In fact, the Futurists5. Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.
had a completely different look upon typography than what had been made previously in History. They started to experiment with letting letters flow over a page expressing an abundance of movement rather than fixed paragraphs. Giovanni Papini6. Giovanni Papini was an Italian journalist, essayist, literary critic, poet, and novelist. Born in Florence, 1881 — 1956.
started to publish the journal Lacerba in Florence, in which the artist and foreman of the Italian Futurist movement Fillippo Marinetti7. Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti was an Italian poet and editor, the founder of the Futurist movement. Born in Alexandria, Egypt 1876 — 1944.
contributed to. The magazine was closely related to the Futurist movement and had no official editor, but fead by
Ardengo Soffici8. Ardengo Soffici was an Italian writer, painter, poet, sculptor and intellectual. Born in Rignano sull’Arno, near Florence, 1879 — 1964.
and Papini himself as principal contributors (fig.6).
fig.6. The weekly magazine Lacerba by Giovanni Papini and Ardengo Soffici. First published on 1 Junuary 1913.
A passage in the book of
Philip B. Meggs & Alston W. Purvis9. Meggs, P., Purvis, A. and Meggs, P. (2006). Meggs’ history of graphic design. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons. Philip Baxter Meggs was an American graphic designer, professor, historian and author of books on graphic design. Born in Newberry, South Carolina, 1942 – 2002.
highlights how this publication was a break-through from historical ways of dealing with typography: “The June 1913 issue published Marinetti’s article calling for a typographic revolution against the classical tradition. Harmony was rejected as a design quality because it contradicted ‘the leaps and bursts of style running through the page’.” (fig.7)
fig.7. The article that Filippo Marinetti wrote as a contribution to Lacerba, in which he calles for an typographic revolution.
The typographic image changed from an orderly and harmonized craft into the expression of the disorganized minds of the poets, translated into a typographic poems. The poems depicted very heavy typography that was placed in a controlled chaos, creating a visual map of the poets intentions. The choice of typefaces were ranging from sans serif to serif fonts, from which the weights were taken in account. For the Futurists, writing and typography could potentially become an expressive visual form, that directly communicates through the linguistics, but carries a lot of definition in the placement and use of non linguistic expression (fig.8,9,10).
fig.8. Filippo Marinetti “Une assemblée tumultueuese” (A Tumultuous Assembly). A foldout from Les mots en liberté futuristes, 1919.fig.9. Après la Marne, Joffre visita le front en auto (After the Marne, Joffre Visited the Front by Car), by Marinetti, 1915.fig.10. Futuristic typographic poem of 1919 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
As the work of Marinetti was very outspoken and daring, the work of
Guillaume Apollinaire10. Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic of Polish descent. Born in Rome, Italy, 1880 — 1918.
was more modest and refined in its typographic choices. Apollinaire was considered as one of the foremost poets in the early 20th century, as well as being an impassioned advocate of the Cubism (fig.11).
fig.11. Salut monde (Hello World). Calligram about the Eiffel Tower by Guillaume Appolinaire, 1918.
He is most known for his poetic calligrammes: a phrase or poem typographically structured into an image. The arrangement of letters and words were depicting the topic of the phrase or poem, creating a contextual image of the poem. His letters were placed in a very delicate manners, enhancing the dynamics within the poetic text itself.
It seems that the work on poerty became a whole new playground for artists, writers and designers. Indeed, the Dada movement11. Dada or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century.
developed sound poetry that was comparable to the work of Apollinaire. The Dada movement was more interested in the pure visual qualities of typography and deconstructed letters to be seen as a pure visual form (fig.12).
fig.12. Kurt Schwitters, a spread from Merz 11, 1924. Ads for Pelikan Tusche and inks.
By using typography to note down the pure sounds, they took away the linguistic meaning from words. As an addition to their work, color was of an importance to build one more layer of dynamics. By using the full space of the page as well as different fonts but also colors and orientations, they managed to create highly dynamical compositions where the elements seem to literaly move on the page.
The function of typography had clearly changed and became a tool of visual expression. As typography integrated more with the visual aspect of the design, a more dynamic layout was achieved. Where the freedom was taken by the Futurists and the Dadaists,
El Lissitzky12. El Lissitzky was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. Born in Pochinok, 1890 — 1941.
was moving forward into a more structured approach to typography using basic shapes and elements of typography in his work (fig.13).
fig.13. El Lissitzky’s title page for Veshch No.3, 1921-1922.
El Lissitzky’s ideas changed the course of graphic design. In fact, by using his background as an architect to construct his work as a graphic designer, he made use of grid systems in order to place infromation in different hierarchies. His works were based on a hidden construction of grid systems, with which he tried to achieve dynamic and exciting designs.
De Stijl13. De Stijl, Dutch for “The Style”, also known as neoplasticism, was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 in Amsterdam.
was starting along side the Russian movements of
Suprematism14. Suprematism is an art movement, focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors.
Constructivism15. Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1919 and was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art.
, which had similar ideas about the typography and type design from the Dada movement.
Following movements such as the Russian avant-Garde as well as De Stijl continued elaborating on those already established guidelines: basic shapes, colors and letters combined into dynamic compositions (fig.14,15)
fig.14. Theo van Doesburg, exhibiton poster, 1920. fig.15. El Lissitzky, cover and page for De Stijl, 1922. El Lissitzky was invited by Theo van Doesburg to design and edit a double issue of De Stijl.
However, a shift can be witnessed during the span of the two world wars where the focus seemed to have moved towards propaganda. The compositions created at that time are light years away from the somewhat free and open graphic experiments of the Futurists or the Dadaists. From the early 1920’s, compositions seemed to be condemned to their political context. The first attempts of moving typography were not to be present till well after the second world war, when the designer Saul Bass together with the movie industry did actually put movement into letters.