Karl Gerstner

Karl Gerstner (* 2 July 1930 in Basel; † 1 January 2017 ibid) was a Swiss graphic designer, advertiser and important representative of Swiss typography.


After grammar school and a preliminary course in design at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel, Karl Gerstner completed an apprenticeship as a graphic artist at Fritz Bühler's studio between 1945 and 1948. At the same time he attended courses with Emil Ruder at the Gewerbeschule. Together with Markus Kutter, he founded the advertising agency Gerstner + Kutter in 1959, which became "GGK" in 1962 with the participation of Paul Gredinger. For a long time, GGK was one of the most successful agencies in Switzerland and later in Germany. It had branches in many European countries.

After his retirement from the advertising world, Gerstner became involved in publishing. Johannes Gross, then editor-in-chief of the Cologne-based business magazine Capital, engaged him as a consultant. For many years, Gerstner worked with the editor-in-chief to design the content and look of the monthly cover story.

When the publishing house Gruner + Jahr launched the business magazine impulse in 1980, Gerstner was also significantly involved in the project. He designed the visual appearance of the magazine and, as with Capital, was decisively involved in the design of the cover stories. In 1981/82 he was also a consultant to the art magazine art, which also published an article on Gerstner as an artist in issue 11/1981.

As an independent consultant, he was a feared but also valued critic of the editorial work in the editorial offices.

Gerstner's best-known works include the book Programme Entwerfen, published in 1963. The 1973 exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art curated by Emilio Ambasz, "Designing Programs/Programming Designs: An Exhibition of Karl Gerstner", was based on this same book.

In 1964, works by him were shown at documenta III in Kassel in the graphics section and also at the 4th documenta in 1968.

His archive has been in the Prints and Drawings Department of the Swiss National Library since 2006.

Gerstner also became known as an art collector. Since 1991, the extensive Karl Gerstner art collection has been on display at the Museum Weserburg in Bremen. Works from it by Arman, George Brecht, Christo, Robert Filliou, Raymond Hains, Bernhard Luginbühl, Dieter Roth, Daniel Spoerri, Hugo Suter, André Thomkins, Jean Tinguely and Jakob Weder are presented in changing exhibitions.


  • cold art? 1st edition, published by Arthur Niggli AG Teufen, 1957
  • Designing programmes. Foreword by Paul Gredinger. 1st edition: Verlag Arthur Niggli AG Teufen, 1964
  • Designing Programs. 3rd expanded edition revised and expanded by the author edited by Harald Geisler and Jonas Pabst, Lars Müller Publishers, 5400 Baden, Switzerland, 2007 ISBN 978-3-03778-092-3
  • The Artist and the Majority. Foreword by Johannes Cladders. (= Syndikat Paperback EVA, Volume 73), Syndikat, Frankfurt am Main, 1986, ISBN 3-434-46073-X.
  • Avant Garde cuisine - principles instead of recipes, imagination instead of routine, healthy and good instead of healthy or good. Publisher Arthur Niggli AG CH-9410 Heiden, 1990, ISBN 3-7212-0237-6
  • Compendium for Alphabets. 3rd edition, Verlag Arthur Niggli AG CH-9410 Heiden, 1990, ISBN 3-7212-0236-8
  • Review of 5 x 10 Years of Graphic Design etc. Hatje Cantz Publishing House 2001, ISBN 978-3775790581
  • Karl Gerstner: Review of Seven Chapters of Constructive Images Etc. Foreword by Eugen Gomringer, Hatje Cantz Verlag 2003, ISBN 978-3775791502


  • 1973: Museum of Modern Art, New York City: Designing Programs/Programming Designs: An Exhibition of Karl Gerstner, curated by Emilio Ambasz.


  • documenta III. International Exhibition; Catalogue: Volume 1: Painting and Sculpture; Volume 2: Hand Drawings; Volume 3: Industrial Design, Graphics; Kassel/Cologne 1964.
  • Exhibition catalogue for the IV documenta: IV documenta. International Exhibition; Catalogue: Volume 1: (Painting and Sculpture); Volume 2: (Graphics/Objects); Kassel 1968.


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