The Cary Graphic Design Archive at RIT acquires the work of Ken Hiebert

The collection highlights impact of Swiss design on American Modernist style

Ken Hiebert

Candle package design with hand lettering by Ken Hiebert; Armin Hofmann, instructor; Basel School of Design, 1962.

The archive belonging to the influential graphic designer and educator Ken Hiebert is the newest acquisition at the Cary Graphic Design Archive at Rochester Institute of Technology, and is now available to scholars and students interested in the Swiss influence on American graphic design.

The materials document Hiebert’s work at the Basel School of Design and his pioneering program of graphic design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, formerly the Philadelphia College of the Arts. They provide insight into his influential design books, public lectures and graphic work, and include samples of student work, as well as curricula he taught at University of the Arts and as visiting faculty at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon.

Hiebert, emeritus professor at the University of the Arts, influenced design education with Graphic Design Processes: Universal to Unique and Graphic Design Sources. Examples of his work are in the permanent collections at The Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and the Gewerbemuseum Basel.

“The Hiebert collection enriches the Graphic Design Archive,” said Lauren Alberque, project archivist at RIT’s Wallace Library. “His work at Basel and in Philadelphia and his pedagogical writings exemplify the work of the Basel School, its proliferation in American design pedagogy and complement RIT’s holdings such as the Rob Roy Kelly archive.”

The addition of Hiebert’s work enhances the research and teaching mission, and public engagement opportunities at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, said Steven Galbraith, curator of the collection housed at RIT Wallace Library.

“We’re interested in the innovators who taught design and the methodologies that they used,” Galbraith said. “We get to see their ideation. To lift the veil back and to see what happens behind the scenes is important.”

Hiebert is a proponent of the Basel School of Design (then called Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel) in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied and taught from 1954-1964. This approach, originating in the 1950s, is based in a dynamic process of investigation, and unifies type and image into a clear and harmonious design.

Hiebert, in 1966, created a new graphic design program at the Philadelphia College of Art in which principles from the Basel School of Design were integrated with the liberal arts approach to BFA education and developed there over decades. The Cary collection includes examples by Hiebert that span technical approaches from hand-painted typography to time-based digital image/sound pieces.

Hiebert’s donation to the Cary Graphic Design Archive was initiated by R. Roger Remington, Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design at RIT. Hiebert gave a talk as part of the 2018-2019 Vignelli Legacy Lectures: Design Conversations and gifted his “Twelve Eclipses” series of photographs and a selection of his moving image works to the Cary Graphic Design Archives.

“Kenneth Hiebert is one of the great minds in graphic design education,” Remington said. “Having his work here at RIT makes our design collections immensely unique.”

Remington started the Cary Graphic Design Archive in 1984 to document the work of the American Modernist generation of designers. The archive is used internationally by scholars, faculty and curators, and artifacts are loaned to museums around the world. For an overview and inventory of the Hiebert archive, go to the Ken Hiebert collection.


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