Graphic Giants: Rosmarie Tissi
by Taylor Slattery | November 11, 2021
Rosmarie Tissi is a Swiss graphic designer whose insatiable curiosity and continuous evolution have had a profound impact on the present state of graphic design both in Europe and the world over. Never afraid to push boundaries or leave her comfort zone, Tissi has experienced constant growth as a designer, reinventing herself multiple times throughout her legendary career, with every step shaping the landscape of design and ushering in new trends.
Before she became the Tissi of legend, she first began her studies with a modest, 1-year program at the School of Applied Art in Zurich. Upon completion of the program, Tissi quickly transitioned from student into working designer, finding a role at a local design agency. However, finding the work to be unchallenging, her ambitions would lead her to leave the position after less than a year.
In search of something greater, the next step in her journey would bring her to the doorstep of Siegfried Odermatt, a designer known for his strong aesthetic and anti-establishment approach to design. Odermatt, who was ushering in a new era of Swiss design, saw her potential and took her on board as an apprentice, a role that would last for the next 4 years.
Tissi had found the challenge she was looking for and her decision to leave her previous job was quick to bear fruit. Under the guidance of Odermatt, she experienced a period of growth that caught the attention of legendary designers Josef Müller-Brockmann, Hans Neuburg, Richard Paul Lohse, and Carlo Vivarrelli, who had banded together to create Neue Grafik, a quarterly graphic design journal.
A cultural poster Tissi had created during her apprenticeship landed her a feature in the first issue of Neue Grafik, which served as a look at the future of Swiss design. Following completion of her apprenticeship under Odermatt in 1958, she was promptly offered a position with the studio, which she accepted and held for 10 years. During this time, she and Odermatt developed a working relationship comparable to the structure of Pentagram. Rather than joining forces to work on a single project, the two cohabitated, each working independently and acting as a sounding board for the other.
This approach proved effective, and the work produced by the two during this time speaks for itself. Having proven herself to be an invaluable asset to the studio, the two would go on to form a new partnership, Odermatt & Tissi, in 1968. While the work produced by the studio now bore both of their names, they continued on as usual, working independently, together, in the same fashion they had previously.
Today, Tissi is an incredibly accomplished graphic designer. Recipient of the Swiss Grand Award for Design, and member of both the Alliance Graphique Internationale and Art Directors Club, her work has brought her all over the world for exhibitions and speaking engagements. Despite being most famous for her posters that have adorned the walls of many an international exhibition, her work spans the gamut of what is possible through graphic design, from logos and brand identities all the way up to the Swiss banknotes.
Tissi’s curious spirit made her one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century and her relentless work ethic has ensured she remains one through the 21st.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.