Train of Thought


Quantity of ideas leads to quality of solutions.

Swiss-born photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter (1907-1984) certainly understood this, for he left
a remarkable imprint on
20th-century visual communication.

Attending the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva and the Académie Moderne in Paris, Matter studied with Léger and worked with Cassandre and Le Corbusier. Gaining international fame with his travel posters for their pioneering combination of photomontage and type, he was hired by legendary art director Alexey Brodovich, working for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, among other publications. Later he was a design consultant at Knoll Associates, collaborator with Charles and Ray Eames and professor of photography at Yale University. Among his close friends were Jackson Pollack, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacommeti and Willem de Kooning.

Assigned in 1954 to bring new life to an already well-known logo for the New Haven Railroad, Matter launched into a passionate exploration of all the graphic possibilities. In a relentless search for just the right solution, he produced over 100 concepts (compiled in the video below).

The journey was certainly worth it: the final design he chose, employing a bold red, black and white logo, still endures -- outliving the train line itself by over 40 years.

This tour-de-force comes from Stanford University's collection of Herbert Matter's papers.


NHRR logo development from Herbert Matter on Vimeo.

Selected Reading