One hundred and sixty eight

Zoologischer Garten Basel

1947 by Ruodi Barth
MoMA, NYC

Swiss born Barth trained as a graphic designer in Basel (Switzerland) and after travelling extensively throughout Europe returned there in the 40s to make cultural posters, especially those for Basel Zoo. His posters have that impressive impact of those from this era, simple but effective in the weight of their design. Colours are flat and bold, compositions often deliberately two-dimensional and stylistically they are completely embodying of the time. Barth’s zoo poster is interesting as it plays with pattern, zooming right into the zebra stripes for the background of the composition. He turns them into dynamic lines, Futurist-like they shoot up the poster, perspective inducing, curling into Modernist squiggles at the top. It is curious that Barth takes natural pattern and transforms it into Modernist composition, in a way that is almost Art Nouveau. We are then given the pattern in its original form, from the miniature zebras that gallop across the top of the poster. They are tiny, almost only identifiable as they sit on a background akin to their own skin. The red lettering is then immediately obvious on this monotone background of black and white. An effective ad that invites us, like the hurrying zebras, to go to the zoo.

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