Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder (* 20 March 1914 in Zurich; † 13 March 1970 in Basel) was a Swiss typographer, author and teacher. He is considered one of the most influential typography teachers of the 20th century, a formative figure in Swiss typography and one of the founding fathers of the Basel School.


Ruder trained as a typesetter from 1929 to 1933. From 1938 to 1939 he studied in Paris and then worked as a commercial printer in a book publishing house in Zurich. From 1941 to 1942 Ruder was a day student at the Zurich School of Applied Arts in the typesetting and letterpress printing class with Walter Käch and Alfred Willimann. In 1942 he was elected full-time specialist teacher for typography and from 1947 head of department 3 (arts and crafts apprenticeship department) at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel. "The choice fell (...) on Emil Ruder, then twenty-eight years old, who was granted unrestricted teaching freedom on account of his qualifications and at the same time was also given full responsibility for the artistic direction of the letterpress printing and typesetting class."[1] The choices at the time were Max Caflisch and Emil Ruder. In 1947 Ruder initiated the one-day specialist class for letterpress printing and in 1968, together with Armin Hofmann, he founded the continuing education class for graphics at the Gewerbeschule Basel. From 1965 to 1970 Ruder was the director of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule and the Gewerbemuseum Basel.

Ruder was a member of the jury for Die gute Form at the Swiss Sample Fair in Basel (1956); of the Central Association of the Swiss Werkbund (1956); of the Federal Commission for Applied Arts (1961) and co-founder of International Center for the Typographic Arts (Icta) in New York (1962).

Emil Ruder had been married to Ingeborg Susanne Schwarz since 1950. The couple had two sons together, Martin (b. 1951) and Daniel (b. 1954).[2]


Emil Ruder saw the task of the typographer in exploring the relationships between technique, function and form. For him, every typographic task required a rethinking of these relationships. Ruder saw the use of ready-made recipes and formulas from a drawer for a design task as misunderstood functionalism. For him, the art of typography lay in the ordering and structuring of letters, words and lines on a given surface. "Typography is primarily conceived as a means of ordering various things. It is no longer a matter of demanding artistic postulates and creations, but of the effort to meet the daily demands formally and functionally."[3] The unconditional legibility of a text was thereby the obligation of every design: "Typography is committed to a clear purpose, and that is written communication. No argument and no consideration can release typography from this obligation. A printed work that cannot be read becomes a meaningless product."[4]


Ruder practised his typographic philosophy on posters for the Gewerbemuseum and the Kunsthalle Basel (Johannes Froben, Die Zeitung, Berlin the largest city in Germany) as well as on his title designs for the Typografische Monatsblätter and in his book design. Surface compositions and structured, asymmetrical arrangements of words and lines of text are in the service of communication. Form and counter-form, line rhythm, proportions of type greys, grey values of columns contrasting with the blank white surface of the paper - the elementary optical laws were the basis of his design experiments.

From 1957 to 1959, Ruder wrote four articles on The Surface, The Line, The Word and The Rhythm for the Typografische Monatsblättern under the heading Essentials. This series of articles formed the basis for his 1967 magnum opus Typography. A Design Textbook.


Both in his design practice, his many years of teaching and in his journalistic contributions, Ruder represented his typographic stance as a craft committed to content. His postulate of unconditional readability of a text was questioned by his students Wolfgang Weingart and Hans-Rudolf Lutz - themselves influential teachers in Basel and Lucerne - with their work and in their typographic typefaces. Both showed in the 1970s that typography is first seen and then read. Weingart as well as Lutz exemplified the pictorial aspect of typographic design on the title designs for the Typographische Monatsblätter: Weingart in a multi-part series from 1972/1973 Typographie realisiert Sprache, Lutz in the series of ten TM titles from 1977 Gestaltung ist Information.

His student Helmut Schmid, on the other hand, was a vehement advocate of Ruder typography. the way to Basel (self-published 1997), the idea special issue 333 Ruder typography. Ruder philosophy (2009) and Emil Ruder - fundamentals (published in 2013 by Seibundo Shinkosha in Tokyo on his initiative and in his book design) bear witness to this lifelong admiration for teacher Emil Ruder. in 2014, on Ruder's 100th birthday, Schmid curated the exhibition thanks Emil Ruder at the Print Gallery in Tokyo.

Pupils of Emil Ruder (selection)

  • Harry Boller
  • Roy Cole
  • Heini Fleischhacker
  • Karl Gerstner
  • Fritz Gottschalk
  • André Gürtler
  • Hans-Jürg Hunziker
  • Hans-Rudolf Lutz
  • Fridolin Müller
  • Ake Nilsson
  • Bruno Pfäffli
  • Helmut Schmid
  • Will van Sambeek
  • Wolfgang Weingart
  • Yves Zimmermann

Publications as designer (selection)

  • Collection Richard Doetsch-Benziger. Books, East Asian Small Art. Catalogue for the exhibition at the Gewerbemuseum Basel 26 January to 3 March 1957.
  • A Day with Ronchamp. Forty-eight photographs by Paul and Esther Merkle, text by Robert Th. Stoll, foreword by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Johannes-Verlag Einsiedeln, 1958.
  • Gardens People Games. A picture book by Paul and Esther Merkle, texts by Adolf Portmann and Richard Arioli, design by Emil Ruder and Armin Hofmann, Pharos-Verlag Basel, 1960.


  • Walter Amstutz (ed.): Who's who in graphic art. An international illustrated handbook of leading commercial artists, illustrators, typographers and caricaturists. Amstutz & Herdeg Graphis Press, 1st edition, Zurich 1962.
  • Emil Ruder: Typography. A Design Textbook. New edition of the original 1967 edition, 7th edition, Verlag Niggli AG, Sulgen 2001, ISBN 3-7212-0043-8.
  • Helmut Schmid (ed.): typography today. idea special issue, Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing Co., Ltd, Tokyo 1980.
  • Friedrich Friedel (ed.): Thesen zur Typografie. Linotype, Eschborn 1984.
  • Helmut Schmid: the way to Basel. Typographic reflections by students of the typographer and teacher Emil Ruder. Robundo Publishers, Tokyo 1997.
  • Richard Hollis: Swiss Graphic Art. The Development of an International Style 1920-1965. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006, ISBN 978-3-7643-7267-5.
  • Daniel Ruder (ed.): Emil Ruder - fundamentals. Four lectures from the 1950s by the master of timeless typography. Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing Co., Ltd, Tokyo 2013, ISBN 978-4-416-11356-1.
  • Christian Brändle, Karin Gimmi, Barbara Junod, Christina Reble, Bettina Richter (eds.): 100 Jahre Schweizer Grafik. Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich 2014, ISBN 978-3-03778-352-8.
  • 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblätter, Lars Müller Publishers 2017, ISBN 978-3-03778-538-6.
  • Helmut Schmid (ed.) Ruder Typography Ruder Philosophy, Lars Müller Publishers 2017, ISBN 978-3-03778-541-6.


Visit our media section for a complete overview.


Emil Ruder
Graphic Design
International Style
International Typographic Style
Swiss Style
Swiss Style Typographers


DeepDove: Style Network (2021-09-22). Swiss Style | Emil Ruder. Retrieved , from




This page was last changed on 2021-09-22.