Jan Tschichold: a Graphic Artist with a Unique Style

Published: 2021-09-11 04:55:09
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Category: Computer Science

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Graphic Design has evolved over the years from an early form of printmaking, to the 21st century method of using programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and more. Graphic Design has been used in marketing and advertisement, logos and branding, web design, motion graphics, etc. Graphic Designers from the 1920s and 30s have a unique style where shapes, sans serifs, and photos are utilized in a design. This paper will focus on how Jan Tschichold has been a prominent Graphic Designer in typography as well as how he has influenced packaging design from the 1920s and forward. The discourse of this paper will also reflect how I, as a Graphic Designer, would utilize his style.
Keywords: graphic design, typography, jan tschicholdJan Tschichold was a very influential Graphic Artist in Typography during the 20th century. Tschichold was the son of a sign painter and was also trained in calligraphy at an early age (Flask, n.d.). Geoffrey Dowding refers to Tschichold as one masters of the Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type, which is also the title of Dowding’s book (Bierut, et al., 2006, p. 191). Tschichold studied at the Leipzig Academy and was a part of the design staff as a traditional calligrapher at Verlag.
In August 1923, when Tschichold was twenty-one years old, he attended his very first exhibition at the Bauhaus in Weimer. This influenced him to create Bauhaus design concepts and include Russian constructivists in his work (Meggs & Purvis, 2016). While being raised in Germany, Tschichold was able to work under Paul Renner, the designer of the typeface Futura. When the rise of the Nazi party took place in Germany in 1933, Tschichold and his wife were arrested. Tschichold was faulted with being a “cultural Bolshevik” for creating typography that went against the German culture. He was released six weeks later (Meggs & Purvis, 2016). The Nazis confiscated much of Tschichold’s work before he was able to flee to Switzerland with his wife and four-year-old son (Flask, n.d.).
During his graphic design career, Jan Tschichold shared El Lissitzky’s ideas and work as well as his own philosophy to the professional world through his issue of Elementare Typographie (Elam, 2004, p. 35). This book was influenced by the Soviet Constructivism and the Bauhaus Exhibition in 1933 (Behrens, n.d.). He also wrote a book called Die Neue Typographie or The New Typography. In this book, Tschichold set standards for practicing modern type. He denounced all typefaces except for those that were sans serif (Flask, n.d.). He believed that sans serif typefaces expressed spirit, life, and visual sensibility of the day, and that all other typefaces were “degenerate typefaces and arrangements” (Meggs &Purvis, 2016). He wanted to create a design that would function with a straight-to-the-point means (Meggs &Purvis, 2016). He also supported different paper sizes and put in guidelines for creating typography hierarchy (Flask, n.d.). Tschichold’s ideal headline was even with the left margin but with the lines having different lengths. He believed that the kinetic, asymmetric design style with contrasting elements communicated the new age of the machine (Meggs & Purvis, 2016). In 1935, Jan Tschichold published another book that stressed his negative views toward the traditional symmetrical typographical style. This book was titled Typographische Gestaltung or Typographic Design (Meggs & Purvis, 2016).
Jan Tschichold demonstrated how the movement of modern-art could connect with Graphic Design by creating his concrete understanding of typography and the traditions it has with new experiments. The soul of the new typography style was not solely focused on beauty, yet circled around clarity. The goal of the new typography was to foster form from the function of the text (Meggs & Purvis, 2016). Jan Tschichold’s practice of design became the embodiment for the new approach in books, job printing, advertisements, and posters. He showcased his style of asymmetrical typography to printers, typesetters, and designers (Meggs & Purvis, 2016) and truly influenced the Graphic Design world through his style of typography.
Jan Tschichold spent some of his life working with Penguin Books and began to design the all of the covers for the books that they produced. Between 1947-49, he personally administered the development of over 500 books (Flask, n.d.). His book covers for Penguin Books was a way he contributed to packaging design. As he continues on with his designing career, he began to stray away of the new typography and begin to utilize styles such as roman, Egyptian, and script in his designs (Meggs & Purvis, 2016). He felt that further use of the new typography was not possible because it was a response from all the anarchy chaos in Germany, as well as in Switzerland (Meggs & Purvis, 2016).
As a Graphic Designer myself, I am very fond of the designs that Jan Tschichold has produced. Sans serif typefaces are beautiful and I try to use them in my work. The dominance of shapes in his work is also a very appealing addition. I can see how his work is influenced by El Lissitzky and Paul Renner’s designs. His style is much like the style I used for my Bauhaus accordion fold. I can see myself using Jan Tschichold’s style for typographic posters or typography in general.

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