Spring 2019

The enigma of Thérèse Moll

This young designer is credited with introducing Swiss typography to MIT

A young woman caught in an unguarded moment, deep in thought, yet frozen in time. She is wearing a long dark coat that defines her small figure against the background of the elevated dock hovering over the water below. The photograph was taken around 1953. The young woman would be about nineteen years old. She is an enigma. Still.

Thérèse Moll circa 1953. Photograph by Karl Gerstner. Courtesy of the Karl Gerstner Archive.


Thérèse Moll, the young woman in the photograph, was born in Basel, Switzerland on 17 November 1934 and grew up in the Laupenring neighbourhood. Little is known about her early life, although I recently learned that her father worked for a local construction company as a building site foreman. In 1949 at the age of fifteen, she was enrolled in the Vorkurs (foundation course) at the Basler Allgemeine Gewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts in Basel). The following year, she took the entrance examination for the four-year Fachklasse für Grafik (professional programme for graphic design) with her Vorkurs classmate Dorothea Hofmann (née Schmid) and 30 other students. Competition for places was fierce, as only six or seven students were accepted on to the course each year. The students were judged on the quality of their work and their Vorkurs portfolio. In 1950, seven young students (four women and three men) were accepted on to the programme, Moll and Hofmann included. Triumphant, they sat next to each other in class and shared a steadfast friendship.


Exercise by Moll in which certain parts are blanked out from the lattice grid of black bars. This gives rise to both black and white figures of equal quality.
Top: Cover of prospectus for Micorène: Stimulant de la respiration et de la circulation, 1958, J. R. Geigy propaganda department, Basel.


Elizabeth Resnick, design educator, curator, writer, Massachusetts, US

Read the full version in Eye no. 98 vol. 25, 2019


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 98 looks like at Eye Before You Buy on Vimeo.

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