Tschichold and Renner

bminni01's picture

I'm doing a paper in which I select two typographers and explore any kind of connection between them. (This paper will later be used as copy for a book I design.) I chose Jan Tschichold and Paul Renner. I'm going to cover the basics of their careers, but I thought it would be interesting to the focus on Tschichold's rejection of modernism, and Renner's attempt to set a middle course between Tschichold's conservatism and Max Bill's attacks on Tschichold.

I'm not very knowledgable about typography, and I'm worried this will end up being less about typography and more about graphic design. Does anyone have any advice? Is my scope too narrow? Are there any other connections between Tschichold and Renner that would be good to consider?

I'd just like some advice about direction. Thanks.

blank's picture

...Tschichold’s rejection of modernism...

He didn’t so much reject modernism as give up on the dogmatic side of modernism, the notion that modernism was superior, and that everything else needed to be pushed aside. This was a combination of his experiences with Nazi dogma and a pragmatic decision—if he wanted to survive by designing books sticking to modernism was pretty much out of the question. I think that people have a tendency to pick up on the mordant nature of the open letters Tschichold and Bill were writing and apply Tschichold’s feelings toward Bill to Modernism.

...less about typography and more about graphic design...

Don’t worry, they’re not mutually exclusive subjects, especially when Tschichold is being discussed.

Is my scope too narrow?

Not if you have access to a halfway decent library.

sihep's picture

You need to get hold of the 'Reading Typography Papers' Volume 4 of 2000. The 1946 article ‘On Typography’ by Max Bill (“Typography is the design of of text-images, in the same way that modern, concrete painting is the design of rhythms of space.”), Tschichold’s rather condescending response ‘Belief and Reality’ ("Obeying good rules of composition and book design in the manner of traditional typography is not ‘putting the clock back’; but an eccentric style of setting is almost always debatable. Thus, the layout of Bill’s article is exciting because unusual, but is not to be taken as a model for general imitation.”) and Renner’s article ‘On Modern Typography’ 2 years later (“The Bauhaus style is, as Jugendstil and the arts & crafts of the Wiener Werkstätte once were, a station on the way to the style of our time. One should not linger too long at these stations if one does not want to miss the connection.”) are all reproduced with an introduction by Christopher Burke and Robin Kinross.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Speaking of Burke and Kinross, try to get Burke's book on Paul Renner, too, and Kinross's introduction to the English translation of Tschichold's The New Typography.

William Berkson's picture

There is a new book on Tschichold by Christopher Burke: Active Literature. Given how great his Renner book is, I'm really looking forward to reading this one, as Tschichold is, I believe, a more pervasive influence. Between Burke's two books you should have a lot of information.

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