Niklaus Troxler

Industriekultur: Peter Behrens und die AEG, 1907-1914, Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich
(Industrial Culture: Peter Behrens and the AEG)

35 x 50 in. (90 x 128 cm)


Condition: Excellent

A Swiss master sheds a postmodern light on a classic modern design

Niklaus Troxler (1947- ), a giant of Swiss graphic design, is well known for the many posters he designs to advertise jazz concerts. For many years he organized a jazz festival in his hometown of Willisau, Switzerland, and his posters for the festival events have won him international awards and recognition. Troxler embraces clever illustrations, vibrant colors and expressive typography, in contrast to the more restrained approach of many of his famous Swiss predecessors. 

This poster from early in Troxler’s career advertises an exhibition on the work of industrial designer Peter Behrens (1868-1940) for German electric company AEG. 

Behrens’s design work for AEG is considered the first corporate identity program – he redesigned AEG’s lamps and other products as well as its factory buildings, he produced a new AEG logo and he designed the company’s advertising materials. 

Troxler’s composition reminds us of the startling modernity of the AEG program (carried out well over a hundred years ago), while reinterpreting Behrens’s work in a more playful postmodern aesthetic.

For the poster’s central image, Troxler illustrates a lamp Behrens designed for AEG in 1908.  He presents the lamp as a central object rendered in bold, flat colors. In this way, Troxler references the Sachplakat (object poster), a style of advertising poster that was popular in early 20th-century Germany, at the time of Behrens’s AEG project.

High-intensity Arc Lamp, 1908. Buddensieg, Tilmann. Industriekultur: Peter Behrens and the AEG. Boston: MIT Press, 1984.

Troxler represents the light shining from Behrens’s lamp with colored dots, a motif he borrowed from one of Behrens’s iconic AEG advertisements (see below).

Peter Behrens, 1910
Müller, Jens. The History of Graphic Design. Koln: Taschen, 2017. 

In Troxler's interpretation, the dot motif is spread throughout the poster, creating a lighter, more lively feel. As in Behrens’s design, Troxler confines the text to the bottom of the poster, where it becomes part of the beam of light. However, he replaces the typography with a sans serif (no end strokes on the letters) for an updated look.

Troxler’s poster was printed using the screenprint technique, allowing for vivid colors and a rich texture.

Industriekultur: Peter Behrens und die AEG, 1907-1914, Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich