Jan Tschichold

Tschichold claimed that he was one of the most powerful influences on 20th century typography. There are few who would attempt to deny that statement. The son of a sign painter and trained in calligraphy, Tschichold began working with typography at a very early age. Raised in Germany, he worked closely with Paul Renner (who designed Futura) and fled to Switzerland during the rise of the Nazi party. His emphasis on new typography and sans-serif typefaces was deemed a threat to the cultural heritage of Germany, which traditionally used Blackletter Typography and the Nazis seized much of his work before he was able to flee the country.

When Tschichold wrote Die Neue Typographie he set forth rules for standardization of practices relating to modern type usage. He condemned all typefaces except for sans-serif types, advocated standardized sizes of paper and set forth guidelines for establishing a typographic hierarchy when using type in design. While the text still has many relative uses today, Tschichold eventually returned to a classicist theory in which centered designs and roman typefaces were favored for blocks of copy.

He spent part of his career with Penguin Books and while he was there he developed a standardized practice for creating the covers for all of the books produced by Penguin. He personally oversaw the development of more than 500 books between the years 1947-49. Every period of his career has left a lasting impression on how designers think about and use typography, and it will continue to affect them into the future.