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GGK agency Typographer Karl Gerstner dies

Gerstner: “I created everyday art without forcing people into museums”


The Basel artist and leading typography designer Karl Gerstner has died at the age of 86. He was “one of the most important innovators in typography, commercial art and corporate design”, according to the Swiss National Library, home to his design archives since 2006.

Gerstner’s death on New Year’s Day at Basel University Hospital was confirmed by his family. He had been living in a retirement home.

As a young man, Gerstner completed an apprenticeship as a typographer. He set up his own graphic design studio in 1949, and by 1963 he had co-founded GGK – one of the most successful advertising agencies in Switzerland, with offices in other European countries and the US.


Gerstner’s body of work included a new logoexternal link for Swissair [now Swiss International Air Lines] in 1978.

Outside his commercial output, Gerstner also sculpted and helped advance the concrete art movement in Switzerland.

In 2012, he was awardedexternal link the “Grand Prix Design” by the Federal Office of Culture for producing among “the most important exponents of modern commercial graphic design in Switzerland”.

“Just as [Friedrich] Dürrenmatt disguised literature as detective stories, so I created everyday art without forcing people into museums,” Gerstner once said, looking back on his years as a graphic designer.

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