The radiant red circle seems to be omnipresent: the eye-catching symbol was emblazoned on posters and brochures, book covers and advertising leaflets of the 1920s. And today it shines from the billboards of the city of Basel, inviting visitors to the large retrospective of the "Revolutionaries of Typography". It marks the end of a six-year research and exhibition project by Professor Patrick Rössler, an expert on graphic design in the 20th century. "Top typographic pieces in such density and quality have not yet been seen in public," is how the professor from the University of Erfurt describes the special character of the show.
For the first time, a selection from the "model collection" of the German-Swiss typographer Jan Tschichold is on display. In 1936, Tschichold donated a collection of around 1,500 small-format prints to the school where he taught. Prints that he had collected over a period of ten years. Famous designers from the Bauhaus environment such as László Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer are represented, as are artists such as Kurt Schwitters and El Lissitzky – all pioneers of modern graphic design. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a comprehensive book, allows visitors to study the originals, which make the spirit of optimism of the era tangible and which are usually only reproduced in black and white or in heavily altered colours in Tschichold's books. In addition, the entire collection has now been digitised and can be investigated on the internet for further research.
The Basel triad of book, exhibition and digital images thereby continues the reappraisal of Jan Tschichold's oeuvre that was begun with the project at the University of Erfurt on the typographer's working estate at the German National Library in Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). "This research cycle is a good example of the fact that there are still exciting things to be discovered in the archives, even on those topics about which supposedly everything has already been said," Rössler sums up the intensive research activities in cooperation with his partners on site. In the overall view, the gaze now widens from Tschichold to a network of 45 international designers and to a chapter of the European avant-garde that still determines our perception of printed media today.