Barbara Stauffacher Solomon in 2021

A few excerpts from a 2021 piece on designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon:

“People really believed modernism was going to save the world back then, if only we would take the serifs off the type,” she says. “With no serifs, perhaps naively, we thought the type would be more truthful and would be used for books that everyone could afford.”

Nowadays, the kind of sans-serif minimalism that Solomon is talking about is perhaps most used by Big Tech giants. She laments that her beloved Helvetica “became the typeface of capitalism, not socialism as we’d hoped”.

“Of course, the capitalists took it over in the end – all the smart people decided they liked that clean look and took it for themselves,” she says, adding the same thing happened with modernist architecture. “It was supposed to a be a solution for low cost housing for the poor, but so quickly was changed to represent expensive housing that only the rich could afford.”

“The history department in particular helped me to learn to write and it was about simple words – none of that long-winded bullshit they talk in other subjects,” she says. “They liked clean, clear and minimal writing, and of course I was already familiar with those ideas.”

Now she prefers writing over design in most cases. Design, she admits, was a way to make money.

“If I hadn’t called myself a graphic designer, I wouldn’t have got paid,” Solomon says, adding that she learned how to charge from her architect friends. Even then, she felt there was a stigma attached to being creative for money.

“People thought I was less than because I was a graphic designer working for a living, rather than an artist earning nothing,” she says. “I think it’s some weird purity thing that still happens now.”

— (via)