Learning from Niggli: thoughts on design publishing
Something or other: nowadays the field of design publishing seems to be increasingly binary. On one side are the big giants seizing the market on a global scale — and on the other the independent publishers, largely dependent on cultural funding. But what exactly is there in the middle? And how has the field of design publishing evolved in the past decades? By investigating the case of a single publishing house, this presentation will be an exercise in metonymy. We will look at Verlag Arthur Niggli, a publisher which is nowadays mostly remembered for a series of — very successful — typography and design manuals, but with an overall backlist that remains largely unknown. From a prehistory dating back to a printer-publisher during Switzerland’s ‘Golden Age’ of publishing, via the energy and struggles of the post-war, the internationalisation of the 1980s and finally today’s imperative of amalgamation, Niggli’s trajectory encapsulates many developments that affected the field of publishing in general.
Nina Paim is a Brazilian designer, researcher, curator, and educator living and working in Switzerland. Her work usually involves many others and revolves around notions of directing, supporting, and collaborating. As a researcher, Paim is interested in brushing the history of design “against the grain”, looking into blind spots and unexplored narratives. After a detour into economics and philosophy, Nina studied graphic design at Esdi (BR) and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (NL). Her bachelor project was the “Escola Aberta”, a temporary and free-of-charge design school, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in August 2012. In 2014, Paim curated the exhibition “Taking a Line for a Walk” at the 26th International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno, which dealt with the subject of assignments in design education, and for which she was awarded a Swiss Design Awards in 2015. In 2017, Paim concluded her MA in design research at the Hochschule der Künste Bern (CH), investigating the history and publishing strategies of Verlag Arthur Niggli.