Poster, Jazz Willisau: A Tribute to the Music of Thelonious Monk, 1986
Niklaus Troxler’s limitless talent for graphic invention is continually reinforced with each new poster he creates for the annual Jazz Festival in Willisau, Switzerland. Since 1975, Troxler has produced up to 15 posters per year for the festival, which he founded and still organizes as of 2009. While some works (particularly early examples) are illustrative and others are based on abstract geometry, most of his designs are purely typographic. For many of these, Troxler creates new typefaces, seemingly produced by ink blots, paint smears, atomic diagrams, and other imaginative concepts that amuse and surprise without being overly contrived. Born in Willisau in 1947, Troxler has pursued his passions for jazz and graphic design since he was a teenager. He organized his first jazz concert when he was 19 and also grew interested in posters by Herbert Leupin and other Swiss graphic designers. After apprenticing as a typographer (1963–67), he studied graphic at the Art School of Lucerne (1967–71). Following graduation, Troxler worked in Paris as art director for Hollenstein Création (1971–72) before returning to Willisau, where he started his own design firm in 1973. Two years later, Troxler launched the first Willisau Jazz Festival. Along the way, Troxler has received prizes in poster competitions in Europe, Russia, and China, including a special award from the Art Directors Club of Switzerland. Since 1998, he has taught at the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany. When asked what he believes are the similarities between graphic design and jazz, Troxler responded, “Everything that fascinates me about jazz music, is also what interests me in design: rhythm, sound, contrast, interaction, experiment, improvisation, composition, individuality…” Troxler’s emphasis on individuality and improvisation is a reaction to the dominant Swiss rationalism and the tradition of the grid as exemplified by the work of Josef Müller-Brockman, Wolfgang Weingart, and Armin Hofmann. Troxler does not believe in styles but rather lets the individual project suggest the form. According to Troxler, “the message has priority over form, creativeness over aesthetics, and expression over perfect design.” At the heart of his work is his use of visual puns and musical metaphors. After creating over 100 posters, Troxler admits that the next one might not be so easy. “You have to free yourself…[to work] without stress…with no other projects in your head...To repeat is a killer.” This poster is one of 17 Troxler posters recommended for acquisition, which would make a wonderful addition to the museum’s graphic design collection.