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Biography and Typography of Jan Tschichold

2444 words (10 pages) Essay in Design

18/05/20 Design Reference this

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Jan Tschichold was one of many famous German Typographers of his time, he has written textbooks to educate the world so that people can learn about Type, Spacing, Layout, and Font. Here is a small list of books that he has written and published:

Die Neue Typographie and Typographische Gestaltung.

Tschichold studied at Leipzig Academy of Graphic Arts and Book Production he studied from 1919–1921. Here he studied: Calligraphy, Engraving, and Etching.

Young Tschichold liked to call himself “Ivan”, in the spirit of the Russian Revolution.

Tschichold was born on the 2nd of April in 1902, Jan Tschichold grew up in Leipzig, Germany. His father was a signwriter that traveled the province doing his trade and he also trained in calligraphy. What made Tschichold stand out from everyone else was his technique and his skill level in certain, difficult, areas of mounting. All of these well thought and educated skills set him way above any of his contemporary typographers, all thanks to his father being the one to educate him on this. Tschichold did not receive any formal art education, he preferred to be at home in his own comfort zone where he could concentrate on commercial paper stocks and he used stock fonts instead of handmade papers and custom fonts where normally other typographers had the luxury of using first hand.

Tschichold visited the Bauhaus and from that point onwards he stayed in contact with the leaders of the Avante group. With his growing outreach, he started a new movement, “Die Neue Typographie”. With a name for himself as a teacher, writer, and designer he published his manifesto on Modernist Typography. He believed that communication in the modern age should be: Objective, Compelling, Simple, Short and functional.

Tschichold promoted the use of bars, rulers, and rectangles to enhance compositions, he also established the use of various sizes in weights.

During the time of Hitler’s election, it was made compulsory that all designers or artists register themselves with the Ministry. Also, any relation to communism or anything not related to Hitler’s cause and beliefs were barred from attaining any teaching posts.

The aim of every typographic work – the delivery of a message in the shortest, most efficient manner.”

-Jan Tschichold,

AZ Quotes,


Reading this quote Tschichold explains his purpose and viewpoint on his work and on basic pieces of work, that the delivery of a message nor big or small that it is in his best intentions to do so efficiently and clearly. This works for every project or job given to any designer with any client in need of any elements of design. It basically explains how direct and straight to the point, most design projects but are mainly hard to understand the basics of what a client actually wants from the end result.

Elemental Typography, 1925

Here Tschichold shows his very impressive and unique way of designing a poster using bars for alignment and grids for also aligning the layout of text. He stands out to anyone else when it comes to poster design in Germany. Tschichold first published his views in an article called “Elemental Typography” in 1925, doing this resulted in a huge uproar in the graphic design industry and the world. It eventually changed how people look at traditional typography and design with centered text and type.

Here you see simple but brilliant grids and style for laying out text with simple shapes and fonts.

When Tschichold’s work first appeared to the world of modernism opinions varied from very intrigued and ready for new to people calling it outdated and in the old age of design as they considered it at the level of a basic designer with basic typestyles and ornamentation. Tschichold continued to work in this direction which resulted in authoring his very own instructional book, “The New Typography” (Die Neue Typographie). It was published in 1928.

Mainly Tschichold’s work portrays simple but daring, bold and brave style types of layout threading off from a common saying in design “Less is More” it would be fair to say that a lot of abstract art and design has had at least some influence from Tschichol’s work. His cover for his book ‘Die Neue Typographie” (The New Typography) shows how simple but powerful lower case font and plain colors stand out and it also shows very clearly readable text.

Tschichold uses an ultra-bold font to draw attention to his titles, mainly to draw attention to what he wants the viewer to notice first. Tschichold was so good at this that it was almost like he would layout text and shapes chronologically. In design, this is usually called one of many different spiral techniques but Tschichold would use all effects from examples of the following:

●        Logarithmic spiral

●        Archimedean spiral

●        Golden spiral

●        Hyperbolic spiral

●        Spiral of Theodorus

●        Euler spiral

1947-1949 Penguin Books

Tschichold designed branding and standardized compositional guidelines for Penguin Books. Mainly Penguin book covers would be seen using a mix of Gill Sans and Bodoni Ultra Bold this was only used for the curved emblem for the top of the Band. Usually, the “Penguin Books” title would be placed there due to their proud history of what they have accomplished. In 1967 Tschichold completed his crowning typographical achievement which was, in‌ ‌fact, reading the typeface “Sabon”, a humanist typeface inspired by Garamond it was designed to look the same whether set by hand, linotype or monotype.

Classic Penguin book cover, designed in the typeface Gill Sans in a two/three-tone layout of an iconic book cover.

Tschichold wanted to create a simplified design through the heavy use of Gill Sans. With this more simple way of creating he focused his attention more on the tracking and kerning of all the text, as you can see from the image example.

Across the entire cover page because of tracking and kerning used for “Penguin Books” he refined these elements in order for the amount of tracking he uses for heavy capitals of the book titles, also from the image example “Dracula”.

Designed by Edward Young, photo via The Telegraph.

“Edward Young, who designed Penguin’s famous ‘dignified but flippant’ logo and the color scheme for its book covers was a submariner during the war. His boat was involved in a collision which saw it sank to the bottom of the North Sea, but Young escaped by swimming to the surface.”

(Quoted from JKR’s book Champions of Design)

Immense struggle forms the most inspiring and incredible origin stories for creativity, Edward Young managed to form such a recognizable logo from the very life-threatening event that nearly took his life. From what was once a simple logo idea is now one of the most recognizable logos today. Many people would pick and choose from what they like from a logo but penguin has always been the one logo that satisfies all. Its simplicity and daring black and white look pass any fog test. Its evolution from 1935 to present-day holds many changes but the logo never completely changed entirely.

Edward Young was an employee who just so happened to know how to sketch at the time and put the time and effort aside to draw the penguin, doing so from his submariner incident inspired growth of an idea to design and create a simple logo that would then lead to the collaboration with Jan Tschichold himself.

The most recent version of the Penguin logo is from Jan Tschichold’s 1946 modification, later in 2003 subsequent to Tschichold’s design, Pentagram’s Angus Hyland fine-tunes the logo.

The design process behind every logo throughout the years was always simplistic but intended to bring joy and comfort to audiences. Young was given a simple task which was to design the first 10 covers of 10 Penguin paperbacks. The paperbacks appeared in the summer of 1935. After long speculation, they concluded that straightforward jacket design based off of horizontal grids would signify genre along with the use of bands and color.

A number of logo variants emerged over the next decade, including a ‘dancing’ bird with a curled stomach, facing to the viewer’s left. First used in June 1937, it features thinner flippers with a backward-looking pupil. Thanks to Lane and Young, Penguin was starting to take its place in design history.

Jan Tschichold’s work has changed the way we think about design. His way of designing grid systems and his creative ability holds something close to unachievable goals. Tschichold’s work screamed confidence and during the early stages of his career, he was underestimated. From writing textbooks to help the world know how he does it to consistently changing the way we see the word “Design” Tschichold has been someone we could see but never ever could become, until now. Tsichichold’s work has inspired many to become designers and to grow and learn from the work of Tschichold.



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