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Jan Tschichold: A Life in Typography Hardcover – December 1, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568980841
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568980843
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,751,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Jan Tschichold's design breakthroughs in typography were two fold. He was the first typographer to apply the aesthetics, in his day, of the Bauhaus to ordinary, day-to-day printing. Secondly, his great flexibility of vision allowed him to relinquish those design principles of asymmetry and articulate a wider vision after his exile from Nazi Germany. The Bauhaus had a tendency, after all, to use type as an element of abstract art, and Tschichold would never be swayed from his conviction that typographical design must serve communication. He would incorporate the dash and elegance of Bauhaus form, but never sacrifice legibility for flair. Function, in his case, would always follow form. His aesthetic, however, was indelible. With his early training in lettering and calligraphy, Tschichold "... became the first to offer a coherent philosophy of design by which all typographic problems ... could be tackled in ways that were rational, suited to modern production techniques, and aesthetically satisfying."

Jan Tschichold: A Life in Typography offers both the design student and the experienced designer such enlightened summaries, placing the typographer's vision firmly in the rich cultural context of his times. In his concise biography Ruari McLean, the world's leading Tschichold scholar, offers an interpretation of the significant design innovations, with analyses of Tschichold's writings, theories and manifestos. A substantial as well as a handsome volume, enriched with annotated illustrations of Tschichold's work, and including the now famous series of film posters for Munich's Phoebus-Palast Cinema, Jan Tschichold is as satisfying to the eye as any of Tschichold's clean, lean designs.


The design world cannot have too many books by or about Jan Tschichold. Like Paul Rand, he exemplified all the qualities of a true "master" designer: he was a risk-taking young designer, the creator of a new typography; he laid out his ideas in clear and practical writings; he was one of the first corporate designers, standardizing design for the vast output of Penguin Books and, if all that weren't enough, in his latter years he created the graceful, instantly classic typeface Sabon. In 1975, Ruari McLean, Tschichold's friend, translator and biographer, published "Jan Tshcichold: Typographer," still a "must-have" for every designer, which covered much the same ground, and in a similar fashion, as this new volume. Jan Tschichold: A Life in Typography has the same format and organization as its predecessor and the two books share many of the same examples of his work, reproduced with similarly limited palettes. Where the books differ is in emphasis: the new book had extensive and invaluable appendices of Tschichold's writings, but the new one has the entire four-page booklet "Penguin Composition Rules," which could stand alone as a primer on basic text design. Another succinct and striking lesson is from his posthumous "The Form of the Book," where Tschichold transforms a banal centered layout into a characteristically elegant and dramatic interplay between type and whitespace. His caption: "But it isn't as easy as it looks." In 1934, Tschichold wrote, " The greatest benefit from looking at good work will always be gained by those who study its finest details and subtleties." What better details to study than Tschichold's own. -- Communication Arts

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By W. Todd Dominey on October 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
First the good. "Life in Typography" is a beautifully illustrated paperback containing gorgeous, intriguing scans of pages and illustrations from the work of typographer/illustrator Jan Tschichold. Fortunately, a number of reprints in the book are reprinted actual size, to give the viewer a distinctly real vantage point into what the originals actually looked like. So unless you've got the cash to buy out-of-print books, this is by far the most sane route. And it's not too expensive either.
But the only problem I had with the book is that I wanted to learn more about the artist himself. Tschichold's bold, at times abbrasive tone comes out in his pen sketched notes on a number of reprints and in-house drafts, leading the reader to believe he was probably one obnoxious, colorful, temperamental character. Instead, "A Life in Typography" sheds little light on the 'life' of Tschichold, and focuses instead on images with little explanation.
Were there no interviews with Tschichold that could have been reprinted? A larger window into his persona would have really helped understand his persistance and drive for typographic perfection.
But of everything reprinted in the book, quite possibly the most stirring, worthy part is a four page reprint of "Composition Rules" written by Tschichold and distributed to employees of the Penguin Book company. It's forceful, blunt, and essential reading for anyone involved in typesetting. He explains in detail how to treat capitals, italics, paragraph indents and punctuation marks. His thoughts and opinions about typography leap off the page.
So if you need a quick reference of his work, or are someone who just discovered the name Tschichold, this is a must have for your design library.
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By Sunshine on June 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gave a brief history of Tshichold's career highlights. I enjoyed the notes about size & color for each project. Also included is a snippet of the style guide he created for penguin books.
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By Willem Hart on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The late Ruary McLean has deligted the world of typography with many seminal books on the subject. "Jan Tschichold: a life in typography" is but one good example of his prodigious output. McLean uses his personal acquaintance with Tschichold to good effect in a delightful essay about this important 20th century type designer. The essay evaluates the work of this controversial figure who started as a convential designer, espoused a radical change, and then reverted to a more classical view of typography. The book contains many examples of Tschichold's work from all three stages of his development. An excellent reference.
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