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on March 4, 2012
A remarkably thorough, comprehensive look at the graphics output of this Swiss chemical company. The clean, elegant designs of the Geigy 'look' really took off in the early fifties though the head of the publicity department Rene Rudin, as early as 1944, said: 'We must take care that a certain artistic level is maintained, marked by impeccable typographic design, high quality illustrations and technically flawless reproduction'. An excellent example of this design approach is shown with two pack shots on page sixteen. A 1942 insecticide spay shows a dull, unimaginative can the total opposite of the 1959 version, now with clean type (Helvetica, of course) and a simple graphic.

Page forty-three reveals an interesting observation: Geigy had no style manual, except for the packaging. The company relied on choosing designers who all had a similar attitude to design and were mostly trained at the Allgemaine Gewerbeschule in Basel. Clearly this paid off judging by the high quality of the printed material shown throughout the pages.

As the leading Swiss chemical company with an impeccable corporate face (I would place Hoffman La Roche a close second during the fifties and sixties) the company exported this to divisions in other countries. There is a chapter on Geigy in America and another dealing with United Kingdom. An interesting chapter, by graphic historian Roger Remington, though not relating directly to the company deals with the influence of Swiss graphic design in America.

The first part of the book takes an overall look at the how Geigy organized and ran their Publicity department (a footnote says that before 1966 this was known as the Propaganda Department) in Basel. The rest of the pages cover ads and a wide range of promotional material for named products produced by the pharmaceutical, dyes and agricultural divisions. The last chapter looks at how the company presented itself as a responsible company to the public through books and other media.

The book itself is a sort of reflection of the design Geigy used until the seventies. Clean, orderly presentation of text and the 385 illustrations and well printed on a matt art paper. I think thanks should go to Steven Lindberg who did an excellent translation job from the original German text.

The title will certainly interest designers and anyone dealing with the way a company presents itself in printed material.
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on January 31, 2016
This book is a seemingly exhaustive examination of Geigy's corporate work and way of working over many years. If you're seeking more about the inner workings of a mid-century ad department (and one of the pioneers of the "Swiss" or "International" style), this is a great book to have. My only "complaints" are that I would have liked more of the images to be printed full page and that often the typesetting was a bit cramped, hindering readability. This book's depth and scope makes a fine companion to Unimark International: The Design of Business and the Business Design, another detailed examination of how mid-century design agencies operated. Great specialist book to add to a design bookshelf.
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on February 26, 2010
The significance of J.R. Geigy SA, the Basel pharmaceutical, pesticide and dyestuff producer (later merged into Ciba-Geigy and ultimately Novartis), as a corporate patron of Swiss functional design cannot be overestimated. Flush with profits from its discovery of DDT in the early 1940s, Geigy expanded from a somewhat parochial dye maker to a diversified multinational enterprise within a short time. What was called "propaganda" played an important part in that expansion, and the firm's in-house studio engaged many Basel art and design students, as well as freelancers including the staff of Josef Mueller-Brockmann's firm in Zurich. Richard Hollis' Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965 and other recent surveys credit Geigy, but include relatively few examples of the firm's output; this may be because the materials it produced were addressed to specialized audiences in medicine, agriculture, etc. This book, which complements a Zurich exhibition I would have given anything to see, rectifies this matter considerably. There are many pieces included that have not appeared in articles on the firm's graphic output in Graphis, Gebrauchsgraphik, etc., and the well-researched text places the organization of Geigy's design studios and freelancers in much-needed perspective, and credits individual designers more thoroughly. Only shortcoming is with respect to the American and British branches' output, which could have been better represented; some masterful work, such as a superb series of pharmaceutical ads appearing in U.S. journals in 1960, isn't included. That said, this is as close to a definitive survey of the Geigy graphic design legacy as we could wish for. An indispensable book.
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on January 28, 2010
I purchased this book on a whim without really any idea of what to expect.
I was impressed as hell. The paper stock, the feel and the best part, the images and content were exciting.
If you like Swiss design this is a must have in your collection.
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