Herbert Matter

Shaping a new design vocabulary

Herbert matter graphic design knoll posters advertising
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Above: Herbert Matter design for Knoll promoting Eero Saarinen’s Tulip chairs, 1965. Photo: Knoll

When I first began working in design it was in graphics. While I was studying film and media at art school and I soon realized that I was going to need a backup plan should I fail to find purchase in the film industry. So as well as my film studies degree I minored in graphic and packaging design. It was during this time I discovered the designs of Swiss-born designer and photographer Herbert Matter. I was immediately taken with his work, in particular the designs he created for Knoll International.

Some earlier graphic and photography work by Herbert Matter. Click on image for full view

Matter immigrated to the U.S. in 1936 and worked as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1943 he joined forces with Charles and Ray Eames (who were just starting out in their careers) as a photographer and it wasn’t long after he was hired by Florence and Hans Knoll who put it him in charge of all visual communication, a position he held for twenty years from 1946 to 1966. One of his first jobs at Knoll was to create a new logo for the company, the result being the instantly recognizable block serif logo used by the company until the late 60’s. Matter’s designs for Knoll, unlike his earlier works, are spare but fluid utilizing a simple but controlled technique. The designs were new and, in some cases, deconstructivist even before the word was invented. The bold imagery with almost no text created a look that was elegant but strong and it would go on to define, as much as the furnishings the company manufactured, the brand that was Knoll International.

The iconic graphic design work created by Herbert Matter for Knoll. Click on image for full view. All images property of Knoll International

Florence and Hans Know with Herbert Matter (left)

Florence and Hans Knoll (center) with Herbert Matter (left) and Harry Bertoia

Herbert matter graphic design knoll posters advertising

Designer and photographer Herbert Matter (1907 – 1984)


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