FROM DADA TO NEW WAVE TYPOGRAPHY.
The Dada movement or Dadaism was a response to the modern age. It refers to a cultural progression in the visual art sector, music, literature, and theater that protests against the capitalist culture and unjust treatments that resulted from World War 1. It originated in Eastern Europe around 1916, where the movement was characterized by opposing all norms of bourgeois culture and regarded itself as “anti-art” or rejection of tradition. Typography during the Dada movement became a significant part of that time period as Dadaist would go against the norm and reinvent the way type was used.
Kurt Schwitters (1987-1948) is a German graphic designer/artist, who was known to have a great influence in typography during the 20th century. He has an artistic background in collage compositions however, around 1920-30s, Schwitters published a certain periodical or ironic philosophy of art called Merz (a nonsensical term he invented). It mainly used design and typography to deliver commercial culture and relationship with art and everyday life as the publication’s major subjects. One of Schwitters’s most recognizable typographic works, Merz no. 11, 1924 from the Merz Magazine series, delivers a diverse range of art forms and was a representation of different avant-garde networks.
The composition consists of integration between typography and layout. The Merz no. 11 uses many different fonts that were punctuated in unconventional ways as well as integrated random letters/ symbols throughout the page. Use of extreme hierarchy was evident as very heavy use of capital- lowercase, condensed, and light-semi-bold type is seen in his work. Schwitters had horizontal and vertical prints on the same paper, composed indifferently in any direction. The visual impact showcased abstract layouts in the orientation and irregular print patterns bringing one’s attention to the piece. The choice of colour also affected the aesthetics of his work as the use of the colour red makes a bold statement against the black, creating character and contrast to certain texts. His works at that time had little impact during the Dada era however later influenced future generations of graphic designers.
Wolfgang Weingart (1941-present) is a German graphic designer, typographer, and influential teacher categorized in Swiss typography (typography that defies strict grid-based arrangement conventions) and developed the postmodern New Wave or Swiss Punk typography. He is known to challenge the rational order and dogmatic rules of international typographic styles during the late 1960s and create intuitive, expressive typographic experiments. His works relate with poster and cover designs, word spacing and letter spacing, reverse type blocks, different line weights and random and diagonal placements of text/letterforms. Weingart focused on the concept of the design feature having a strong structure and logical composition. The 1971-72, Typographic Signs and Nr. 5, is one of many great pieces from the Typographic Process periodicals that can be compared to that of the Merz poster.
In comparison to the Kurt Schwitters piece, the work of Weingart delivers similar visual context and aesthetic. Both pieces integrate layout and typography to create one dynamic composition. The experimentation in the spacing, overlapping of design/text, and unique typography with different weights and sizes deliver a clean yet formal abstract design. Placements of line and letter give vertical, horizontal, and diagonal compositions that provide different linear directions. His use of structure is quite simililar to the Merz no. 11, where the organiziation of the typesetting follows irregular patterns. The Typographic Signs and Nr. 5 delivers a minimal design with a monochromatic pallet throughout the series, opposite from the bright red colours in the Merz poster.
It is evident that Dadaist typography paved a direction to the design compositions of Swiss typography. Both pieces are from different art movements but carry the same objective in breaking away or developing the form and layout of typography in graphic design.
“Dada Movement Overview and Key Ideas.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/movement-dada.htm.
Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn, 2012.
Polano, Sergio, and Pierpaolo Vetta. ABC of 20th-Century Graphics. Electa architecture, Milan, 2003.
“Weingart, Wolfgang (b. 1941).” The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, Alan Livingston, and Isabella Livingston, Thames & Hudson, 3rd edition, 2012. Credo Reference, http://ocadu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/thgraph/weingart_wolfgang_b_1941/0?institutionId=4079. Accessed 01 Apr. 2019.