08 June 2005

Politics and Typography

Reviewing the book on Rodchenko, Lissitsky, and Moholy-Nagy I was reminded how similar their ideas on visual design and political ideology were to those of Jan Tschichold whose Die Neue Typografie was first published in Berlin when Tschichold was only twenty-six years old. His principles of the new typography are explained as a revolutionary movement towards clarity and readability; a rejection of superfluous decoration; and an insistence on the primacy of functionality in design. The recent reprinting of his classic study has been reproduced in a physical form as closely as possible to the original - a square shape, black cover, glossy pages, sans-serif font, and greyscale illustrations with occasional red titles. Very futurist.

There are chapters on the use of photographs; the standardisation of paper sizes [the origin of the DIN A4 we all use today] lots of carefully analysed examples of business stationery, and even film posters which evoke the visual ethos of the inter-war years. All this is illustrated by some crisp and still attractive reproductions of everyday graphics - letterheads, postcards, catalogues, and posters - in the red, black and white colour-scheme characteristic of the period.

Tschichold was also part-responsible for the Modernist ditching of capital letters in favour of all lower-case. It's a wonderfully thought-provoking read. FULL REVIEW HERE

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