Lanny Sommese
Willi Kunz

Much of today’s graphic design is trendy layout. Devoid of substance, it is too often arbitrary, glib and overly self-indulgent. In many cases purposeful design has, nowadays, been replaced by mindless decoration. Against this backdrop it is refreshing to find a designer whose work is full of integrity and substance. Such a person is he designer Willi Kunz, working in New York. Throughout his career, Kunz has steered his own course. Guided by the logical progression of this work, he has avoided the whimsical currents of fashion and style.

Kunz was born in Switzerland and was educated at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich. He has been in the United States since 1970 and is a principal of Willi Kunz Associates Inc., a New York based design firm specializing in print communications and corporate identification. In addition to this voluminous professional experience, he has also taught typography at the Ohio State University and the School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule) in Basel.

Kunz’s work has its roots in the avant-garde movements of the 1920’s and 30’s. His is a visual vernacular that began to develop with constructivism, de Stijl and the Bauhaus.
While many contemporary designers put much emphasis on type style, according to Kunz typographic design has little to do with typeface selection. „In fact the typeface should be as unobtrusive as possible. Good typographic design is always a critical interpretation of a given message and the consideration of form and structure is an integral part of the process.“

Perhaps nowhere is Kunz’s mature style more strikingly evident than in the extensive series of posters which he has done fort he Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York, since 1984. While lesser designers might have imposed an arbitrary visual form on the posters, Kunz has built each poster’s structure from its content. His intuitive sensibilities have been guided by the functional and communicative requirements of each poster. Additionally, since the audience for these posters is predominantly architects, Kunz has manipulated the formal and syntactic relationships in each design to create compositional structures, which metaphorically relate to architectural themes. „Through the translation of architectural elements into typography, the posters present a visual summary of the quality and spirit of the events they announce.“