Typography is not only for reading and must not be a pain. Typography can be a game and a lot of fun.

A drawing inspired by: Schematische Darstellung des M-Buchstabenwürfel-Experiments in: Schonwiedertypografie 1970, Sonderdruck der Typografischen Monatsblätter, Rückseite, Buchdruck
A drawing inspired by: Es war einmal und ist nicht mehr | 1989

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 playing a 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 Monatsblätterp. 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.

Wolfgang Weingart, Biography by Philip Burton

typography as illustrated music

graphic landscape

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.

Commonplaces Summer Programme Basel

Coat of arms of the canton of Basel-Stadt
Coat of arms of the canton of Basel-Stadt

A week ago Tony Pritchard, my course leader from the LCC, asked me to write about my experience in Basel. So I looked through my archive and I gathered the information about the course, as well as some photographs and quotes which help elucidate the philosophy behind the Basel School of Design and their Summer Programme.

Between 1968 and 1999, the ‘Basel School of Design’ had conducted an Advanced Class of Graphic Design which was attended by students from all over the world. When the school was transformed into University Level, this Advanced Class was unfortunately closed.

From the Basics in Design and Typography Programme, Basel 2008

When the Schule für Gestaltung Basel (Basel School of Design) first announced its First Summer Program ‘Basics in Design and Typography’, three weeks of workshops for graphic designers, students and educators, it emphasised the fact that the course would be conducted by Wolfgang Weingart and would ‘re-open a dialogue’ with the legendary Advanced Class of Graphic Design, closed since 1999 …

The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. On the floor above was the Basel School of Design library; on the floor below was the Swiss Poster Collection. Each student was given their own enormous working space for the course. At the start of each class, all the equipment and materials were to be found ready and waiting in a neat pile on each desk. However, by far the most noticeable feature of the studio was the complete absence of computers . . .

Back to basics in Basel by Rupert Bassett


The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. Summer Programme 2008.
The course was delivered in a series of huge, clean white rooms, previously used as exhibition spaces within the Gewerbemuseum (trade museum) building. The Summer Programme 2008.

Drawing and Designing with Peter Olpe

In this workshop we had to draw pieces of track ballast from the Swiss Railway.

The piece of ballast, from the workshop, I still have on my desk.
The piece of stone from the workshop. I still have it on my desk.

What we do not see we cannot tell. What we see incorrectly we will report incorrectly.  

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz

From the workshop with Peter Olpe
Drawings from the workshop.

Only with a rich vocabulary of a solid graphic training is it possible to move freely among all one has learned. It is significant that often the most elementary experiences – which are commonly undervalued – are exactly those that can be the most lasting.

A Drawer’s Thoughts on Drawing: Drawing Makes Things Visible by Dorothea Hofmann

From Leonardo comes this observation: The line has an intellectual nature because, although it does not exist in reality, it can be understood to clarify objects. …the drawing cannot be a reproduction of nature, but that is possesses rather its own special reality.

Drawing as Design Process by Peter Olpe

My work from the workshop
My work from the workshop: “Relationships”.

Tonal work is risk-free; line is perilous voyage. Line drawing had a nakedness that forced students to think in advance of the line they drew.

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz
My work from the workshop
My work from the workshop: “Final Piece”.

Colour and Designing with Dorothea Flury

For the workshop we just needed paper and tempera.

From the workshop.
Group’s work.

In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is–as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art. In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives us continually. To this end, the beginning is not a study of color systems.

Interaction of Color by Josef Albers

My work from the workshop. Colour relationships.
My work from the workshop: “Colour Relationships”.

Basics in Typography with Wolfgang Weingart

Designing book covers using paper and scissors.

After completing one of the task. Group discussion.
After completing one of the tasks. The little round box with a six-point, semi bold Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk was always on Weingart’s desk.

Good typography is not loud. A responsibly applied and readable type style is the first ingredient of good composition. Today, asymmetric composition is certainly feasible, however, typography is intrinsically symmetrical. A text block without indents is unclear. Indents help the reader by the logical order of the text. The best typography is invisible to the reader and serves to transmit the thoughts and intent of the author. Beautiful text, a text well composed, is legible. One of the highest virtues of good typography is its subtle elegance. It is not the duty of the typographer to consciously display or emulate the style of the current trends, nor to reflect the spirit of the times. Typography must be itself. It must be pleasing to the eye and not tiring. Good typography has absolutely nothing to do with remarkable or exotic type styles. This is the opinion of amateurs. The essence of letter-form is not modernity, but readability. (from Jan Tschichold’s document sent to Wolfgang Weingart)

It seemed as if everything that made me curious was forbidden: to question established typographic practice, change the rules, and to reevaluate its potential. I was motivated to provoke this stodgy profession and to stretch the typeshop’s capabilities to the breaking point, and finally, to prove once again that typography is an art.

My Way to Typography by Wolfgang Weingart

My drawing from the workshop.
One of the drawings I made during the workshop.

Space and Form (3D) with Stephan Primus

During the workshop we only used paper and a cutting knife.

Examples of work from previous courses.
Examples of work from previous courses.

Don’t even worry about being without a studio or being away  from your tools; you can always get out the paper. (from Josef Albers’s Report on a Course)

Josef Albers: To Open Eyes by Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz

The following photographs present my work from the workshop.

Different forms.
Different forms.
Libraries of forms.
Libraries of forms.
Progression 1
Progression 1.
Progression 2
Progression 2.

Things I liked most:

  • the struggle while I was drawing the ballast stones
  • Peter Olpe’s amazing pinhole cameras, which he builds himself
  • the school’s poster collection, shown by Dorothea Flury
  • Dorothea’s comment that students came to the Basel School of Design for Armin Hofmann, but wanted to stay for Kurt Hauert.
  • the visit to the Novartis Campus (a treasure trove of design) guided by Kaspar Schmid and Lize Mifflin (Mifflin-Schmid Design)
  • Beat Keusch who, according to Weingart, is the most sensible Swiss designer http://www.beatkeusch.ch/
  • Paper Museum and it’s exhibition: 50th Aniversary of Helvetica
  • Shaulager, a place to check out http://www.schaulager.org/smq/
  • Letterform in Public Space, a guided tour through the city of Basel with Lisa Pomeroy
  • Vitra, the collection of chairs and the Conference Pavilion designed by Tadao Ando http://www.vitra.com/en-us/corporation/designer/details/103924


*The black and white photographs (Drawing and Designing, Space and Form) come from the book we received after the course. They were made by two assistants in the Summer Programme,  Mo and Anne.

Here are some photographs of the book.



Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.
Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.
Yasunori Morinaga's work.
Yasunori Morinaga’s work.