Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder was a Swiss graphic designer and typographer born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1914. Ruder began his education within the field of design at the young age of 15 years old as an intern for a typesetting compositor. He then went on to study typography in a number of different settings including Paris and the University of Zurich where he was taught principles of Bauhaus design and designer Jan Tschichold’s new methodology for typography. He then began to teach typography at a trade school in the Swiss city of Basel in 1942, and soon after in 1947 became head of his department of Applied Arts. In this position, Ruder met Armin Hofmann who would ultimately become a life-long collaborator of Ruder’s. Hofman and Ruder’s teaching partnership gained notoriety internationally, and their courses encouraged students to think technically and critically about design.

As Ruder began to emerge as an established designer, he became known as a major contributor to the Swiss style of design. This style was developed in the 1950s and is characterized by its use of a grid-structure, sans serif typefaces, and asymmetrical layouts. Ruder’s approach to typographic design is differentiated from others in his field because of his holistic perspective of design. The design methodology that Ruder developed emphasized disciplines such as philosophy and theory to supplement the aesthetic aspects of typography. It was his belief that graphic design should function as “the good and the beautiful in word and image and to open the way to the arts” (Hollis 2006). Ruder saw graphic design and typography first and foremost as a means of communication before anything else, and maintained that focus in his own work. The purpose of printing legibility was of great importance to Ruder- he once said “Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing” (Ruder 1967). For this reason, his work is seen as extremely communication-centered rather than being primarily aesthetically motivated.

Ruder also went on to become a contributing writer and editor for Typografische Monatsblätter (Typographic Monthly), a trade publication where he would write about the practice of graphic design. During this stage of his career, Ruder felt ready to disregard all of the traditional principles of typography in favor of newer, more modern styles of composition. Through this publication, Ruder’s new philosophy of modern design began to take shape, and he went on to publish a series of four articles on the subject. The articles were called Fundamentals: The Plane, The Line, The Word, and Rhythm. The summation of these written articles eventually formed a larger, more dense publication called Typographie: A Manual For Design, that was published in 1967. This book acted as an illustrated guide through Ruder’s methods and approach to design, as well as critical reflection of his own work. This book allowed for the Swiss style to become internationally known and practiced, and became a text of reference for many graphic design and typography courses in Europe and elsewhere. Emil Ruder passed away in Switzerland in 1970 at the age of 55, and his legacy lives on in the contributions he made to the field of typography and graphic design to this day.


Esquer, R. (2020, August 06). Seven facts About EMIL RUDER, the man behind the Swiss style. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://alfalfastudio.com/2019/11/15/seven-facts-about-emil-ruder-the-man-behind-the-swiss-style/

Hollis, Richard (2006). Swiss Graphic Design. London: Laurence King Publishing.

TypeRoom. (2020, March 13). In grid WE Trust: Emil Ruder aka the ICONIC pioneer of Swiss style. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.typeroom.eu/in-grid-we-trust-emil-ruder-aka-the-iconic-pioneer-of-swiss-style