Virtual Typography-notes & response

For our reading task this week we was asked to read the introduction and first chapter of Visual Typography by Matthias Hillner. After reading it we was then asked to take notes, respond to the reading and then undertake further library research on at least two examples of work or practitioners we find interesting in the reading. Here are my notes and response to the reading.

Visual Poetry
  • Typography can be understood as the visual interpretation of verbal language.
  • Typography is the visual arrangement of words and letters.
  • Visual poetry broke with the conventions of traditional typography well before modern and postmodern forms of typography emerged.
  • The beginning of the movement are usually attributed to the early twentieth century.
  • Visual poetry this relationship by translating the written word back into an image. The written word here becomes the first-order signifying system, and the image becomes the second-order signifying system. This is why we consider visual poetry as a truly revolutionary step in the context of visual communication.
  • ‘A structure becomes architectural, and not sculptural, when its elements no longer have their justification in nature.’
II pleut-Guillaume Apollinaire
  • Dada movement emerged from anarchist and socio-political initiatives in Zurich in 1915.
  • Dadaism constituted a seemingly anti-functional approach to typography.
  • Typography was reduced to a visual form of expression that did not always result in the revelation of meaningful information.
  • Dada quickly spread across Europe and reached as far as New York.
  • Dadaism helped to question many established conventions about graphical and typographical arrangements.
  • Dadaism aimed for a quasi-chaotic simultaneity of information fragments.
New York Public Theater-Paula Scher
  • Futurism pushed the borderline of typography even further towards the virtually typographical.
  • A distinction between text and image could often not be made anymore.
  • Futurism collages forced the viewer to simply look at accumulation of typographic fragments rather than to unveil their possible meaning through reading.
  • Futurism originated in Italy where it was partly inspired by visual poetry.
  • By turning typography art into a less literal form of expression, futurism managed ti escape the contextual constraints of poetic writing.
  • Visual poetry became visual poetics.
  • Futurism was an expressive response to industrialisation.
  • Machines became the focal point of attention and the praise of speed the underlying agenda.
    Glory to the New Born King-Alan Kitching
  • Constructivism emerged in 1921 as a movement in post-revolutionary Russia.
  • Instead of being art for the sake of art, constructivism was meant to serve the proletariat.
  • It rejected individual stylistic ambitions in favour of the usefulness of the art or design objects.
  • In 1920s Russia there was still a high level of illiteracy. It was believed that graphic design based on geometric principles and a simplification of the Cyrillic script would be more accessible for Russia’s public community.
  • This anti-stylistic functionalism was radical to such a degree that constructivism became undeniably an artistic style in its own right.
Gosizdat-Alexander Rodchenko
Bauhaus and De Stijl
  • The Dutch avant-garde movement De Stijl evolved around Theo Van Doesburg’s De Stilj magazine and was helped by Piet Mondrian’s contribution.
  • Much like visual poetry, De Stijl was, in sense, self-motivated, inspired only by the work of contemporary painters.
  • But while visual poetry rejected mechanisation, De Stijl embraced it.
  • Design had been stripped of any decorative elements.
  • De Stijl appeared rather calm and organised, dominated by the clarity of geometric forms.
  • De Stijl became an industrial form of art.
  • Van Doesburg first visited Bauhaus in 1920.
  • His influence helped to overcome the expressionist phase that dominated the beginning stage of the Bauhaus movement.
  • The ambition to turn art into production-art rose.
  • Walter Gropius , the first Bauhaus principal, established the Bauhaus school as a functionalist design institution.
  • The second generation of modernists (those who practised visual design after the second world war) understood functionalism in the conventional, pragmatic sense.
  • The purpose behind typography was to deliver information quickly ie, efficiently.
  • The aspect of aesthetic pleasure was considered to be secondary.
De Stijl magazine-Theo van Doesburg
Concrete Poetry
  • Following the Second World War, modern typography helped to promote the recovering industries.But modern typography itself did not develop much further.
  • Poetry allowed various post-war typographers to escape commercial restrictions.
  • Concrete poetry, which emerged in the 1950’s, is often considered a late version of visual poetry.
  • While visual poets challenged the words semantically, concrete poets visually  interpreted their syntax.
  • Concrete poets use the patterns of words, letters and punctuation marks to make statements.
  • The word patterns are usually non-figurative.
  • Concrete poets relied on the experience of reading to convey a second level of meaning.
Fisches Nachtgesang-Christian Morgenstern

A great read! I have seen many examples of visual poetry before but never looked into the specifics of the movement so it was interesting to learn about. The other movements such as surrealism and constructivism I have previously researched for a photography project in college for my A levels so I knew a bit about them already but not in terms of typography so I enjoyed learning more!


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