Jan Tschichold

Indices : Designers : Jan Tschichold

Book designer, typographical theorist, type designer. Born 1902. Died 1974.

Tschichold was born in Leipzig in 1902, the son of a signwriter. He trained in graphic arts and book crafts in Leipzig. Working in Munich in the 1920s, Tschichold was a pioneer of the so-called "New Typography"--a modernist, Bauhaus-inspired movement which had no truck with "artistic" typography, preferring plain sans-serif letters, rational assymetric layout, strict functionalism and industrial standardization. Tchichold's book, Die neue Typographie is still a readable and instructive explanation of this approach.

The Nazi party came to power in Germany in 1933. Tschichold was arrested and lost his teaching job. In due course he emigrated to Switzerland, where (with brief interludes) he spent the rest of his life.

From the 1940s onwards, Tschichold's style changed: he turned away from asymmetry and modernism towards "classical" typography in a style inspired by the renaissance printers: centred layouts, serif typefaces. Between 1947 and 1949 he established the "house style" for Penguin books in the UK: it was in the classical mold.

Tschichold himself tended to stress the gulf between his later classical typography and his earlier modernist style, which he came to condemn. In retrospect, however, the contrast is not perhaps as great as he made it. His later work is classical, but it is not fussy or artistic; it remains strongly marked by intense attention to detail, lack of fussiness and concentration on function.

Tshichold was primarily a user of type: a designer of books and printed matter. He did however design some typefaces, of which the best known is Sabon, which continues to be much-admired as a text face.

For biographies see: Ruari McLean Jan Tschichold, typographer (1975); Sebastian Carter Twentieth Century Type Designers

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