American Born

Niklaus Troxler: 40 Years of Jazz Posters

University of Michigan

January 15-February 20, 2016

Curated by Stamps Professor Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo and Stamps student Cody Cai (BA 17),Niklaus Troxler: 40 Years of Jazz Posters explores work by designer Niklaus Troxler, a Swiss-born professor and design consultant widely known for his founding of the annual Willisau Jazz Festival in 1975. His pioneering design pieces for Willisau Jazz Festival have been benchmarks in the field of graphic and poster design for about forty-five years and are now in important museum collections such as the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Museum of Modern Art Toyama, Museum for Art and Industry Hamburg, the German Poster Museum in Essen and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Mckinght brown2
shawn4 movie

Edward McKnight Kauffer

"Ted Kauffer (1890-1954) traveled abroad in 1913 where he was introduced to Ludwig Hohlwein's poster masterpieces in Munich and attended the Academie Moderne in Paris... Before crossing the Atlantic he stopped in Chicago where he enrolled at the Art Institute for six months. While in Chicago Kauffer was profoundly influenced by The Armory Show, his first exposure to the burgeoning European avant-garde...Some years later these same paintings would inspire his own benchmark work, Flight, which in 1919 was adapted as a poster for the London Daily Herald — the first Cubist advertising poster published in England."

In England, where he lived and worked, Kauffer was hailed for elevating advertising to high art, "America was not ready for him," wrote Frank Zachary in Portfolio #1 (1949). "So, feeling a 'great rebuff,' he returned to England, where he continued to pile up honors."1

Posters /The WPA (1935-1943)

In 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the Works Progress Administration, a national program that provided employment to workers across the country. Part of the funds were allocated to arts projects in which posters played an important roll. Famous as well as lesser know artists designed posters to promote the arts, advertise federal programs and extol various health and safety issues to the public.

Participating artists created tens of thousands of posters using woodcut, lithography, photo lithography and, silk screen. The posters were produced in a number of styles, illustrative as well as flat, abstracted compositions.




Ben Sheer, 1936 5

Alexander Dux, between 1937-1939 6

Hollywood Movie Posters

Hollywood posters were more immune from European influences. The emphasis was imagery and drama.

American Empire

There was a long wait until Carol Twombly designed Adobe Trajan in the 1980's. Now Trajan rules movie poster titles.


glaser_dylan skolosWeidell Carson

Psychedelic Posters

With strong influences from Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secessionists, (such as shown below) Wes Wilson (b. 1937), pioneered the psychedelic rock poster genre. Intended for an audience "that was tuned in to the psychedelic experience." He further experimented with pulsating pictures and undulating letters. He's still around doing his thing here.


Richard Harlfinger, Austria, 1913


Push Pin Studios

In 1954 three graduates of The Cooper Union, Milton Glaser, (b.1929), Seymour Chwast (b. 1931) and Ed Sorel (b.1929) joined together to form Push Pin Studios in New York City. All three were gifted illustrators but soon added graphic design to their roster of skills. The Push Pin look, nothing like the Swiss Style, often remixed historical styles, especially Art Nouveau, Victorian typography and wood type. Glaser's famous Dylan poster (above) is a typical stylistic hybrid, "a classical Persian miniature painting and 20th century collage portrait by Marcel Duchamp." 2 FYI These full size posters were often included in record albums and were plastered all over our dorm walls in the 70's.

Humor and wit, as well as strong political statements against racial issues and the Vietnam War, were part of the Push Pin work.

Numerous typefaces were harvested from Push Pin posters and illustrations:Baby Teeth, Glaser Stencil, Keepon Truckin and more you can see on a Typophile discussion.

Now working separately, the Push Pin Studios continue under Mr. Chwast. Mr. Sorel continues to produce award winning illustrations while Mr. Glaser, a frequent speaker and design personality, practices design in his own studio.

Nancy Skolos + Tom Wedell

Both graduates of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Nancy Skolos (b. 1955) also has an MFA from the Yale graphic design program. The following information about them appears on their studio poster archives.

"Husband and wife, the two work to diminish the boundaries between graphic design and photography—creating collage three-dimensional images influenced by cubism, technology and architecture. With a home/studio halfway between Boston and Providence they balance their commitments to professional practice and teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design. Their work has received numerous awards and has been widely published and exhibited. Skolos/Wedel's posters are included in the graphic design collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, Switzerland." 7

Skolos is an elected member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and plays a mean clarinet.

Suggested Reading: Their book, Type, Image, Message.


David Carson (b. 1954)

What could be more American than a surf poster? David Carson is the complete package: graphic designer, surfer, Californian, and all around design rock star. Mix his background with his influence by Swiss designer Hans-Rudolph Lutz (1939-1998) and you get a pretty free wheeling design aesthetic.

(Below a spread from Lutz's Typoundso).


"David Carson's boundary-breaking typography in the 1990s, in Ray Gun magazine and other pop-cult books, ushered in a new vision of type and page design -- quite simply, breaking the traditional mold of type on a page and demanding fresh eyes from the reader. Squishing, smashing, slanting and enchanting the words on a layout, Carson made the point, over and over, that letters on a page are art. You can see the repercussions of his work to this day, on a million Flash intro pages (and probably just as many skateboards and T-shirts)." 8

See Carson's web site for a listing of accolades he has received. By the looks of his travel schedule if he has not visited your country in the past year or so he will be there soon.

See his presentation at TED here.


Heller, Stephen, E. McKnight Kauffer, AIGA Biography, 1992

Victory concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art : Free to the public, Byron Browne. Byron Browne. [between 1936 and 1941]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-1586.

(Source: Eskilson, p. 346.)


14th Illinois cattle feeders meeting Nov. 8, 1940, University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill. 1940. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-899.

Years of Dust By Ben Shahn, Resettlement Administration, 1937, Photolithograph Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, National Archives and Records Administration (MO 90-10)

Ben Sheer, 1936
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


See America / Dux. Alexander Dux. [between 1936 and 1939]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-4243.

From the Skolos-Wedel web site.

Ted Conference Bio

creative commons copyright © 2011 For Permission Info click here