Ladislav Sutnar: Designer and Artist

Ladislav Sutnar Design

10/10/07 – “While Richard Saul Wurman is credited with the term ‘information architect,’ Sutnar was one of the Modern pioneers. Sutnar contributed a no-nonsense structure to how graphical information could be presented…” -Steven Heller

Czech designer, Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976), is considered a pioneer of communication design and information architecture. His vast and varied output ranges from graphic works including all manner of book covers, pamphlets, and corporate letterhead to orientation systems in large department stores; from tea sets to oil paintings; from children’s toys and books to visual flow diagrams based on research into optics and psychology.

He worked as an academic and graphic designer in Czechoslovakia until 1938 when he traveled to the United States to work on the Czecho-Slovak Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. While working there, war broke out in Europe effectively leaving him stranded in the United States.

He continued his design work in New York quickly becoming a significant figure in the Eur-American avant-garde, a large community of European expatriates working alongside American designers and artists based in New York City. During this time, his expertise in the organization and creative display of information saw him redesigning industrial catalogs, corporate identities, and, in 1964, a new number structure and telephone directory for the Bell Telephone Company.

Together with Knud Longberg-Holm, he published his knowledge of visualization techniques and information design in several books, most notably: Visual Design in Action (1961). In his books, he employs a distinctively graphic (visual) approach to communicate his messages about eye movement, information display and hierarchical organization. These very techniques continue to inform and be applied to today’s virtual navigation online.

Sources and resources:
Photos from the Sutnar monograph//
Exhibition website:
Article: Web Design Before the Internet//

One Response to “Ladislav Sutnar: Designer and Artist”

  1. Great work! I wasn’t familiar with Sutnar until now. I’m always a sucker for good information graphics.

    The pics on your flickr site are beautiful… scored myself a new wallpaper!


Leave a Reply

Back to top

Creative Commons License

Oliver Tomas

  • Design historian and archivist based in Vancouver, Canada.
  • info[at]olivertomas[dot]com