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"Jan Tschichold" Tag

The revised edition of Die Neue Typographie.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


650-MaartenKanters5  As part of the graduation program at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, we were asked to write a thesis. I conducted a research into the early days of Modernism and Constructivism. One of the books on my list was the English translation of Die Neue Typographie, by Jan Tschichold.
This publication included an introduction by Ruari McLean, translator of the original, German version, who was also a personal friend of Jan Tschichold. On the first page of his foreword, McLean tells us that already in 1967, Tschichold asked him to translate Die Neue Typographie. McLean continues his introduction: “He planned it as a second, revised edition.” McLean states that he translated the greater part of Die Neue Typographie, incorporating all the revisions, but no publisher could be found. For the 1995 edition, McLean together with the University of California Press, made the editorial decision to translate the original text, treating it as a historical document.

covernew DieNeueTypographie TheNew Typography

original ©1928 "Die Neue Typographie" by Jan Tschichold - first English edition "The New Typography" ©1995

After finishing the introduction, I was curious about the revisions Tschichold made to his original text. McLean tells us in his introduction that after the death of Tschichold, in 1974, he placed the draft of his translation in the St Bride Printing Library. So, the next day I called the library. It took me some weeks, to finally get hold of the document, but these weeks gave the opportunity to research Tschichold’s personal and professional life.
Tschichold transmogrified from a traditional, German trained typographer, into a “true modern designer” (his own words), to finally reform back into his old working method, a classical and traditional approach to typography. Over time, he became his own frenetic antagonist, with Die Neue Typographie in the center.


What I found out, is that Tschichold during his life, tried, but repeatedly failed, to publish a revised edition of Die Neue Typographie. Throughout his life – while criticizing himself and others, who were still confederated to Die Neue Typographie movement – he worked on this document, trying to mitigate his rather excessive statements from his younger self. This revised edition of Tschichold was now fragmented in different archives. As an archaeologist I started to recollected these sparse pages and revisions by Tschichold, and incorporated all my findings into a version, as coherent as possible.
While working out the manuscripts by Tschichold, I tried to find out in what physical form, Tschichold wanted to present his revised edition. In correspondence with Piet Zwart, he speaks about presenting it in A4 format, a format he later labeled as: “devils format”. Die Neue Typographie was set in either Aurora Grotesk, or Akzidenz Grotesk. The choice of typeface, was decided by practical circumstances: no other sans serif font was available in an amount large enough, to set a whole book. I took this opportunity to design my own sans serif font, called Takhir. The shapes of Takhir were drawn, to tell a story about Modernism. But, it is too bumptious to appear, as pure, as Modernism would have wanted it to be.


This whole project resulted in the revised edition of Die Neue Typographie, containing all the revisions I collected in my research. The publication is introduced by a foreword, that I wrote as my thesis [presented as pdf at the end of this post], in which I present the historical background of Die Neue Typographie movement, and the publication by the same name. Beside all the revisions Tschichold made to his text, he made a number of personal comments, which reflected or criticized the content. The combination of these two, are really important for me, because it shows Tschichold’s difficult relationship to Die Neue Typographie. In one hand he rewrites its whole content, but he no longer agrees with its tenor. In the final publication, these personal comments are presented on errata’s, placed on the corresponding page of the content.
The whole publication is set in the typeface Takhir, which was finally created in two weights, both with Italics. Printed digitally in an edition of 50 copies 157 pages on 110 grams silk machine coated paper with a silkscreened cover, for sale at San Serriffe Bookstore [x].

text by Maarten Kanters [graduate student department of Graphic Design 2011] : more


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silent dream

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Standing in front of the works of Jan Tschichold, I felt suddenly something very familiar arising within me. An old memory dream-like of the time I studied graphics in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. As for those days, it didn’t really feel right, however now suddenly it all made sense. It occurred to me, like a missing piece of a puzzle being found, a key to connect those days to „today“. At once I could see all the rules of typography an graphic design emerge within the posters. Like hidden signs, which were not an obstacle. Rather a guideline, a common sense of beauty and harmony. I wondered, what a keen invention graphics was, to connect these powerful mediums of language and image in such an expressive way. I mostly felt attracted by his poster for „die Konstruktivisten“ (Kunsthalle Basel, 1937). I really felt for his taste of color. But mainly, for it‘s almost Zen-like minimalism and harmony. How he perfectly combined the constructivist form, the simplicity and silence. Admiring this poster I just realize how much I have to learn and how far away I am still to any perfection.

Tschichold “Konstructivisten” poster – Moholy NagyQ 1 Suprematistic painting

read more in the linked pdf “FRESH TASTE OF PEPPERMINT”

In praise of the penguins

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When we went to this exhibition I didn’t have any clue about who Jan Tschichold was, and I was not really having a wow experience there, until I entered the last room and found a huge penguin on the wall, standing in front of me and staring. I must admit that penguins are some of my favourite items. And therefore I choose this one to further investigation.

The nice surprise is that this particular penguin is the logo of the penguin books and I wondered how that could be, but Jan Tschichold apparently worked for the Penguin Publisher for two years, and he is the one who made the layout and the “Penguin Composition Rules” a little booklet about the typographic instructions for editors to follow in the future.
It’s fascinating that a publisher so old as the penguin publisher is, still is having this label and still is represented on the market. The story of the penguin books is interesting in many ways, and with this goes a whole history of a publisher.

to be continued with: “A 74 years old penguin“, a further research into Tschichold’s Penguin and others by design.

Graphic Design as an autonomous art form

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I didn’t know what to expect when we went to the Graphic Design museum in Breda. But when I started at the exhibition about Jan Tschichold I was happily surprised! Actually I liked almost all his work that was shown, the beautiful compositions of form and colour. The work is simple and complex at the same time.
The posters were handmade; you could see the sketches of them and little mistakes or changes in the original version.
I loved that, because it was to me more a painting than a graphic design. You could see the playing of the artist with these forms and colours.
I chose for the poster “Die Frau Ohne Namen” as my favourite one, because it is a beautiful combination of film stills, shapes, line and colour. The triangle of the hat of the woman comes back several times; you see the movement of the train, as it comes out of a tunnel, which gives also the idea of a movie, which is projected. The addition of the colour red makes the image powerful and clear. To me it is a much better film poster than you see today, considering that it is an autonomous artwork.

So shortly said a very strong and beautiful film poster!

Tschichold’s posters interest me the most of his whole oeuvre, so I made a little research about his pictorial posters which you can read in this linked pdfJan Tschichold and his pictorial posters“.

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