NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 41

Face to Face-II

Museum für Gestaltung, Museum For Everybody: Face to Face with Bettina Richter

Majid Abbasi

First of all, could you tell me about the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and its link with Zurich University of the Arts?
Since its foundation in 1875, the Kunstgewerbemuseum (today Museum für Gestaltung Zürich) belongs to the Kunstgewerbeschule (today Zurich University oft he Arts ZHdK). The collections of the museum started as best practice examples for classroom use. Today, the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is part of the Cultural Studies department at the ZHdK.

From your point of view as a historian, what is the historical importance of the Museum für Gestaltung?
The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and its fields of interests – Design, Visual Communication, Architecture, Photography/Film (see – is one of the early examples of museums interested in low culture. The youngest collection of the museum, the design collection, has been founded in 1989. With its four collections – design, arts and crafts, posters and graphics, the museum has the most important inventories of Swiss everyday culture. 

How did the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich turn into one of the most prominent and recognized museums of design and visual communication in Switzerland? 
By its large and focused collections in everyday culture (see last answer). With our data base, the collections are accessible for a general public. Exhibitions and publications about the collections (Monographies and thematic approaches) add as well to the publicity of the museum. The collections are also available for research projects across various disciplines.

Which design and visual communication fields are most highlighted in the Museum für Gestaltung?
In a geographic sense, we highlight design and visual communication from Switzerland. We are especially interested in works which reflect innovations in these fields, referring technical as well as aesthetical approaches.

The subjects and items stored in the Museum archive belong to a diverse range: from Adrian Frutiger’s OCR typeface to the Swiss railway clock, from Willy Guhl’s Scobalit chair to Max Bill’s poster. What are the Museum’s criteria for embracing such a wide range?
They are all stored in the four specific collections. Every collection has its own curatorship providing professional knowledge of their individual topic. With this system, we can cover a broad spectrum, from furniture to posters and book covers.

What are the most important visual communication collections in the Museum für Gestaltung (posters, typography, graphic design)? 
In visual communication, the most important inventories concern posters. The collection today includes about 350 000 objects. In the graphic design collection, typography is a very important field.

Could you talk about the poster collection which is part of the Museum and explain your role as the collection’s curator?
The poster collection of the museum is one of the most extensive archives of its kind. The collection documents Swiss and international poster history from the mid-nineteenth century until today and includes political, commercial, touristic and cultural posters. As the curator, I am responsible for the collecting criteria, the acquisition, archiving and preservation as well as the coordination of loans and research, first of all in publishing the posters on our website and then further in form of exhibitions, publications, research projects.

Various posters from other countries are also in this collection. Which one do you think is most important?
The poster collection of our museum aims to reflect poster history all over the world. In this context, the beginning of poster history in France with names as Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha, Steinlen, Chéret etc. is very important. We also have a good collection of Russian constructivist posters. In some countries, posters have been more important during certain time periods and generated an own aesthetic in the media - for example Poland, Cuba or former Czechoslovakia. 

What is the role of e-museum in the museum’s website? presents a selected part of our collections and is a website standing for itself. For every object shown, provides not only an image, but also the most important information. Its free availability should appeal not only to researchers, but also to the public at large. The data base is fed constantly and therefore grows continually. 

Tell me about the contemporary Iranian posters in the collection. What is their significance in your collection?
We have a manageable collection of temporary Iranian posters, which showcases the contemporary aesthetic of the Iranian poster art. We collected our selection in direct contact with some Iranian poster designers. 

What are the museum and the exhibition’s plans for the next year?
In 2014, the Museum opened its location in the Toni-Areal. Here, the museum presents exhibitions . The museum collections are preserved in a Archive with newest conservation conditions. Guided tours of the archives are offered daily. In march 2018, we will re-open the renovated building from 1933, nearby the historical center of Zurich, with five more presentation possibilities. This year, we introduced our first long-term exhibition in the Toni-Areal. More exhibitions of this kind will follow in the original and re-opened museum building in 2018. This offers us for the first time in our history the possibility to show our inventory independent from short term thematical exhibitions. 
In the series of the poster collection, we will continue to publish a booklet every year. The edition of 2018 will be about the exhibition posters for our own museum. There will also be an exhibition for the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968 and the protest tradition in form of posters from then on.

Do you envision the presence of virtual and digital subjects in the museum?
We are very conscious about this topic but we haven’t made our final decision on how to incorporate digital or virtual media in the archives. For the poster collection, there is a small part of swiss digital posters, which we collect since 2014. 
In our exhibitions, digital and virtual methods are frequently used and have already been the overall topic of some particular exhibitions.

Majid Abbasi

is design director of Studio Abbasi active in the international community, based in Tehran and Toronto. He leads a variety of design projects for start-ups, non-profits and educational organizations worldwide. Majid actively contributes to the international design scene as an instructor, jury member, curator and writer. He has been editor-in-chief of Neshan, the leading Iranian graphic design magazine since 2010. Majid has been members of Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS) since 1998 and Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) since 2009.

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