Joseph Binder (1898–1972)

Joseph Binder, the donor and name giver of this competition, was one of the pioneers of the so-called »Viennese style of two-dimensionality« and referred to himself as »graphic designer« at an early date. He derived the basics for his pictorial language from the visual arts: from 1922 on, the trained lithographer and typographer studied painting at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts under Berthold Löffler, a contemporary of the Secessonists Kolo Moser, Josef Hoffmann, and Alfred Roller, who were teaching at the same school and whose ambitions for an artistic renewal also had an impact on advertising and commercial art produced after the First World War.


It was early in his career that Binder attracted attention in poster competitions in Austria and Germany and in 1926 was honoured with the Republic of Austria’s National Design Prize for the best overall performance of a graduate from the School of Arts and Crafts. Later on, in the 1930s and 1940s, he received numerous awards from the New York Art Directors Club and came off as the winner of a poster competition for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Having become a successful graphic designer himself, it was a primary concern of his to help young designers on their way with his know-how. The political circumstances prevented him from teaching at his former school, today’s University of Applied Arts in Vienna. However, several visiting lectureships in the United States during the first half of the 1930s made it possible for him to impart his knowledge and skills to the young generation.

After stays in Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and New York, he settled in the United States permanently and in 1944 became an American citizen. His clients in Vienna had included such renowned local brands as Meinl, Arabia Kaffee, Persil, Bensdorp, and Wagon-Lit, as well as numerous cultural institutions and tourist organizations; in his new home country, he worked, among others, for the U.S. Navy, the Red Cross, the Association of American Railroads, and United Airlines. In 1934, he published the principles of his commercial art in the book »Colour in Advertising«.


With his works, characterized by clarity, harmony, and dynamism, he paved the way for modern visual communication. In 1935, the »Minneapolis Tribune« wrote about the visiting lecturer at the Minneapolis School of Art: »Joseph Binder, a young artist from Vienna, has revolutionized commercial art in the United States and in Europe, having achieved something that will remain. His designs for posters, packages, and industrial products are creations in the spirit of the modern world.«