Jan Tschichold – Typographic Genius

Jan Tschichold left an impression upon the world of graphic design and typography that few could compete against. From strongly advocating the beauty of sans serif fonts and clean, organised design 20 years before it took off, to strengthening the design of Penguin books to turn them into the something special that they are. Jan Tschichold spent a life learning and exploring and left us with much to do the same.

Early Life & Education

Jan Tschichold took his first gulp of air on the second of April, 1902 in Leipzig, Germany, when his parents Maria and Franz welcomed him into the world.

Sign-writer by trade, Franz gave his son an introduction to the world of lettering – although not seeing it as his future, Tschichold learned the ins-and-outs of sign writing while assisting his father.

His aspirations of becoming an artist were deflated when his parents thought otherwise. Not wanting their son to be an unfruitful artist, the family concluded that becoming an illustration teacher was a worthwhile option—it provided a creative outlet and a steady income. Tschichold as teacher began when he was 14 years of age and lasted a mere three years.

The wheels of calligraphy and script began to turn in the mind of Tschichold two years prior to the start of his teaching post. It was the 1914 World’s Fair for Books & Graphics that left an impression.

An interest in calligraphy formed, fueled by his personal studies of the books Tschichold poured himself into – especially those which covered calligraphy, ornamental script and writing.

At the age of 17, Tschichold threw his back against his life as a teacher and began his typographic studies. While he studied a range of creative endeavors, such as engraving, wood cutting and bookbinding, it seems as if his time of study didn’t involve a great deal of education. Simply, he knew it all.

Because of his personal studies and passion, there wasn’t much he didn’t have a strong understanding of.