Erik Nitsche (1908 – 1998) was born and studied in Switzerland before moving to the U.S. in 1934. His worked helped change the face of graphic design in the United States.
His designs were beautifully “clean”, balanced compositions with brilliant use of colour, geometry and elegant typography. Amongst his most recognisable and memorable work is a series of posters for General Dynamics where he was artistic director 1955-1960.
Due to the sensitive nature of the subjects he designed for at General Dynamics (national security, atomic energy, weapons, aircraft etc) he had to develop a sophisticated abstract visual language in which he conveyed the corporate mission of General Dynamics without depicting any of their products. In some designs by Nitsche you can see the influence of the work of artist Paul Klee who was a family friend during Eriks’ formative years.
Nitsche’s futurist “Atomic” design style was also very influential, and often copied by other designers in the 1950s.
Swann Auction Galleries in New York have an auction coming up on March 1, which features a collection of Erik Nitsche’s General Dynamics posters, from the collection of Gail Chisolm (1954-2017). Featured below is a selection from Swann Galleries catalogue. Click HERE to see the whole catalogue.
You can also view a fascinating visual archive of designs by Erik Nitsche on Flickr which includes some superb album cover designs for Decca HERE . There is also a comprehensive biographical article on Nitsche on THIS website
ERIK NITSCHE (1908-1998) GENERAL DYNAMICS / CANADAIR LIMITED. Circa 1960.
ERIK NITSCHE (1908-1998) GENERAL DYNAMICS / ATOMS FOR PEACE. 1955.
ERIK NITSCHE (1908-1998) GENERAL DYNAMICS / NUCLEAR FUSION. 1958.
The Penrose Annual of 1956 has a feature article entitled “American Graphic Design” by Peter Selz & Robert Kosta. It is quite a comprehensive story of the history of American graphic design from the early 20th century until when it was written for the 1956 publication.
The article outlines the strong influence on graphic design of painting, architecture and the Bauhaus in earlier part of the 20th Century. It also outlines the possible dangers emerging such as:
“One danger felt by many designers stems for an approach to graphic design in terms of visual form in themselves, without regards for their meaning. This leads easily to cut and dried formula layouts with the substitution of a new set of cliches”
The whole article is a fascinating read, as are all of these in-depth articles in the Penrose Annuals. The articles are well worth studying for those interesting in the history and development of graphic design, emerging technologies of this time, and the development of our overall visual language during the 20th Century.
Magazine Cover by W. H. Allner
Magazine Cover by W. H. Allner
In the Gebrauchspgraphik International Advertising Art Journal of January 1968, is an article entitled “Swiss Pharmaceutical Advertising”.
It features graphics from a publication written by Hans Neuberg which illustrates “a very comprehensive account of the present situation of Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical advertising” at the time.
Pharmaceutical Ads have always been different in their graphical nature to other industrial advertising, because, as outlined in the article:
“For whereas conventional industrial art principally depends on the procurement and utilisation of objective data…..the advertising of chemical-pharmaceutial industry is characterised by a strong, informative tendency. Frequently this method is imposed by far more abstract subject matter”
Below is a selection of some of the impressive and beautiful designs featured in this comprehensive article:
Pharmaceutical Ad – Design by Ciba Studio Basel
The Penrose Annual of 1956 contains a significant article discussing the role printing and graphic design play (other than for stamps) in promoting the services of the British Postal system. The public relations department of the Post Office commissioned a number of talented designers including Eckersley, Lewitt-Him, Henrion, Reiss and many more the results of which “have been some bright and pleasant decorations for dull monochromatic post offices as dreary as all but the most modern post offices themselves”.
Here is a selection of images from the article, written by Misha Black O.B.E.
James Fitton, R.A, British Post Office
A totally captivating series of innovative op art images, superbly printed in bright, bold, flat areas of colour, on matte card.
This series is from the Advertising section of the Penrose Annual 1971 in an Advertisment for Crosfield Electronics. Late 1960’s – early 1970s graphic design at its classic best I think.
“A British electronics imaging company founded by John Crosfield (1915 – 2012) to produce process imaging devices for the print industry. The firm was notable for its innovation. The firm was eventually taken over by Fujifilm Japan and named Fujifilm Electronic Imaging, now FFEI Ltd. following a management buy-out in 2008” (Wikipedia)
Crosfield Electronics, Penrose Annual 1971