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Swiss Style & Your Blog

Be inspired by a classic, clean, and concise design aesthetic.

Let’s take a quick look at a period of design history, and discuss how it informs and applies to your blog today.

Even if you haven’t heard the term “Swiss Style” before, you’ve surely seen it in action. In graphic design history, “Swiss Style” (also known as the “International Typographic Style”) refers to a specific type of design that was made popular by Swiss designers like Joseph Müller-Brockmann and Armin Hofmann in the 1950s. The Swiss Style movement was based on the idea that design should be objective: the content should lead the message. Designers stripped out superfluous elements and used a clean, clear aesthetic to accentuate and amplify the core message.

Swiss-style posters by Josef Müller-Brockmann

Swiss Style posters by Josef Müller-Brockmann. Designed between 1953-1980. Via Maryellen McFadden on Flickr

Though we often refer to this as “Swiss Style”, the core concepts didn’t necessarily originate in Switzerland. Swiss Style is based on a number of ideas that originated in Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia, as far back as the 1920s.

Stylistically, Swiss Style typically involves simple, clear presentation of content, mathematical grid-based layouts, pure shapes and forms, and sans-serif typefaces. When photography is used, it’s a tool to convey the message, not just to keep the page pretty.

The legacy of Swiss Style is everywhere. Much of what we view on the web incorporates ideas developed during this time. Grid-based layouts, clean typography, and information-driven design are all standard best practices for websites nowadays. The movement also gave birth to many typefaces that are widely used today: Akzidenz-Grotesk, Helvetica, and Univers to name a few.

Bring Swiss Style to your blog

If you’re inspired by Swiss Style, WordPress.com has dozens of themes that might be right up your alley. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Remember, this is just one of many different design approaches you can take with your blog! Always be sure to choose a theme and an aesthetic that works for you.

Beyond theme choice, consider the following aesthetic decisions to reflect the Swiss design mindset:

  • Pare down your design to only the elements that help tell your story.
  • Choose fonts that don’t distract from your content. Lato, Montserrat, and Noto Sans are all fantastic Swiss-inspired fonts available in the Customizer.
  • Ensure you have clear text hierarchy. Large, bold headlines paired with smaller, lighter body text is a good place to start. Swiss design has a great respect for typograhy, so be sure to make your text structured and readable.
  • Consider using geometric shapes for your blog’s header and post imagery.
  • Choose a bold, bright color palette, or just keep things simple with black and white.
  • Use photography that adds value to your posts, not just something that makes them pretty.

To learn more about Swiss Design, check out Design is History, and this informative post from Print Magazine. For more posts on similar topics, check out my Principles of Design series.

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  1. Great post! I currently have Isola but came across issues I can’t fix with its pallete. I’ve lost the clean white spaces I once had. Posted a query on it about a month ago, but I might check out cocoa instead. Love noto sans!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not often – I feel change just for the sake of it can be confusing if you’re trying to develop you own blog “character”. So for me, change of theme should correspond to at least some kind of change in the blog itself, like writing style or content …

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That makes sense. I would also think that in addition to a change in the blog, there might also be a chance in the person or a change in the person’s perspective or outlook that could necessitate a change…..
        Thanks or your comment.

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  2. After three years using Nashita (which I still love), because of this post, I have switched to Cocoa. Cocoa is EXACTLY what I’ve been wanting, but never could quite find the style. Until now… Thank you for this!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for all these wonderful ideas to improve the image of one’s blog. I took up the advice,and decided to change the name of my blog so that the new name may reflect what my blog was about. I successfully changed the name but what Iam confused about is that it is still the old name which is still showing. I do not know what I did not do to effect the name change. Would appreciate any thoughts or advice.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post, I love this design aesthetic. I much prefer the simple, well designed minimalist themes. I’ve just switched to a responsive design and am much happier with the style as well as the performance on smaller screens and devices. I wonder how many others are aware of responsive design and why it matters?

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  5. Interesting stuff! I recognize swiss style, without ever having known it was called swiss style.

    I think many of us could do with paring things down our blogs in this way, but it can seem like a bit of a leap of faith sometimes – it’s tempting to throw everything trick and widget we have at our websites, when the clean, simplified (but smartly done) approach is often more effective.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As a graphic design graduate, I appreciated this reminder of not only the importance of choosing the right font but also that simplicity is still the best when it comes to design. While busyness works for special projects, I do believe that simplicity overall is a great compliment of style. I find myself leaving websites that are way too busy. Just me. Thanks.

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