Jan Tschichold's Die neue Typografie (1928) was central to the discourse on modernist design as a reference work. The book enjoys mythical status almost a century after its publication, is often taken for granted and rarely scrutinised critically.

The exhibition re-evaluates the legacy of the new typography by literally unpacking Tschichold's library. In the exhibition, you can browse almost all of the 120 sources the essay cites, with quality facsimiles lying alongside rare originals.

photos, Alice Dooreman

Die Neue Bibliographie

The research project “The Sources of Jan Tschichold’s The New Typography” was conducted by a team led by Matthieu Cortat and Davide Fornari at ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne (HES-SO), between 2019 and 2022.

The project draws on the ever-growing literature on Jan Tschichold, his 1928 book Die neue Typographie (The New Typography, TNT) and the New Typography as a manifestation of Modernism in the printed media. Design scholars have explored the international impact of TNT by looking at issues of mediation and dissemination, as well as by addressing the ways in which Tschichold’s ideas were incorporated into everyday practice. While TNT has been acclaimed as the curtain raiser of modern graphic design, the sources cited by Tschichold in it have been understudied also because of their difficult identification.

The research project reconstructed the body of bibliographical sources in an attempt to provide a better understanding of the larger cultural context of TNT. The team identified all the sources and collected them as either original or facsimile edition whereas possible or produced new replicas. They then explored their impact at the time of publication and analysed their relation to TNT. The results of this contextualised analysis are available under a CC license through this website.

The collection of books is made available as a travelling exhibition titled “Unpacking Tschichold’s Library”. This is intended as a pedagogical tool for exploring the context of graphic design in the 1920s.

photos, Sander Van Damme

An Eye For Graphic Design

What catches the eye of a graphic designer? How does the eye focus on the book and typographic details from this perspective? What does it mean to research as a designer? These are questions that occupied the graphic design students while looking through the Kunstenbibliotheek's collection of Belgian avant-garde magazines.

The work on display is the result of a four-day workshop with these students. As an annex to the exhibition, they developed a presentation that provides a contemporary and local response to Tschichold's library unpacked. For this, students went to work with original material, which they interpreted to make their own. Additionally they made a selection of Belgian magazines such as La Cité (1919-1935) or Het Overzicht (1921-1925) from de Kunstenbibliotheek's archives. 

The workshop was organised by the Belgian Graphic Design Institute (BINGO), a knowledge and presentation platform for graphic design from Belgium and abroad.

photos, Sander Van Damme

This travelling exhibition is a research project of ECAL / University of Art and Design Lausanne (HES-SO), curated by Davide Fornari. In Ghent, it came about with the financial support of Design Museum Gent, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Embassy in Belgium.

photos, Sander Van Damme
'Tschichold's library unpacked' was on display from 28.03.24 to 21.04.24 in the Zwarte Zaal
i.c.w. Design Museum Gent, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Embassy in Belgium