Vignelli Center for Design Studies receives donation of Swiss poster collection

Collection is the ‘most comprehensive’ archive of its kind, spanning the years 1940 to 2020


From left, Roger Remington, Frederick Burbach, and Josh Owen review one of the many posters Burbach donated to the Vignelli Center for Design Studies.

Students who engage with the research collections in RIT’s Vignelli Center for Design Studies can now benefit from studying a comprehensive collection of Swiss posters thanks to a donation from Frederick Jon Burbach. The collection of approximately 350 posters includes the work of 125 of Europe’s finest graphic designers from the past eight decades.

Burbach, associate professor emeritus at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto, describes the collection as “the most comprehensive, privately held collection in North America” of Swiss posters spanning the years 1940 to 2020. He hopes the unique collection can inspire budding designers within RIT’s College of Art and Design and students outside of the college who have interests in graphic design, advertising, history, and other related topics.

“Experiences are the things that we remember most. When students come to RIT and are able to see works by some of the most important designers in Switzerland, and possibly the world, from the year 1940 to 2020, that experience is invaluable,” said Burbach.

Switzerland has made inestimable contributions to the development of poster design since the early 20th century and has been at the forefront of graphic design internationally since the early 1950s. The post-World War II era brought rapid economic expansion to the country and new demands for marketing, advertising, and design. The subsequent influence of Swiss design has had a dramatic effect worldwide on graphic design education and practice.

R. Roger Remington, Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design Emeritus, was a key player in connecting Burbach with RIT. Remington said the addition of this collection provides a unique reference for researchers and undergirds the world-class graphics already held within the Vignelli Archives.

“We are delighted with this major donation of posters to our Vignelli special collections,” said Remington. “These posters add a tremendous foundation to the Vignelli archives’ holdings. In his formative years in Milan, Massimo Vignelli was strongly influenced by the Swiss graphic designers in Basel and Zurich. With the acquisition of this collection, there is substantial historical material for students, faculty, and researchers to experience a rich view of the history of design, culture, and evolution of our visual world over the last 80 years.”

Josh Owen, Vignelli Center director and Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design, explained that the donation also helps to further support the legacy of Lella and Massimo Vignelli by giving the designs a space to “live in perpetuity” and be studied by others.

“We are indebted to Professor Burbach for his generous and critically important donation which fits elegantly into our special collections. We are also grateful to Roger Remington for stewarding this monumental piece of design history into our toolkit for design education,” said Owen.

In the spirit of the Vignelli legacy, Burbach added that the work of a designer does not stop once a project or portfolio is complete. As a designer, he believes it is his responsibility to give back to the world of design by supporting others who are crafting a place for themselves in the field.

“I have incredible respect for Massimo Vignelli, and it’s been a pleasure always talking with Roger and Josh. Now that I’ve spent time here at RIT, I have to say I’m blessed,” said Burbach. “I’m blessed, first of all, that I had the opportunity to collect these posters. And I’m blessed again in knowing that the posters have ended up where they always should have been—in a place where people can study and learn from them.”

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