Dietmar Winkler: Posters for MIT

August 30th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Something really cool happened at work last week. Naturally, it had nothing to do with work! A designer I work with brought in a pair of Communication Arts magazines from 1970 and 1971. Being inspired by the art of that period, I was transfixed by what I found between the covers of those volumes.

What particularly caught my attention were Dietmar Winkler’s posters for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, dating to 1968 and 1969. His designs were so good, they had me thinking to myself, “I wish I had painted that!” The second orange poster below (the horizontal composition) especially blew my mind.

dietmar winkler posters for MIT

Curiously, Dietmar Winkler’s poster designs are not prevalent online. A page by UCLA design professor Jennifer Steinkamp features a fantastic poster for a COBOL computer-programming course at MIT. (This image is in black and white below, but it’s much better in color, naturally.) uploaded this poster, of that MIT era, from a Bach recital. And blogger Scott Hansen ebulliently praised designs by Winkler featured in Graphis 71-72; “It is perhaps the most perfect thing I have ever seen,” Hansen wrote, rightly.

Here’s the rest of the set from Communication Arts:

dietmar winkler posters for MITdietmar winkler posters for MITdietmar winkler posters for MIT

Today, Winkler is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. According to his biography, Winkler has been encouraging a more scientific approach to design practice — one that involves research and testing.

“Unless graphic designers want to continue to be identified as dilettantes designing ephemera,” the biography argues, “they must now test, substantiate their assumptions, and verify the fidelity of their solutions.”

Philosophy aside, I am thoroughly inspired by the commitment to geometry Winkler made manifest in his late-1960s MIT posters. They are outstanding, and still ring true today.

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3 Responses to “Dietmar Winkler: Posters for MIT”

  1. HShaw says:

    I studied under Dietmar at UMD… (’94) it was truly an amazing experience. he greatly influenced my work and my philosophy towards design. I’m happy to see that you can appreciate his work!

    • Thanks for stopping by to say hello, Heather. You were very fortunate to study under Dietmar Winkler. How cool. Do you have any interest in sharing your remembrances of his classes? I’m curious about how he shaped your design philosophy. Also, I enjoyed checking out your professional design work and your blog. I’m very impressed!


  2. I too attended UMD, graduating with a BFA in 1982 (But back then, ‘UMD’ was known as SMU – Southeastern Massachusetts University). At the time, Dietmar was Dean of the art college at the university.

    Dietmar was instrumental in my education and in my outlook as a designer. He was also a tremendously warm and generous individual with a humble confidence. My cadré of serious design classmates and I would often visit him in his office and talk about so many things, until he had to kick me out to get his work done.

    I’ll always remember him giving me my first paying offset-printed job, a 2 color poster for the university opera company, and also a spot illustration for The Harvard Business review. He also did his best to try to help get me in my dream to get to the Aspen Design Conference. I had no money but he did approach his sources to try to help.

    He was very grid focused, and at the time I both embraced and rejected it. While my work since that time bears little resemblance to his, his words and his presence will always be a significant part of me.

  3. […] and engineers, but for graphic designers as well. In the sixties, designers like Jacqueline Casey, Dietmar Winkler, Ralph Coburn and Muriel Cooper adapted the visual forms of European modernism to a lively, […]

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