Pioneers of Modern Typography

***** Aug012007

I picked up this book used just because it contained so many interesting examples of European graphic design from the first half of the 20th century. I wasn’t disappointed by the text. Spencer paints a good picture of who influenced whom, who was meeting with whom, where, and when.

After a lengthy introduction which provides background on Futurist, Dada, and Constructvist typography, with plenty of illustrations, the author examines several key figures, including El Lissitzky, Piet Zwart, Herbert Bayer, and Jan Tschichold.

What struck me most was how seriously these individuals took typography and design. Publishing manifestos, magazines, and posters, they seemed to believe that they could change society and governments through their work. I guess governments thought so too, as some were imprisoned by the Nazis and one, H.M. Werkman, was executed.

Relevance to web design

For any web designer tempted to complain about the lack of font options available for the web, the works in the book should be an inspiration. These artists, working with limited fonts and colors, produced powerful works of propaganda, advertising, and art.

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Author(s)Herbert Spencer
PublisherMIT Press

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