Max Huber

ICONOFGRAPHICS

Switzerland, Zurich, 1919 - 1992

"He was a splendid mix; he had irrepressible natural talent and a faultless drawing hand; he possessed the lively candour of the eternal child; he was a true product of the Swiss School; he loved innovatory research; he boasted a lively curiosity, being quick to latch on - not without irony - to the most unpredictable ideas, and he worked with the serious precision of the first-rate professional."
- Giampiero Bosoni

extract from Bosoni's essay 'Max Huber, archigraphic designer' in'Max Huber', Phaidon Press, 2006.

SWITZERLAND, THE SWISS SCHOOL

Max Huber was born in Switzerland in 1919. At the age of 17 Huber registered at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts, where Ernst Gubler, Gottlieb Wehrli, Heinri Mčller, Walter Roshardt, Otto Weber and Alfred Willimann were teachers. Williman suggested Huber should spend time in the school library, where he could discover the experiments of Bauhaus-designers such as Tschichold as well as European abstract artists and russian constructivists.

Zurich's art and design world didn't lack for stimuli at this time. Graphic artists from Germany that had been derailed by the National Socialist seizure of power, settled in switzerland. Together with several young Swiss colleagues, they laid the foundations of the Swiss school of graphic design, also known as the International Typographic Style. Its inherent design values included a reliance on a typographic grid system, left-hand margin settings contrasting with a ragged right hand, sans serif typefaces, and a commitment to a clear, rational aesthetic.












You can find more information on the Swiss School here.

Lenin
1947
book cover, front and back,
Einaudi, 190x130mm

La formazione
della Cina Moderna

1945
book cover,
Einaudi, 210x150mm

Gardella
1958
book cover,
Edizioni di Comunita, 255x195mm

ITALY, STUDIO BOGGERI

It was in this Avant-garde environment that Huber began his career. As it turned out, a Zurich education proved to be succesful, particularly in Milan - a centre of avant-garde art ever since Marinetti's manifesto - that lacked it's own school for graphic artists during this period.

When arriving in Milan at the age of 21, december 1940, he was hardly capable of stuttering a few words in italian. This stuttering didn't bother Antonio Boggeri as he was impressed by the calling card Huber left. At first sight the elegant card seemed to be printed, but a closer look revealed the hand-drawn letters with their careful spacing. He immediately hired the young designer.

Huber saw Milan, and studio Boggeri in particular, as the melting pot in which illustration, painting, photography and printing could come together. At Boggeri's Huber was able to exchange ideas with people of his own age, as well as leading exponents in the design world, intellectuals and avant-garde artists.

Borsalino
poster

Sirenella
1946
poster, 134.6 x 94.6 cm

At the beginning of the second World War, he was forced to return to his homeland Switzerland. Between 1942 and 1944 he spent time with the members of the Alliance Association of Modern Swiss Artists in Zurich, a group of modern Swiss artists led by Max Bill.

To Huber Studio Boggeri and the city of Milan were so stimulating that he returned as soon as possible. When the war ended, he decided to emigrate there permanently. Huber believed that in the aftermath of war, design had the capacity to restore human values. This humanistic conception of design had great currency across Europe in the 1950s. Man had been disordered and alienated by conflict: the challenge was his restoration.*

Italia URSS
1966
poster, 1000x700mm

Arte astreatta
e concreta

1947
Palazo Reale,
poster, 1000x700mm

HUBER AS A DESIGNER

Huber always worked as a freelance designer, collaborating directly with each client. He tried to find a balance between the needs of his clients and his own need to experiment. He loved innovatory research. He would not hesitate to withdraw when a client made a ridiculous request, but if the suggestion was useful he was willing to adapt his plans.

Viaggio intorno al mondo
1966
book cover, 215x145mm
publisher Instituto Geografico De Agostini

1000 km di Monza
1968
poster, 1000x700mm

He never used his images in a strict sense. He often mixed unframed flat photographic and typographic elements with strips of colour to convey a certain feeling of dynamism and speed. He used recognizable elements in his design, without having them tell a story. His work concentrated on photographic experiments and clear type combined with the use of bold shapes and primary colors. His strict grids were easily identifiable. Huber favoured clarity, rhythm and synthesis. He used succinct texts, composed from different hierarchical groups; a large title with secundary information in a smaller type, a sequence of levels. Troughout the years he was not influenced by fashion, but held onto his basic ideas.

La Rinascente
1951
advertisement, 295x205mm

From 1950 to 1954 Huber worked for the department store La Rinascente, also known as "Elle Erre", the time Albert Steiner was art director of their Advertising Office. Steiner saw the designer as a protagonist, not just an executor. These ideas made him a highly original figure on the Italian scene. Steiner as well as Huber belonged to a generation of change, political and social, but also cultural.

Milan became the Italian link with international culture, and Huber, being a leading player, was invited to international design-conventions. These frequent international trips brought him into contact with other major designers, mainly American and Japanese. One of these leading Japanese designers was Takeshi Kono. Max fell in love with his daughter Aoi and married her. Between 1964 and 1965 he and Aoi spent long periods in Japan.

Huber's personal
Jazz Record Collection

1950
two examples of storage boxes.

One of the freelance jobs he executed with great enthusiasm was the design of record covers, posters and publications for jazz events. He was fond of jazz-music and linked it to his own design by bringing the rhythm into his visuals. The music was represented through the relationship between signs and colours.

INFLUENCES

Tracing back Huber's influences one finds a never-ending list of connections and friendships, both personal and professional, intellectual figures of various disciplines and branches.
First there is Hubert's puritan, constructivist Swiss background. The constant use of flat figures in his design links to his original sources: the early avant-gardes represented by Moholy-Nagy, Piet Zwart and Max Bill. Huber applied the utopian aesthetics of the avant-garde to a corporate and commercial environment throughout his life.
Despite the lack of an apparent Futurist legacy, Huber did find inspiration in their ideas. The core preoccupations of Futurist art were machines and motion, elements we recall in several of his poster-designs for sports-events.

Gran premio dell'
Autodromo Monza

1948
poster, 1400x1000cm

500 Miglia di Monza
1957
poster, 140x100cm

His celebrated posters for the Monza races, his jazz record covers, and book series for major publishers such as Einaudi and Etas continue to be brilliant pieces to this day. However, Huber's most enduring achievements are on a completely different scale and remain in the collective memory of generations. Even half a century after they were commissioned, Max Huber's logo-designs are still in use today. Not only the logo of the La Rinascente department store, designed in 1950, but also the Coin clothing store in 1955 and the Essalunga (supermarket) Logo in 1958

Max Huber died in Mencrisio, Switzerland, November 16, 1992. He continued to work up until the very end of his life.

Lavore per tutti
1946
book cover, 215x150mm

Il Giornale Radio
1948
book cover, 115x175mm

La ricostruzione
edilizia nell'U.R.S.S.

1946
book cover,
Enaudi, 210x300mm

Petrolio e Sud
1959
book cover,
Etas, 210x295mm

READING

Stanislaus von Moos, Mara Campana, Giampiero Bosoni, Max Huber, Phaidon Press (2006).
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Richard Hollis, Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965, Yale University Press (2006).
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IMAGES

Book design by Max Huber

Today you can visit m.a.x.museo in Chiasso, Switzerland. This museum was established in November 2005 by Max Huber's wife Aoi Huber-Kono, with the aim of disseminating design culture and leaving his work to posterity.