By on April 6, 2018

New Wave or Swiss Punk Typography was influenced by Punk and postmodern language theory. Punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashion, and other forms of expression, visual art, dance, literature and film. It is largely characterised by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom, and is centred on a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock.

There is a debate as to whether New Wave is a break or a natural progression of the Swiss Style. Sans serif font are still predominate in the style, but the New Wave differs from its predecessor by stretching the limits of legibility. The break from the grid structure meant that type could be set center, ragged left, ragged right, or chaotic. The artistic freedom produced common forms such as the bold stairstep. The text hierarchy also strayed from the top down approach of the International Style. Text became textured with the development of transparent film and the increase in collage in graphic design. Further breakdown of minimalist aesthetic is seen in the increase of the number of type sizes and colours of fonts. Although punk and psychedelia embody the anti-corporate nature of their respective groups, the similarity between New Wave and the International Style has led some to label New Wave as “softer, commercialized punk culture.


Wolfgang Weingart is credited as the “father” of the New Wave Style, developing New Wave typography in the early 1970s at the Basel School of Design in Switzerland. New Wave along arose as reactions to Swiss Style which was very popular with corporate culture. International Typographic Style embodied the modernist aesthetic of minimalism, functionality, and logical universal standards. Postmodernist aesthetic rebuked the less is more philosophy, by ascribing that typography can play a more expressive role and can include ornamentation to achieve this. The increase in expression aimed to improve communication. Therefore, New Wave designers such as Weingart felt intuition was just as valuable as analytical skill in composition. The outcome is an increased kinetic energy in designs.

The adoption of New Wave Typography in the United States came through multiple channels. Weingart gave a lecture tour on the topic in the early 1970s which increased the number of American graphic designers who traveled to the Basel School for postgraduate training which they brought back to the States. Some of the prominent students from Weingart’s classes include April Greiman, Dan Friedman, and Willi Kunz (b.1943). They further developed the style, for example Dan Friedman rejected the term legibility for the broader term readability. 

The 1970s:

  • Disco music becomes very popular at the end of the 70s
  • The Watergate scandal shocks the US
  • The Vietnam war
  • The Moonlanding
  • The Sovjet Union invades Afghanistan
  • Punk is popular
  • Feminism is popular, especially among the women

Source & more info:

Feature Image is a magazine cover by April Greiman and Jayme Odgers. WET Magazine, Sept/Oct, cover. 1979. The image was borrowed from –
Wolfgang Weingart:
April Greiman: Image borrowed from


About Author



Wolfgang Weingart

Wolfgang Weingart is a German artist born in 1941, he is known as the “father” of the New Wave style/Swiss Punk Typography style. He studied applied graphics arts at the Merz Academy in Stuttgart and he also completed a three-year apprenticeship in hot metal hand composition at Ruwe Printing.

In 1964 he started studying at the Basel School of Design, and in 1968 he started teaching, and he was a highly influential instructor there until 2005.

According to Weingart, he took Swiss Typography as his starting point, and then he “blew it apart”. He never intended to create a “style”, it just happened that his students picked it up and spread it around.


April Greiman

April Greiman is an American designer born in 1948. She was one of the first designers to embrace the computer technology as a design tool, and she was also one of the establishers of the New Wave style.

April was a student of Armin Hofmann and Wolfgang Weingart at the Basel School of Design, and she was influenced by both Swiss Style and Weingart´s style, later known as New Wave.

Together with photography artist Jayme Odgers she designed a famous Cal Arts poster in 1977, which became an icon of the California New Wave style.
Greiman currently teaches at the Woodbury University, School of Architecture and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. She also has her own studio in Los Angeles, called Made in Space.


  • Collages
  • Inconsistent letterspacing
  • Defied strict grid-based arranged conventions
  • Type set at varying angles and with varying weights

Colour palette