The Daily Heller: Fred Troller and His Modern Legacy

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Minimal, geometric, abstract, colorful, playful: These are among the key design characteristics of the Midcentury Modern era. Early century, avant-garde Modernism codified at the Bauhaus evolved into the reductive, angular (and slightly more fluid) but proscribed postwar Swiss “universal” visual language, devoid of ornamentation.

Midcentury Modernists religiously adhered to the tenets of rationality and simplicity. Yet even while following their strict rules of typography, color and precision, which gave this style a uniform appearance, the leading designers nonetheless improvised within fundamental parameters to make distinct compositions. Fred Troller was a leading player in this field but despite his significance, the work fell through the cracks of deign history.

Cover design by Meret Piederman

Fred Troller Design is the first comprehensive survey of the work of a pioneering graphic designer who brought Swiss Modernism to America in the 1960s via influential projects for such clients as Geigy, American Airlines and IBM. The forthcoming book is published by Volume + Unit Editions, and designed with biographical reflections by Troller’s daughter Meret Piderman. The book will address how Troller played with the modern graphic language that transcended its common tropes, and how he developed a symbolic graphic idiom that through allusion implied rather than mimicked the themes he represented through his designs. Through his symbolic methodology, he developed the Geigy pharmaceutical style, rejecting overt imagery by implying the “idea” of medicine—combining medical practice and the human body through simple, flat color collages of representational elements. For covers of books on philosophy, history, psychology and scores of other difficult to illustrate themes, he rejected cliche vignettes for stark accessible visual suggestions.

Volume has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the project, with Fall 2024 as the publication goal.

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