“He is a rare bird, a daredevil driver, a mountain climber, a teacher par excellence, and a guru. Yet it is difficult, really, to pin him down.” Paul Rand
Armin Hofmann was born on June 29, 1920 in Winterthur, Switzerland. He did his apprenticeship in lithography and studied at Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich. When Hofmann was 26 years old, he began his teaching career at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule (AGS) in Basel. Hofmann and Ruder established an advanced class for graphic design at the AGS that brought great attention from all over the world.
Paul Rand explained, “His goals, though pragmatic, are never pecuniary. His influence has been as strong beyond the classroom as within it. Even those who are his critics are eager about his ideas as those who sit at his feet.”
Kenneth Hiebert, a former student of Hofmann and a founder member of the Philadelphia chapter of AIGA, explained his experience when learning under Hofmann. In the early sixties, Hofmann would occasionally bring in a Cassandre or Stoecklin poster and perfunctorily tack it to the wall. When the students cringed at this apparent maltreatment, Hofmann would say, “A good poster can take it.” What he really meant was that the posters were not intended as museum pieces but as things that could exist in the streets, subject to the effects of weather and time. The fact that Hofmann's posters so admirably served their purposes and survive today both in the living spaces of many of his admires as well as in gallery exhibitions such as this one is evidence of their visual versatility in a range of environments.”
It would be a lie if I were not jealous to the former of Hofmann’s students. Hofmann seems very open minded, down to earth and inspirational as a teacher. His book Graphic Design Manual: Principles and Practice is one of the most important graphic design books that I have. I featured this book in my first post back in March this year. The book was originally a fundamentally new attempt to provide a methodical approach to problems of graphic design.
Not to forget Hofmann role as a graphic designer. His works included posters, logos, exhibitions, color concepts, signage systems and art-in-building projects. His posters are implacable and timeless. The abstract forms create an ambiguity and yet curiosity. His black and white posters are profound. He said, “A primary in black and white posters is to counteract the trivialization of color as it exists today on billboards and in advertising.”
The influence of his philosophy and design must have greatly affected me. He never compromised and his integrity as a teacher and designer need to be followed. “The influence of money, which one must earn through one’s work, endangers this critical relationship between he work and ideal manifestation. If financial gain ultimately becomes more important than the product to be created, one will no longer be able to speak of work that fulfills a higher meaning. When industrial working methods divide aspects of design that belong together, fundamental principles of design may be compromised. In any case, to call attention to the tragic breach that has occurred in mankind’s relationship to modern working methods is a matter of extreme importance for me. In my won work, I feel compelled to set an example: to cultivate a corner of unity and to struggle against dismemberment and fragmentation in the field of design.” - Hofmann
Today marks the 91st anniversary of the birth of Armin Hofmann. May this day bring to you all things that make you smile. Happy Birthday!
Images sources His Work, Quest and Philosophy (Werk, Erkundung, Lehre)