Willi Kunz
«Anonymous» Typography from the Twenties

By the end of the 19th century, the tremendous growth of industry called for new methods of production in printing – at first, to satisfy the increasing needs for printed materials; and later, after production and competition had increased, to stimulate demands through advertising. Accordingly, technical principles adapted to mass production were established and then improved. At the same time, however, printers had not been able to detach themselves from the traditional patterns adopted primarily from book design.

The first experiments directed toward altering customary typography came from foreign parties. Around 1905, the futurists in Italy began to produce typographical manifests strikingly flexible and liberated in form. The typographical material was manipulated at will, and technical restrictions were surmounted in a variety of ways. The industry-related Bauhaus became, in the twenties, one of the most important and influential movements for typographical design and production in Europe.

Most affected was the field of advertising, where typography played a key role; large editions contributed to a wide spread of new ideas. Also not to be overlooked were the typographical magazines which appeared, at irregular intervals and in limited editions, on the international market: De Stijl, Mecano, and i10 in the Netherlands; Der Sturm, Merz, G and Das Bauhaus in Germany; MA in Hungary; LEF in the Soviet Union; and ABC in Switzerland.

Finally, numerous exhibitions helped to make new directions in typographic design widely known. Under these conditions, the nature of printed matter produced in print shops also changed gradually. Much of the work was created in odd print shops in Austria and Germany by unknown typographers who had hardly any contact with the leading personalities who defined typographical design between 1910 and 1930.

First published in Typographische Monatsblätter 6.7, 1976