»Comparing apples
and oranges is my
daily bread.«

Juli Gudehus


There is a true story about the famous German designer Otl Aicher. It goes like this: whilst sick in bed one time, he called an employee to his home. Aicher’s pyjamas and his bedlinen were both made from the same fabric – printed with a black and white chequered pattern. During the meeting the employee noticed how Aicher could not resist the temptation to match the squares on his pyjamas with the ones on the duvet.

This anecdote amused me at first, but it was also perhaps a little too close for comfort. I recognised myself in Aicher’s behaviour. When re-telling the story to others, I noticed however that several people shared the same obsession. Obviously it is a wide-spread occupational hazard among graphic designers – »Graphism« if you will. Though not necessarily painful, the most severe cases can result in social exclusion. I was shocked.

Symptoms can occur in isolation or en masse and can include: the compulsive need to change one’s own posture to align surfaces or lines. Or to »center« things, for example placing a beer glass exactly in the middle of the beermat, mentally pressing »Apple« and »z« to »undo« things – like up-do hairstyle that worked better at the third than the fifth attempt. Or the compulsion to mentally retouch things – like using the stamp funcion on a spot on the wall. Or to assimilate discordant combinations such as the dull blue of the sea against the bright blue of the sky. Or the need to adjust crooked pictures on the wall – and so on.

The causes and symptoms of graphism have not been thoroughly explored. Happily the illness can, in most cases, be successfully treated with gestalt therapy. Ask your doctor or pharmacist!