Elementary typography

Cover: Elementare Typographie
Title page of the cover for a special issue by the newspaper Typographische Mitteilungen (Typographic Notes) with the title Elementare Typographie (Elementary Typography), October 1925
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Elementary typography

Jan Tschichold’s ideas about book design, 1925

In typography, too, basic design is never absolute or definitive, because the understanding of elementary design, along with the transformation of its elements, is also subject to constant transformation.

Jan Tschichold, Elementare Typographie, 1925

In 1923, typographer and book designer Jan Tschichold visited the first Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar; he was highly impressed by the exhibition which, as he wrote himself, gave a completely new direction to his creative development. He met Bauhaus designers, architects and painters such as Walter Gropius, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Oskar Schlemmer and Vassily Kandinsky and also came into contact with Russian Constructivists El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko. He began to apply experimental ideas to his own design work and conducted extensive correspondence with noted artists of his era.

It was in this environment that Elementare Typographie (Elementary Typography) appeared in 1925, as a supplement of Typographische Mitteilungen (Typographic Notes), the journal of the Educational Association of German Book Printers in Leipzig. The supplement was edited and laid out by Jan Tschichold, and it was here that he sketched out his principles for a new functional book design. The journal created a great impression among trade professionals, and Tschichold’s theories were both avidly celebrated and vigorously contested.