. Cover design by Olle Eskell

 

Graphis 71, 1957. Cover design by Phillipe Delessert.
Graphis 71, 1957. Cover design by Phillipe Delessert.

 

Graphis 67, 1956. Cover design by Umetaro Azechi
Graphis 67, 1956. Cover design by Umetaro Azechi

 

Graphis 82, 1959. Cover design by Kurt Wirth.
Graphis 82, 1959. Cover design by Kurt Wirth.

 

Graphis 163, 1972. Cover design by Walter Breker.
Graphis 163, 1972. Cover design by Walter Breker.

Over the next few months, I will scan my remaining covers and update the article with the new content.

You can find the rest of the magazine covers here

Related Items from the Archive

From my archive:

More articles

I have known Rob for over a decade and I have been a huge admirer of his work. He specialises in reverse gilded glass sign making, typographic murals and traditional sign-writing.
Ken was born in 1929, in Southampton and grew up in a small market town in North Devon. He was a principled man, with strong values and views against the hyper-consumerism we live with today. Ken studied at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts in the 1950s and was taught by Herbert Spencer, Anthony Froshaug and Jesse Collins. Whilst at the School he studied alongside designers Ken Briggs, Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes.
Theo Crosby was born in South Africa in 1925 and moved to Britain in the late 1940s. He was a highly skilled designer, architect and sculptor. He became the technical editor of Architectural Design magazine in 1953 and remained in the post for almost a decade. The large format magazines feature an array of content including information on buildings, materials and architectural plans.