Joost Swarte studied industrial design in Eindhoven and started drawing comics in the late sixties. In 1971 he started his own comic magazine Modern Papier and made regular contributions to the Dutch comic magazine Tante Leny Presenteert.
Comic series and characters by Swarte include Katoen en Pinbal, Jopo de Pojo, Anton Makassar, Dr Ben Cine and Niet Zo, Maar Zo- Passi, Messa. He is however more famous for his numerous drawings, stamps, posters, cards, LP and CD covers, and for his magazine covers (most noteworthy the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, the Belgian magazine HUMO and the Italian architecture magazine Abitare.)
International recognition started around 1980 when Swarte took part for the first time in the international comic show Salon International de la Bande Dessinée in Angouleme (France). His work is translated into English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. Swarte, Hors Serie, a great survey of his work, was published by Futuropolis (Paris) in 1984.
Apart from comics and graphic design, Swarte has also designed furniture, leaded and stained glass windows, murals and other objects. For his hometown Haarlem he even designed a theatre building (De Toneelschuur) that was built in cooperation with Mecanoo Architects.
In 1992 Swarte initiated the Stripdagen, a biennial international comic event held in Haarlem.
In recent years, Swarte has created many illustrations for the New Yorker magazine. In 2007 Swarte, a former scout, designed the Dutch 2007 Europa stamp with the subject one hundred years of scouting.