Much has been made of Jan Tschichold’s time at Penguin and his influence on post-war British book design. However, modernist ideas and asymmetric layout only gradually supplanted Victorian and Edwardian design principles (typified by the inexpensive Collins Classic or the prestige editions of A. & C. Black) and did so through the efforts of many British designers and educators. Of particular importance was a group associated with the Central School of Art and Design in London, chief among them was Anthony Froshaug, who, alongside Herbert Spencer and Edward Wright, shifted the focus of the school’s curriculum away from the lettering tradition toward typography in the modern sense, focusing on legibility and a more austere approach, eschewing ornamentation in favour of clarity and subservience to content.
Notes on Book Design
? 2004: Derek Birdsall
Among the most noteworthy of the Central School’s graduates of this period, Birdsall’s dedication to asymmetric layout, sympathetic use of grids, and flawless integration of text and image provide the clearest expression to the ideals of purity and structure inherent in Tschichold’s new conception of the book. Notes on Book Design presents 360 spreads from some 50 books, designed over a span of 40 years, ranging in scale from Penguin paperbacks to brilliant catalogues raisonné for the Yale Univeristy Press and recently, the complete redesign of The Church of England’s book of Common Worship. This is, quite simply, the most useful and inspiring book on non-fiction book design we have ever stocked. (2004: Yale University; ISBN 0300103476)
Derek Birdsall is also one of the coauthors of the lovely illustrated study Paul Rand: Modernist Designer.
Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life
? 2001: Robin Kinross, Editor
After Anthony Froshaug’s death in 1984 Robin Kinross was asked to help organize his archive, launching a project that would take Kinross more than 15 years to complete. Froshaug is renowned both as a designer and as an educator, first at the Central School, then at the storied Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm with Otl Aicher and finally at the Royal College of Art with John Lewis. An innovative approach to biography, this two volume book traces the life and work of England’s most passionate advocate of modernism in graphic design by presenting nearly 500 pages of original source documents, annotated by the editor. The first volume covers Froshaug’s work as a designer and printer and contains many of his writings on typography, the second volume provides day-to-day documents, from correspondence and personal notes to course outlines. (2001: Hyphen Press; ISBN 090725909x)
Pioneers of Modern Typography, Revised Edition
? 1969 (2004): Herbert Spencer & Rick Poynor
Originally published in 1969, Pioneers remains the only comprehensive English-language study of the multitude of twentieth-century avant-garde art movements in relation to the development of modern graphic design and typography. In the introduction Spencer describes the rationale for the work as follows:
Modern typography does not have its origins in the conventional printing industry. Its roots are entwined with those of twentieth-century painting, poetry and architecture, and it flowered quite suddenly and dramatically in the twenty years following the publication of Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto in 1909. – HS
Interestingly, in a review of Spencer’s work, reproduced in volume 2 of Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life, his Central School colleague seems less convinced of the influence of these movements:
What is not true, is to suggest that the random placing of letterforms, not ranged in lines, has anything to do with the proper business of typesetting, which is the arrangement of characters of constant body dimension from crown to sole of shoes, in words and sentences and phrases, divided according to the mode of their time – using the punctuation and syntax then accepted. – AF
(2004: MIT Press; ISBN 0262693038)
Unfortunately out-of-print is The Liberated Page, an anthology of articles drawn from Spencer’s ground-breaking journal Typographica.
Notes on Book Design: $64.95, now: $34.95
Anthony Froshaug: Typography and Texts, Documents of a Life: $92.95
Pioneers of Modern Typography, Revised Edition: $41.95
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