Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold (1902 - 1974) was one of the typographical deities of the twentieth century, whose design innovations and ideas remain influential. His grounding in calligraphy and sign-writing set him apart from typographers of his time, most of whom had art or architecture degrees.

Following the initial Bauhaus exhibition, he became an advocate of a clean, sans-serif look. His manifesto, Die Neue Typographie, setting out the rules for modernist typography, remains a classic. The Nazi regime viewed the Bauhaus movement, along with much of modern art, degenerate. Along with a return to folksongs, Wagner, and realistic art, they favored the traditional German gothic script. A raid on Tschichold's house turned up some Soviet posters, and so he was branded a Communist. Happily, Tschichold managed to secure entry to Switzerland, where he lived for much of the rest of his life.

Ruari Maclean, the influential British typographer, was at that time working with Penguin Books. Maclean invited Tschichold to help design the new Penguin paperbacks. Tschichold's work remains seminal, and his designs, produced in the 1940s, retain a clean look that refuses to age.

Around the same time, Tschichold accepted a commission to design a new typeface that would produce the same results on both Monotype and Linotype machines. The result, Sabon, remains a classic, an ultra-readable humanist typeface that is "invisible" yet elegant.

Tschichold also spent many years researching the ideal proportions for the page and text block. The formulas he uncovered lie at the heart of modern book design.