Typography is not only for reading and must not be a pain. Typography can be a game and a lot of fun.
At the beginning of September I went to see Weingart Typografie at the Museum of Design in Zurich. I spent a couple of hours there looking at his work and the work made by his students. And, while I was sketching and taking notes, all of a sudden, Weingart entered the exhibition room and I said hello and he looked at me and asked me if he had taught me…
On my way out I bought a copy of 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter: TM RSI SGM 1960-90 published by Lars Müller Publishers. Typogrfische Monatsblätter was a typographic journal that became a discussion platform for professionals in the field of typesetting and printing.
In “Typografie ist eine Kunst für sich” from 1973, Tschichold called typographical
game playinga hybrid decadence, stressing that a good typographer, unlike the self-aggrandising graphic designer, never actually feels free, he does not play, but rather follows the considerations of his reason.
30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p.134
Is this typography worth supporting, or do we live on the moon? Typography is not dead, yet! But its effect is undoubtedly anaemic and vague. But, by and large, it is intact, it is definitely less than ever a practical skill. Instead, it endures as an intrinsic necessity. Typography lives! It is not regarded with the primacy of perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, and is comprehended less as a “picture”, but rather, more as a “text”. Nevertheless, it remains a prominent element of “visual communication”: indispensable, and occasionally fresh, even original.
Peter Kornatzki, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p. 157
As for the exhibition, it is a thoughtfully organised space that shows Wingart’s practice as a constant search for solutions. It shows clearly his regard for process-oriented work.
I was not interested in a single result, but in the research. I was interested in process-oriented teaching…
Wolfgang Weingart in an interview for Typographische Monatsblätter (TM)
At the Basel School of Design they try to bring out in people a kind of intuitive approach to making things visual, whether it’s typography, or drawing, or whatever, and help them find ways of analysing what they’re doing while they’re doing it.
Hamish Muir, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p. 169 (originally published in Heritage, Emigre, no.14, 1990)
…but one of the important things I learned from him was how to work; a healthy process. It was more of a process of discovery and exploration than of trying to make something that looks like the teacher’s or anybody else’s work. When he gave an assignment, he would encourage us to work on 20 different iterations all at the same time. I found that method very useful. …They may all be good solutions, but maybe only one is really appropriate. I think that is the strongest thing I learned from Weingart: a playful, beginner’s-kind-of Weingart mind.
April Greiman for Typographische Monatsblätter (TM)
In my search for information about Herr Weingart I found out that he liked listening to Bruno Walter’s rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony.
While working on the week ends in the typeschop at the school, Weingart often wheeled out a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and played the music of German composers–Wagner, Bethoven, Mozart–would accompany his labour. One of his favourites was a recording of a legendary orchestra conductor Bruno Walter rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony in which Walter implores his musicians to share his grasp of a particular passage as a “shimmering”. The same could describe Weingart’s body of work. His typographic vision embodies a similar vitality and richness. It shimmers.
typography as illustrated music
repetition, densification, scattering, progression, tension
Wolfgang Weingart’s My Way to Typography is a publication that accompanies the exhibition. It is an interesting read for anyone involved with art, design or typography. Keith Tam and Stuart Bailey, among others, wrote about the book and it is striking how contrary their opinions were on Weingart’s practice, the design and the content of his book. Either you love it or hate it, I guess.