Kinross on Tschichold’s turn towards the traditional

A Reading Note

This astonishing change came to dog Tschichold’s career. When, in 1946, he first explained it publicly (in a highly-charged exchange with Max Bill), his reasons were of two kinds: that his modern typography had been authoritarian and militaristic and so imbued with the spirit that also drove German National-Socialism; and that modernism in typography was limited to publicity work (as opposed to book design), could not properly articulate content, could be practised only by an uninitiated élite. These arguments—a tangle of true perceptions and ingenuous special pleading—inform what may be the only decent attempt at postmodernism in typography, done for the most serious moral-political reasons.

Kinross, Unjustified Texts, page 175

Yet today much book design has gone the way of “publicity” work, has relinquished the love affair it had with texts. Which is not to say there aren’t any beautifully designed books being published, but they are increasingly difficult to find. Serious readers are forced to contend with incompetently designed and poorly composed texts if they are to read at all.

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