Yesterdays blog and the acquisition of some former Ben Bos library books on grapphic design inspired me to find some more information on Jean Widmer.
Jean Widmer is an acclaimed Swiss graphic designer too based in France.
From 1946 to 1950 he studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) of Zurich, then directed by the former Bauhaus master Johannes Itten (1888-1967). In 1953 he moved to Paris, where attended lithography courses at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts).
After one-year internship at the Atelier Tolmer, located on the Île Saint-Louis, he was appointed Art Director of SNIP—Société Nouvelle d’Information et de Publicité (New Society of Information and Advertising), holding this charge from 1956 to 1959. He later moved to Galeries Lafayettes, a major department store, substituting Peter Knapp as its Art Director, from 1959 to 1961. At the same time he also worked at Jardin des Modes magazine as art director and photographer, holding the position until 1969. During the 1960s he also travelled in Japan to study ‘shodo,’ Japanese calligraphy, and ‘mon,’ Japanese traditional crests.
In 1969 he opened Visuel Design, focusing on coordinated graphic communication for cultural and public institutions. The same year he was the first designer to develop a corporate identity system for a French cultural institution, developing the graphic communication of the CCI—Centre de Création Industrielle (Center of Industrial Creation).
It was during this period that Widmer developed his own original graphic language, based on synthesis, rigorous geometry, and schematic typography that to this day represents the first and one of the few examples of Modern graphic design in France.
In 1972 he took charge of the first design for the French Highways signage, drawing a beautiful and effective pictogram system. From 1974 to 1977, and again in 1985, he designed the coordinated identity for the Centre Georges Pompidou, formed from the merging of the CCI with other cultural institutions, for which he designed a beautiful and iconic mark that portrays the famous façade of the building.
In 1979 he designed an acclaimed poster for Kieler Woche, the major sailing event in the world that is famous in the world of graphic design for its striking communication. From 1983 to 1987 he worked on the corporate identity design for the prestigious Musée d’Orsay, in collaboration with the prominent graphic designer Bruno Monguzzi.
He continued to focus on corporate graphics for cultural institutions, developing the identity for the Théâtre National de la Colline, and the IMA—Institut du Monde Arab, both in 1987, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in 1994. In 1989 he also designed a typefaces, Bi-89, on the occasion of the French Revolution’s bicentennial.
In 1960 he joined the faculty of the ENSAD—École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (School of Decorative Arts), Paris, where he taught until 2000 remodeling the graphic design curriculum, stressing mastery of typography and color as fundamental skills. Since the early 1990s, he also taught at the Atelier National de Recherché Typographique (National Bureau for Typographic Research).
During his career he received important recognitions, including the Toulouse-Lautrec Prize in 1980, the Grand Prix National des Arts Graphiques from the French Ministry of Culture in 1994, and the Distinctive Merit Award from the ADC (Art Directors Club), New York. He was appointed Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1983, Officer of the same order in 1991, and Commandeur in 2001.
The important Centre Georges Pompidou publication is now available at www.ftn-books.com