Dan Boyarski on the Basel design education

A short transcript from a recollection by Dan Boyarski on the teaching experience in Basel.

Dan Boyarski studied in Basel for two years, in the Advanced Program for Graphic Design, from 1977 to 1979. He was 30 years old, and had already 5 years of teaching experience. This his how he describes the outcome :

I thought for 10 years in Louisville, followed by 35 years of teaching at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburg.
Teaching both undergraduate and graduate students, and working with my faculty colleagues, and shaping design programs that responded to changes, in the field, in society, and in the world.
Technical changes, societal changes, environmental changes.

With my students, we explored the shift from communicating on paper to communicating on a screen.

Similarities and differences we explored between static information and dynamic information.

Between the written word, spoken word and moving word on a screen.

We designed posters about sustainability, websites about health care, and apps with maps for safe biking in the city.

I realize that the most valuable lesson from studying with Hofmann and the other teachers was developing an attitude about design.
Seeing, exploring with the mind, the eye, the hand.
Systematic thinking, through sketching, balanced by intuitive bursts of play.
And then the careful crafting of final solutions.

Each teacher thought in their own way, but were united in that basic approach to visual and conceptual exploration.

Source, on Vimeo:

Inge Druckrey on Yale

Short transcript of Inge Druckrey on the design education in the US (during round-table discussion in October 2020, online symposium at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design Basel):

In the US, in the mid 1960, there was still a strong emphasis on advertising rather than design.

A true graphic design program existed only at Yale, with Alvin Eisenman, Norman Ives, Josef Albers, Herbert Matter, Alvin Lustig.

It was at Yale that Herbert Matter, with his students, did the corporate identity for the New Haven Railroad.

There were a few other centers trying to build a consciousness of graphic design. Among them, the Aspen Design conferences, and the Design Quarterly of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The first design magazine was edited there by Mildred Friedman.

Rob Roy Kelly, chair of the Kansas City Art Institute, was educated at Yale, and very influenced by Alvin Lustig and Josef Albers. He was aware and impressed by Armin Hofmann’s work and teaching.

I was hired to teach not only the students, but also him and the other faculty, about my education in Basel. So I had full support by faculty and students, who were very open and eager to learn.

Source, on Vimeo:

Kenneth Hiebert on the Basel education

In October 2020, to celebrate the 100rd anniversary of Armin Hofmann, a two-day online symposium took place at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design Basel.

Kenneth Hiebert was one of the participants in a roundtable discussion, moderated by Sandra Bischler, titled « The Pedagogical Dimension ».

During the discussion, Hiebert reflects on his experience as a student under Armin Hofmann, 1959-1964.

The Basel education characteristics that I treasure:

Silence.

Reflection.

A conducive class environment.

There was no horsing around.

Each project was built on a previous.

All work was in the studio.

No all-nighters.

We learned the visual language universals:

Syntax.

Having meaning.

Building relationships between forms and space.

Seeing constraints as openings rather than obstacles.

On vimeo:

Kenneth Hiebert, biographie

Kenneth Hiebert suit la formation de graphisme (Fachklasse für Grafik) dirigée par Hofmann entre 1959-1964. Dès 1966, il contribue à développer le programme de design graphique au Philadelphia College of Art, alors dirigé (de 1964 à 1974) par Rob Roy Kelly. Il y enseigne jusqu’en 1999.

D’autres alumni de Bâle qui y enseignent sont Inge Druckrey (de 1971 à 1973), April Greiman, encouragée par Hofmann (de 1971 à 1976), et Christa Zelinski (de 1977 à 2007).

Selon Sadha (2013):

He taught briefly at the School of Design, Basel, then at Carnegie Institute of Technology, and from 1966–1999 at what is now The University of the Arts where he was founding chairman of the graphic design department. He retired Professor Emeritus in May 1999. 

He instigated the universal/Unique symposium and invitational exhibition at the University of the Arts in 1988. He received the Mary Lou Beitzel Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1990 and the Master Teacher Award of the national Graphic Design Education Association in 1991. Honorary degrees were awarded by the Maine College of Art in 2002 and the University of the Arts in 2013.

Quelques indications biographiques:

Hiebert pioneered the program of graphic design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, formerly the Philadelphia College of the Arts.

He was visiting faculty at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon.

Publications

Hiebert is the author of two books:

  • Graphic Design Processes (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992)
  • Graphic Design Sources (Yale University Press, 1998)

In 2019, the Cary Graphic Design Archive at Rochester Institute of Technology acquired the work of Ken Hiebert, making it « available to scholars and students interested in the Swiss influence on American graphic design » (Gawlowicz).

Sources:

Postmodern Typography (1977)

A very early application of the architectural term postmodern to graphic design was the title of a 1977 Chicago exhibition curated by Bill Bonnell: Postmodern Typography: Recent American Developments.

Ironically, the exhibition included works by Steff Geissbuhler, April Greiman, Dan Friedman, and Willi Kunz – all of whom had come to America after works or study in Switzerland.

Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, p.501

Hofmann sur le premier cours de perfectionnement

Ce texte de Armin Hofmann est paru dans la revue bimensuelle Graphis (numéro 146, volume 25), 1969/1970. Ce numéro était entièrement dédié à la présentation de deux écoles: le Royal College of Art de Londres, et la Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel. Hofmann y présente ses réflexions sur la première année d’enseignement dans le cours de perfectionnement (International Advanced Program for Graphic Design), initié en 1968.

Ecole des arts décoratifs de Bâle: le cours de perfectionnement de création graphique

Ce n’est pas l’un des moindres problèmes de notre âge technique que la façon abusive dont nous nous servons de machines et d’automates pour reproduire en série des formes initialement crées en fonction de cas particuliers.

De ce point de vue, l’enseignement de design au sens moderne du terme n’en est qu’à ses débuts. Nos écoles d’art appliqué en sont restées, pour l’essentiel, aux principes (valant pour la confection d’ouvrages uniques) qui régissaient autrefois l’artisanat d’art. Les quelques entreprises tentées, en différents lieux, avec des succès divers, pour remédier à cet état de choses, sont demeurées des expériences isolées. Aucun modèle probant ne s’est encore dégagé.

La question reste posée de savoir quelle formation il faut donner à des hommes dont on attend qu’ils pensent et agissent, intrinsèquement, en créateurs, sans préoccupation du résultat pratique, sans contrainte dans le choix des moyens, sans souci de la mode. Moins encore s’est-on réellement interrogé sur la formation que doivent recevoir des hommes appelés à viser, par delà l’individuel et le particulier, des valeurs élargies aux dimensions du groupe, de la série, du système. De même ignore-t-on encore comment l’on éduque des intelligences aptes à faire œuvre conceptuelle – par exemple, à forger des concepts afférents aux notions de permutabilité et de complémentarité.

Surtout, on tient fort peu compte encore, dans l’enseignement dispensé aux futurs créateurs de formes, des responsabilités grandissantes qui leur incomberont dans l’exercice de leur profession. L’enseignement professionnel n’a pas encore abordé le problème des grands complexes où s’insère de nos jours l’activité pratique de tout créateur. Relier le particulier à la totalité, le singulier au général, la responsabilité mineure à la responsabilité majeure, telle est présentement l’une des tâches sans doute les plus importantes qui se posent à l’école de demain.

Par l’institution de ses cours de perfectionnement annuels de création graphique, l’Ecole d’art appliqué de Bâle cherche à cerner et sonder certains de ces problèmes mieux qu’elle n’a pu le faire jusqu’à présent dans le cadre de son enseignement ordinaire. En limitant son propos à l’étude d’un thème unique, elle souhaite être à même d’éclairer aussi complètement que possible la multiplicité des éléments dont se compose, de nos jours, l’esthétique du milieu (« Umweltgestaltung »). N’étant ni pressés par le temps, ni tenus d’aboutir à des résultats déterminés, nous avons l’espoir de dégager ainsi certains linéaments de la structure générale de notre future école de design.

«Signes»: quelques indications sur le contenu du premier cours annuel

Le thème étudié la première année, sous le titre de «Signes», comportait un ensemble intégré de neuf cours pratiques.

  • Trois d’entre eux (Signaux de sécurité, Variations, Typographie appliquée) avaient trait à la création graphique appliquée à l’esthétique du milieu (applied environmental design).
  • Quatre autres (Processus du design, de la réalité au signe par l’abstraction, Architecture des signes d’écriture, Signes spatiaux) relevaient de l’étude fondamentale du design.
  • Deux autres, enfin (Création libre, Cinéma), étaient réservés au travail expérimental.
  • D’autre part, deux cours théoriques (Histoire de l’art appliqué, Collection-Classement-Documentation) visaient à élargir l’horizon des participants, et un séminaire d’une semaine (placé sous la direction de M. Colin Forbes, de l’Agence de publicité Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes de Londres) a été consacré à l’examen des notions fondamentales de l’économie de marché.

Les cours proprement dits étaient complétés, le soir, par des conférences au nombre desquelles il convient plus particulièrement de citer celles de M. Aaron Marcus, de l’Université de Princeton (Etats-Unis), sur le design d’ordinateurs, et de M. Adrien Frutiger (Paris) sur l’écriture pour ordinateurs.

L’élaboration du thème choisi présupposait une étroite coordination des diverses disciplines et une collaboration particulièrement harmonieuse entre les enseignants. Le plan d’études lui-même était conçu de façon à permettre, en tous sens, de multiples combinaisons et intercommunications.


Dans la suite de l’article, Hofmann détaille les différents cours:

  1. Processus de création, donné par Armin Hofmann.
  2. Variations, par Armin Hofmann.
  3. Signaux et panneaux de sécurité, par Max Schmid.
  4. Abstraction: la réduction au signe, par Kurt Hauert.
  5. Image typographique, par Wolfgang Weingart.
  6. Caractères (Schrift-Zeichen), par André Gürtler.
  7. Graphismes au cinéma et à la télévision, par Peter von Arx.
  8. Structuration de l’espace (Raumgestaltung), par Maria Vieira.
  9. Signe et Couleur, par Franz Fédier.
  10. Signes spatiaux (Räumliche Zeichen), par Johannes Burla.

Hans-Ulrich Allemann

Resources

Teaching at Kansas City Art Institute (1967-1969)

School Days in Basel, Switzerland, late 60’s. Hans Allemann, Chris Zelinsky, Inge Druckrey

Together with my classmate Inge Druckrey I was working as a designer at an agency in Zurich [Halpern]. Armin told me that he had received information from the Kansas City Art Institute. The chairman of the Graphic Design department, Rob Roy Kelly, was interested in hiring somebody who had studied at the Basel School to teach in his program. Unfortunately I had to turn down the offer because I did not know any English. I told Inge about the opportunity. She talked to Armin and decided to move to Kansas City [1966]. A year later she called me and told me that the department was interested in hiring another Basel graduate. This time I accepted. I had enough time to sign up for 12 lessons of conversation English at a Berlitz school before I left for Kansas City in the summer of [1967]. A professor from Oxford taught the Berlitz course. When I landed in the Midwest I couldn’t understand a single word (laughs). This is how I came here the first time. I had a visa, issued under the cultural exchange program between Europe and the United States.

The two years in Kansas City were a life changing experience for me. It was not just the opportunity to teach, which I had never intended to do, but also because of what was happening at the time. This was the late 60s! I came from a completely different world. Compared to Europe, the US is a young country. As big as it is in size, it seemed to be more agile, open and full of possibilities. This is what intrigued me about this country and its people. I was only 23-years old.

Teaching at the Philadelphia University of Arts (1973 – 2009)

In 1973, working in Zurich again, I received a phone call from Ken Hiebert, then chairman at the Philadelphia College of Art. I knew Ken from our school years in Basel. Ken had an open teaching position because Steff Geissbühler (another school mate of ours) had decided to move to NYC, and Inge Druckery, who had moved to Philadelphia in 1971, had accepted an offer from Yale University. I accepted the invitation and I returned to the US. My idea was to stay for 3-5 years. If that would have been the case I should have left around 1978… well, I’m still here (laughs).

Bits and pieces of Basel

The influence of the Basel school on the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI)

An article by Katherine McCoy, published in March/April 2005 in Print Magazine. The PDF was found on an archived website of the Philadelphia University of the Arts Graphic Design Department – uartsgd.com

The PDF:

Excerpts from the article

The teachers who had made such a profound impression on the graduates included their program chair, Rob Roy Kelly, and the now legendary Swiss designers Inge Druckrey and Hans Allemann. Arguably, Kansas City Art Institute offered the first comprehensive graphic design curriculum for undergraduates and the first full-time, Swiss-trained faculty in the U.S.

MacCoy explains that the connection was made through Yale, where Kelly studied.

Armin Hofmann was first invited to New Haven by Herbert Matter, Yale’s professor of photography. Then, in 1956, Yale asked Hofmann to fill its annual overseas guest teaching position, beginning the university’s long association with Basel. Kelly recognized the innovation in Hofmann’s educational methods.

Kelly hires several of Hofmann’s former students: Inge Druckrey, in 1966, Hans Allemann in 1967.

Armin Hofmann visited KCAI during those years, inspiring the KCAI students and further cementing the Kansas City-Basel connection. Kathy Stewart Salchow, who graduated in ’67, remembers sitting in the auditorium during Hofmann’s presentation of Basel design; she could hear April Greiman’s audible enthusiasm a few rows behind her.

About the teaching methods of Basel:

Allemann notes that when Hofmann instructed them in the early 1960s, his teaching was still in a formative stage. « Our teachers never explained anything to us, and we learned through the process, » Allemann says. In the U.S., that doesn’t work. Students had questions. I learned how to talk about design, because I had never verbalized before, and there were no books to turn to. We were just experimenting. »

After two years Druckrey and Allemann return to Europe, and Kelly leaved KCAI in 1974. But the influence is spreading to other institutions:

Even as Kelly and his KCAI faculty moved on, several other schools built related, Swiss-influenced programs that remain leaders today: Ken Hiebert, on the of first Americans to attend Basel’s Kunstgewerbeschule, began an even more thightly rationalized program at Philadelphia College of Art in 1966, with faculty that included Basel grad Steff Geissbuhler as well as Allemann and Druckrey. Gordon Salchow’s program at the University of Cincinnati continues to set a national standard. And in 1971, Tom Ockerse, a Yale classmate of Salchow’s began his program at Rhode Island School of Design. Today, Kelly’s influence and Basel methods thrive at the Arizona State University graphic design program he established in his last teaching years before his death in 2004.

Related:

Philadelphia College of Art

Quelques archives sur l’enseignement du design dans cette école, qui depuis 1984 se nomme University of the Arts.

Au Philadelphia College of Art, le programme de design graphique est développé dès 1966 par Kenneth Hiebert, qui a étudié dans la « Fachklasse für Grafik » (classe de graphisme) entre 1959 et 1964, et intègre dans cette formation des principes de l’école de Bâle. D’autres alumni de Bâle qui y enseignent sont Inge Druckrey (de 1971 à 1973), April Greiman, encouragée par Hofmann (de 1971 à 1976), et Christa Zelinski (de 1977 à 2007). Hans-Ulrich Allemann, qui a étudié à Bâle de 1960 à 1965, enseigne au College of Art de 1974 jusqu’en 2009.

Personnalités:

  • Kenneth Hiebert
  • Inge Druckrey
  • April Greiman
  • Christa Zelinski
  • Hans-Ulrich Allemann
  • William Longhauser

Steff Geissbuhler. Born in Switzerland in 1942. Partner and principal at Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. for 30 years and designer of some of the most memorable posters and definitive corporate-identity programs of the latter part of the 20th century.

When Ken Hiebert, one of Geissbuhler’s Basel classmates, was appointed chair of graphic design at Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts), he asked Geissbuhler for help in developing the program. “We introduced a completely new thing there,” recalls Geissbuhler, who served as chair of the department from 1973 to 1975. Geissbuhler and Hiebert recruited colleagues such as Inge Druckery, Keith Godard and Hans Allemann, and began to move things away from a prevailing advertising bias.

“We imported the whole Swiss design philosophy, ‘less is more,’ and the importance of typography, color and drawing.”

AIGA, https://www.aiga.org/medalist-steffgeissbuhler

Artefacts:

Un descriptif de cours de Hans-Ulrich Allemann, Communication Design, de 1981:

Un site web archivé couvrant la période 2000-2012: http://www.uartsgd.com/

Quelques visuels d’affiches trouvées sur ce site:

Poster for a presentation by William Longhauser of his work and experience in Basel. Design: Richard Felton, 1978.
Poster for a lecture by Ken Hiebert. Design: Hans-Ulrich Allemann, 1983
Poster for a lecture by April Greiman. Design: Kenneth Hiebert, 1984
Poster for a lecture by Kenneth Hiebert. Design: Hans-Ulrich Allemann, 1991

Livres et catalogues

Universal Unique, un catalogue d’exposition publié en 1988, rassemble des travaux d’enseignants.

This exhibition presents the work of educators—some who have been influenced directly by being students of the Basel School of Design and others whose work and process is in contrast to the Basel school. Each participant was provided with several components—a grid, an eye, and the word “word.” By furnishing these identical elements, a context was provided to allow these different approaches to become manifest. They were provided as readymades for direct use or for manipulation of any kind deemed appropriate to create a message in the spirit of the overall theme. The presentation format was 30 x 30 inches.

Site de William Longhauser