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Patrick Rössler

Jan Tschichold and the "New Typography"

When the "Ring Neuer Werbegestalter" (Ring of New Advertising Designers) came together in 1928, the Munich typographer Jan Tschichold was one of its nine founding members. He had qualified for this mainly through two publications: Firstly, his thematic issue "elementare typographie" (elementary typography) of the respected trade journal Typographische Mitteilungen, which he had compiled as early as 1925. And secondly, his compendium Die neue Typographie (The new typography), which was published just in 1928 by the Bildungsverband der Deutschen Buchdrucker (Educational Association of German Book Printers) and, designed as a textbook, was intended to convey the basic principles of new printed matter design to trainees in the printing trade. How essential Tschichold's pragmatism had been at the time for the spread of the "New Typography" cannot be repeated often enough: "He wrote [...] for those who alone could change something, for the commercial printers. 'Designers' or 'typographic designers' in our sense did not exist at that time. Printed matter was designed in the print shop by the typesetters," emphasized typography expert Gerd Fleischmann.

The basic principles of the "New Typography" followed the dictum issued in 1923 by Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy: "Typography must be a clear communication in the most emphatic form." Tschichold, who was just 23 years old at the time, formulated his version in a 16-point manifesto as early as the spring of 1925. However, the special issue "elementare typographie," which was printed in 20,000 copies and reached all relevant players in the graphic arts and printing industry, proved to be considerably more effective than this brief treatise in a remote location.

Tschichold had originally conceived this magazine as a "Bauhaus issue," as it says in the epilogue. This is also evidenced by the significant proportion of illustrations from the Bauhaus environment that he printed. Actually it was his visit to the first Bauhaus exhibition in 1923 that had made a massive impression typography student who was just 21-year-old back then. But, probably also in dissociation from the Bauhaus, he did not initially take up Moholy's concept of "New Typography," but adapted it only in 1928, after his own label of "Elementary Typography" failed to gain acceptance. However, the invitation cards to the numerous lectures Tschichold gave throughout the German Reich in the mid-1920s on his major topic prove that he himself felt committed to the title "The New Typography." It is then undoubtedly to Tschichold's credit that in 1928, with his comprehensive treatise under the established phrase “Die neue Typografie” (The New Typography), he presented the first broad overview work on the movement, which was still fresh at the time. Two years later, he followed this up with “Eine Stunde Druckgestaltung” (An Hour of Print Design), a handbook that was explicitly aimed at the professional field of graphic designers that was just beginning to take shape.

Tschichold's working estate, which is kept in the Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum Leipzig and is now available digitally in significant parts, includes numerous materials from the interwar period that shed light on his work on these influential publications. But it also covers Tschichold's subsequent career as one of the most important book and typeface designers of the 20th century – from his return to classical typographic principles around 1938 to the work he did for Roche and other clients in his adopted home country of Switzerland and the typefaces he designed. The collection, whose processing provided the occasion for the present conference (see the presentation by Linda Wößner), is now available online for the first time to researchers interested in the history of graphic design.

The following texts summarize the content of selected presentations given at the conference held on September 15-16, 2021 at the German National Library in Leipzig.

Jan Tschichold’s work estate – German Museum of Books and Writing Leipzig

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Linda Wößner is a museum professional. She studied Applied Museology / Museum Studies at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences. She is currently working on the estate of Jan Tschichold as part of the joint digitization project of the University of Erfurt and the German National Library. 

The extensive work-related estate of the typographer, book and type designer Jan Tschichold came to the German Museum of Books and Writing in Leipzig in 2006. It contains, among other things, typographic designs and preparatory work for publishers and institutions, commercial graphic works, typeface designs and preparatory work for books written by him, and essays on typography and book design. Tschichold was born in 1902 in Leipzig and died 1974 in Locarno. He worked in the context of the Bauhaus and had a lasting influence on typography after the Second World War. Linda Wößner gave a first impression of the digitization project, funded by the German Research Foundation in her talk.There are now 2200 datasets with 23356 digital copies worldwide available. The Cataloging took place according to the RNAB set of rules, the first application profile for special materials to the library standard Resource Description and Access (RDA) and with standardized vocabulary of the Integrated Authority File (GND). The majority of the objects that have been digitized are book design works and drafts. Preliminary works for title pages, covers for magazines, book covers and dust jackets are most frequently represented. This is followed by mainly commercial graphic works.

Therefore, Linda also provided insights into the estate of Jan Tschichold, focusing on his early work in Leipzig on the basis of two sketchbooks – one sketchbook from 1917-1919 and one sketchbook from 1922-1924. From both sketchbooks a complex network emerges - of the young Tschicholds influences, contacts, clients. Each of the sketchbooks contains preliminary sketches for various works. In her presentation, Linda has shown the sketches from the sketchbooks and corresponding finished objects from the estate. These examples will point out, how purposefully the young Jan Tschichold has already used his contacts to advance his early career as a designer.

Sascha Collet: The importance of stories for science

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Sascha Collet is managing partner of the company “Figures”. Figures realizes visual communication of information in the online space with spectrum ranging from interactive websites and dynamic storytelling to real time dashboards. Their most important product is the Data Story, a concept, that originates in journalism, but that can also be implemented for the communication of scientific results.

Knowledge is a public good. However, it is often gathered in complex processes that are difficult to understand for the general public. Science communication faces two challenges: to present this complicated information in an exciting way and to anchor it in the memory. Many studies have been conducted on the latter, and they all agree: It is easier to remember things by being active yourself than by just reading them. In the digital communication of scientific data, interactive charts and infographics can therefore help to internalize things. However, it is important to create an incentive and thus "prepare" the memory for this impulse. It can be achieved through digital storytelling. Here, the user scrolls through arcs of tension, at the apex of which are interactive elements that invite the user to deepen and understand the information through his or her own exploration. This type of storytelling is called "data scrollytelling“.

Mirjam Brodbeck: Tschichold`s Typographic Model Collection

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Mirjam Brodbeck holds a bachelor’s degree in information science with a major in library science. After engagements in various libraries, the state archive “Basel-Landschaft” and the archive of Swiss radio chanel “SRF2 Kultur”, she became the head of the “Bibliothek für Gestaltung Basel”. The library is about applied arts an exists since 1893.

In her contribution, she provided an insight into the “Vorbilder-Sammlung Jan Tschichold”:

Since 1933 Jan Tschichold, after his emigration to Switzerland due to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany, worked as a part time teacher at the Gewerbeschule Basel. With him he brought his typographic model collection, which included 34 boxes with almost 1,600 documents. Within about two decades, starting in 1919, he collected advertisements, brochures, business cards, invitations and more from 45 graphic designers from all over Europe. Among them are pieces from well-known names such as Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky, and Kurt Schwitters. The collection offers an excellent and unique insight into the "new typography", which was sold by Jan Tschold in 1936 for 400 Swiss francs. The purchaser was the Gewerbemuseum Basel, where the collection was repackaged, labeled, and stored together with other model collections. In 2020, a comprehensive joint project between the Basel Library of Design and the University of Erfurt was launched with the aim of digitizing the collection and thus making it accessible to the public. Since then, all documents have been digitized and cataloged using RDA, the standard rule book for descriptive cataloging. In another step, these digital copies will be made available to the public in the swisscovery catalog. The project will end in spring 2022 with an exhibition in Basel and the simultaneous publication of a book.


Douglas McCarthy: Digital cultural engagement: notes from Europeana

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Over the past two decades, Douglas McCarthy has worked internationally in public museums, private art collections and image archives in a variety of roles. Douglas supports Europeana’s mission by working with partner institutions to showcase their collections to online audiences.

In recent years museums have devoted significant amounts of time and investment to digitising their collections, and to making them available online. At this point, it is reasonable to ask – what’s next? What kind of engagement should museums expect? How many people are viewing online collections, and what are people most interested in?

The wider context for museums publishing content is a vast ocean of online cultural heritage material: content from other cultural institutions, academics and researchers, motivated non-aligned users (on Wikipedia, for instance) and third-party republishers of visual content (such as Pinterest). In this congested online environment, dominated by commercial interests, it can be challenging for museums to stand out from the crowd. The Europeana website is Europe’s platform for cultural heritage, presenting over 50 million items from over 3000 institutions. It aims to engage people with cultural heritage online – for learning, for work or just for fun – and inspire new perspectives about history and culture. Storytelling, whether it’s digital or not, is all about making connections between people and ideas. Every day, the Europeana website highlights interesting and relevant cultural heritage collections, using editorial (blogs, galleries, exhibitions), educational resources and primary collections. Its editorial approach is topical, agile and experimental, taking advantage of trends. Europeana is currently, like many organisations, investing time and resources in diversity and inclusion. It wishes to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, to facilitate discussions on awareness and change, and make people feel like they are part of a closer community. Seasonal campaigns on topics such as Women's History and Black History Month are also important elements of Europeana’s yearly programming. Finally, Europeana is dedicating significant efforts towards fostering audience participation, by making it possible for users to create and publish online galleries on the Europeana website, for example. In 2020, Europeana ran the first Digital Storytelling Festival, in partnership with India’s The Heritage Lab, a creative contest for people to write stories using open access cultural heritage. Providing open access to digitised public domain collections remains incredibly important, yet something that many museums have not embraced at the present time.

Matthias Müller-Prove: Geo-Interaction-Design-Thinking for Cultural Objects

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Matthias Müller-Prove is a computer scientist with a special focus on interaction design for cultural computing. His web-application “Chronoscope Hamburg” was selected as an official project of the European Year for Cultural Heritage in 2018. He is founder of the Chrono Research Lab and senior member of the ACM.

According to Matthias Müller-Prove, culture happens in space and time whenever people and artists meet. They all have their individual lives, and perspectives how to perceive the world. No piece of art is a singular item. Each artifact was created in a specific cultural context of art history, and it bears a meaning with regards to e.g. other paintings or sculptures, or in relation to society. However, the spatial and temporal dimensions of art and culture are often neglected as the individual artifacts of a collection seem to be the most important elements of arts as such. This is also true, for digitized collections, because time and the physical place are especially irrelevant for virtual exhibitions.
Some context is provided and transformed into metadata. But usually, it is neither adequately presented to the online visitors, nor is it used to assemble the items for an online retrieval. Everything becomes a database and is presented as thumbnails of an image search result. Context should matter to explore a digital collection. Context offers an underrated access path into an artist's oeuvre and extends classical metadata and full text search strategies.

The talk of Matthias Müller-Prove offered a fresh approach how to present collections online. Three cases were discussed:
“August Macke. Augenblick” (August Macke, Paul Klee and Louis Moilliet in Tunisia, 1914) and “Lyonel Feininger in Hamburg 1936”, both are a set of tourist-like photos of Macke and Feininger. They become intriguing under the awareness of Macke's watercolor paintings and Feininger's emigration out of Germany before WWII. The photos have been geotagged and sorted by their time of origin. This allows the visitor to follow the trips on an interactive map. In case of Feininger, the photos are not even provided by just one archive. Macke's photos have been juxtaposed with his paintings from several online repositories. The user is deliberately slowed down and invited to explore the photos and paintings next to each other. The third case is a digitized book “The Story of Lewis Carrol – Told For Young People” by Miss Isa Bowman, the original Alice in Wonderland. A IIIF Viewer (International Image Interoperability Framework) is used to provide easy access to all pages and all illustrations with interactive gestures to zoom in to the details.

Consequently, Information Architecture and a specific content audit are the methods to gain an understanding of the presented digital material. Depending on the amount and structure of the collection, different interaction design solutions are chosen to provide the best suited user experience for each case.

Sandy Jones: Tschichold`s acquisition at the V&A`s National Art Library London

source: DNB / Christine Hartmann

Sandy Jones is a design historian with a special interest in graphic design. Following a successful career in the design industry, she studied the History of Design and Material Culture at the University of Brighton and, since 2017, has been a volunteer researcher at the National Art Library (NAL, V&A). She was curatorial researcher for The New Line: Works from the Jobbing Printing Collection (De La Warr Pavilion, 2016/2017) and the upcoming exhibition Plastic: Remaking our World (October, 2022), co-produced by the V&A/Vitra Design Museum and MAAT.

A spotlight on the Jan Tschichold purchase at the V&A’s Library
Between 1936-1939, Philip James, Keeper of the V&A’s library, initiated a collection of Jobbing Printing, writing to designers, advertising agencies, art schools, businesses and printers in Britain, Europe and the US who were at the vanguard of graphic modernism, to request examples of their best work. James believed, that commercial art had an important role to play in British business and economic recovery and aimed to show students, practitioners and commerce the rapid advances in design and materials, that had taken place. An ambition which reflected the museum’s founding mission to inspire and educate designers, manufacturers and the public in art and design. James introduced his collection with an exhibition, Modern Commercial Typography (1936/37) in the book gallery of the museum. Jan Tschichold, at that time was in London to give a talk at the Double Crown Club, an elite group of printers, publishers and designers. He visited James’ exhibition twice and promised to curate a survey of New Typography from his personal collection, acquired through his extensive professional network. The Jan Tschichold purchase of 20 books, around 150 examples of commercial art, and personal ephemera was subsequently acquired in July 1937, and significantly, was the only purchase made for the Jobbing Printing collection. The purchase illustrates the progression of the movement from c. 1920-1933 and contains outstanding examples from the leading exponents of the New Typography movement, including Bauhaus, Herbert Bayer, Max Bill, Max Burchartz, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, Johannes Molzahn, Zdenek Rossmann, Joost Schmidt, Kurt Schwitters, W I Strzeminski, Ladislav Sutnar, Karel Teige and Piet Zwart.

At the outbreak of WW2, the library safeguarded its collections, depositing the Tschichold purchase and Jobbing Printing in a secure back office of the museum. Sandy Jones’ talkprovided an introduction to the Tschichold Purchase, explaining how it entered the museum, for what purpose and the motivations of those behind it. A brief introduction to the Jan Tschichold Collection at MoMA was also included. More recently, Deborah Sutherland and Ruth Hibbard, curators at the V&A, have also been strong advocates for the Jobbing Printing collection. On their initiation, Sandy Jones began to catalogue the collection in late 2019, however, this activity has been temporarily paused due to the Pandemic.