Armin Hofmann

Armin Hofmann (* 29 June 1920 Winterthur; † 18 December 2020 in Lucerne) was a Swiss graphic designer and influential teacher.

Armin Hofmann was a Swiss graphic designer, born on 29 June 1920 in Winterthur and died on 18 December 2020, in Lucerne. Through his teaching at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel (Basel School of Design, AGS), where he was in charge of the graphic design class from 1947 to 1987, he played an important role in the development of Swiss typographic style.


Armin Hofmann studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich between 1937 and 1939, and from 1938 to 1942 he completed an apprenticeship as a lithographer in Winterthur. He was impressed by the "seriousness and commitment" of his teachers, in particular Ernst Gubler (1895-1958).

From 1943 onwards, he worked as a lithographer and graphic designer in various workshops, including with Fritz Bühler in Basel, alongside Karl Gerstner and Max Schmid.

In 1947, at the age of 26, after a meeting with Emil Ruder (typography teacher and head of the department of applied arts), he began teaching graphic design at the AGS (in the Fachklasse für Grafik).

In 1953, Armin Hofmann married Dorothea Schmid, who was in her third year of the graphic design class7.

Genesis of the Graphic Design Manual

In 1959, Hofmann was contacted by Jean Koefoed of the American publishing house Reihold Publishing. Koefoed was impressed by an article Hofmann had published in Graphis magazine on design education. He told Hofmann that there was a real gap in the field and encouraged him to write a book. As a result of this encouragement, Hofmann wrote his Manual of Graphic Design, which was published in 1965.

International teaching

Armin Hofmann was a regular lecturer at the Yale University School of Art from 1956 until 1991 (as a visiting lecturer in graphic design)9. He participated in the 1956 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado.

In January 1965, he travelled to India with his wife to teach graphic design at the National Institute of Design (en) in Ahmedabad, a school founded in 1961. In a television interview, he stated that in the context of industrialisation, artistic training plays a vital role10. He took a year's leave of absence from the Gewerbeschule, where he was replaced by Kurt Hauert. Wolfgang Weingart11 and Adrian Frutiger12 visited him during his stay in India.

Yale Summer Program in Graphic Design

From 1974 onwards, and for many years to come, Hofmann organised the Summer Program in Graphic Design at Yale University. The course was held in Brissago, Ticino, where Hofmann had a residence. Figures such as Paul Rand and Wolfgang Weingart also took part in this summer academy, which remained active until 199611.

Life and work

After attending the preliminary design course at the Zurich School of Applied Arts, Armin Hofmann did an apprenticeship as a lithographer in Winterthur from 1938 to 1942. Afterwards he worked as a lithographer at Frobenius in Basel and as a graphic artist at Fritz Bühler's studio. In 1947 he became a lecturer in the graphics class at the arts and crafts department of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel (from 1980 Schule für Gestaltung Basel). Here he developed a teaching method for design professions. In 1965 he published a corresponding teaching aid which attracted international attention. In 1967 Hofmann became head of the specialist class for commercial graphics at the Gewerbeschule. The following year, together with Emil Ruder, he founded the continuing education class for visual design. Hofmann also held various guest professorships at international schools, including the Philadelphia College of Art, the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, and Yale University. Between 1974 and 1996, Hofmann also led an international summer course for graphic designers in Brissago. His students include Karl Gerstner, April Greiman, Jörg Hamburger, Reinhart Morscher, Thérèse Moll, Nelly Rudin and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.

In addition to his teaching activities, Hofmann was active as a practical graphic artist. He created over 100 posters, mainly for Basel cultural institutions such as the Gewerbemuseum, the Stadttheater and the Kunsthalle Basel, as well as stamps and various sigils, including for Expo 64, the Basel Bach Choir and the St. Jakobshalle. Another field of activity was art-in-building, such as his "concrete pictures", in which he had pictorial structures cast in concrete. Many of these concrete works are architectural components of the Basel School of Design and can be seen in the schoolyard and in the school building and are open to the public.

Armin Hofmann was married to the draughtswoman and graphic artist Dorothea Hofmann-Schmid for more than 60 years. From the 1970s they lived in Lucerne, where Hofmann died in December 2020 at the age of 100.

Outstanding achievements

Armin Hofmann's graphic creations are mainly in the field of posters. For forty years, he produced numerous successful posters for cultural institutions, including the Gewerbemuseum Basel (Museum of Decorative Arts), the Stadttheater Basel (theatre) and the Kunsthalle Basel (museum of contemporary art). The collections of the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich contain more than 120 posters by Armin Hofmann, dating from 1948 to 198913.

Personal exhibitions

1957-58: 8 Swiss Graphic Artists, travelling exhibition in the USA. 1981: Posters, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 10 September - 25 October. 1986: The Basel School of Design and its Philosophy, poster exhibition at Moore College of Art, Philadelphia. 1990: Werk - Erkundung - Lehre, at the Poster Museum in Essen, 6 April - 10 June. 2003: at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich, 3 March - 30 May. An album collecting his posters is published on this occasion. 2020: Armin Hofmann - Die Plakate und die Siebdruckmappe, Skulpturen und Reliefs, 20 October - 6 November. On the occasion of Hofmann's centenary, 90 original posters are exhibited at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel.


  • 1987 Honorary Doctor of the Philadelphia University of the Arts
  • 1988 Honorary HRD (Honorary Royal Designers) of the Royal Society of Arts
  • 1997 Culture Prize of the City of Basel
  • 2011 AIGA Medal, American Institute of Graphic Arts
  • 2013 Grand Prix Design of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, Switzerland


  • Hofmann, Armin. In: Hans Vollmer (ed.): Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts. Volume 6, Supplements H-Z. E. A. Seemann, Leipzig 1962, p. 69.
  • André Gürtler / Wolfgang Weingart: Armin Hofmann: Designer, Teacher and Educator. In: TM/SGM. Vol. 105, No. 3, 1986, pp. 1-32.
  • Hans Wichmann (ed.): Armin Hofmann: Work, Exploration, Teaching. Birkhäuser, Basel 1989, ISBN 3-7643-2339-6.
  • Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (ed.): Poster Collection 7: Armin Hofmann. Lars Müller, Baden 2003, ISBN 3-03778-004-5.
  • Fabienne Ruppen / Christof Nüssli (eds.): Armin Hofmann - Colour. Self-published, Zurich 2012.


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