Ralph Schraivogel
17. 6. – 20. 10. 2002, on weekdays 10.00–18.00
Design centrum ÈR, Radnická 2

Ralph Schraivogel’s Fascinating Posters
A new and original approach emerged unexpectedly at international poster exhibitions in the early 1990’s, the work of Swiss designers. These artists employed abundant visual effects in their poster production, dramatically different from the previous refined and rational Swiss style, thus enriching Swiss graphic design with a new, individual dimension. The experimental and independent approach to design employed by Wolfgang Weingart, Paul Bruhwiller and Niklaus Troxler was successfully adopted by a group of younger, talented graphic designers in the late 1990’s, such as Melchior Imboden and Ralph Schraivogel.
At a time when new technologies are dominating the scene, Ralph Schraivogel opts for a traditional creative approach through which he accomplishes visual creations in his posters that, in their final effect, approximate to digitally manipulated images. Schraivogel’s art is based on the specific properties of photography and on their experimental application in photographic montages. The artist achieves the imaginative form of his posters by layering, merging and the precise fit of the individual parts making up the montages. The result is a fascinating and enchanting visual play, in which dynamic typography permeates the texture of the picture grid (poster series for the African film festival, Filmpodium in Zurich: Cinemafrica, 1997), or type co-shapes the picture structure (John Ford, 1996, film poster and Gross & Klein, 1997, exhibition poster). “I’m interested in an image in which language ceases to function,” comments the artist on his work. He derives his imaginativeness from a life-long desire to become a painter, and pursues a striking, vivid mode of expression close to painting.
Largely due to the limited financial potential of his clients, the designer’s cultural posters are mostly monochrome serigraphs issued in small editions. He enriches the silver, black and white colour scheme with a wide range of grey half-tones, occasionally complemented by one or two basic colours. He has achieved a specific colour effect by printing on brown wrapping paper (Im Rückenwind, 1991, exhibition poster). The visual effects and symbolism of Schraivogel’s posters are not accidental. They are based on systematic gathering of materials for each commission. Through these materials, the artist captures the essence of the work; they inspire him and help him towards ideal solutions. Claude Lichtenstein, curator of the Henry van de Velde exhibition at the Museum of Design in Zurich, recalls how Ralph Schraivogel succeeded in finding an ideal approach to the poster for his exhibition. In the poster, the past and present form and meaning unified in an ideal harmonic symbol expressing Velde’s theory of lines, according to which each line contains the energy of its creator. Schraivogel created a metaphor for Velde’s theory: he chose an 1897 photograph of a chair and provided it with a grid of lines, turning it into an object emanating energy.
The perfection and final impact of Schraivogel’s posters can be, to a large extent, credited to the precise printing skills of Albin Uldry’s workshop. The artist always participates in the process in order to check and influence the final phase of his work. For example, with subtle products such as the poster for the AGI seminar in Zurich (1999), sophisticated printing is of the utmost importance.
Ralph Schraivogel’s posters are endlessly fascinating, for their beauty and originality of visual metaphors, as well as for continuous typographical experiments with which the artist communicates information on cultural events. At the same time, and with sensitivity, he produces an unforgettable atmosphere to reflect the moments his works are designed for, and which the posters sustain in their aesthetic timelessness.

Marta Sylvestrová

As a poster designer, I think a poster is like a panel painting or picture and typography has a role to play in the picture. That is to say, before you read anything on the poster, you see it in its shapes. I have a use of typography which is a little bit different to classical typographers. I force the type to be something which type designers did not thing about when it was designed.
Typography is to me something not very pleasurable, because there are always problems to solve. So it took some time until I came to like it rather than struggle with. Nowadays, I enjoy playing with it. And I often like even to destroy it. But it’s always to find the border of limit, because I don’t think it makes any sense to make typography that is not readable.
I was taught Bauhaus/wise, though I did not like it. After all I wanted to escape from Bauhaus style. My pleasure in visual design has a root in my early wishes to make image. I used to want to become a painter. So when I design a poster, I try to create an image itself including typography, rather than a poster. A certain goal is to find something new in visual communication in which you can express what cannot be expressed with language. My personal goal is to reach something nobody else could ever reach in another medium.
The use of sans-serif types might be a remaining of my Bauhaus style education. Actually what always goes through is chaos and order in complicated design. Because I have more baroque image in the image than types, sans-serif type brings order in the image. There is a reason if you manipulate its simple form.
I have not ever made use of computers so far. It is certain that computers bring you more possibilities and easiness to handle them. But I think design is not a question of possibilities but a choice.
It’s always experiment.

Ralph Schraivogel
In: Idea 275/1999