• New typography in Scandinavia: domesticating theory and practice amongst the graphic trades, 1927-43

Klevgaard, Trond, 2018, Thesis, New typography in Scandinavia: domesticating theory and practice amongst the graphic trades, 1927-43 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This work provides the first extended account of New Typography’s path in Scandinavian countries, a topic which has yet to receive attention beyond a handful of articles and book chapters. Based on an exhaustive study of graphic trade journals published in Denmark, Norway and Sweden between the years of 1927 and 1943, it charts debate on New Typography and discusses the journals’ changing designs. Additional visual material has been sourced from a number of Scandinavian archives. In discussing the spread of New Typography’s theory and aesthetic from elsewhere in Europe, and then primarily from Germany, the thesis uses the concepts of domestication and networks, rather than those of diffusion or influence and centre–periphery.
Dealing with a period in which the graphic designer had yet to appear as a professional figure, New Typography’s impact on a range of professional groups — all of which held responsibility for the design of graphic materials — is considered. Particular attention is paid to how the printing trade took up New Typography in its educational efforts to ‘heighten the trade’. However, the differing cultural, organisational and technological factors informing not only the practice of printers, but also that of architects, avant-garde artists, commercial artists, intellectuals and lay-out men, is detailed in order to understand how and why New Typography achieved different levels of penetration amongst these groups. Rather than facilitating an exchange of ideas across professional boundaries, the Scandinavian trade journals serving these various practitioner types formed parts of discreet international networks, more likely to report on developments within their particular trade or profession abroad, than on those occurring in related trades or professions at home.
The last two chapters deal with how New Typography related
to two major cultural and political forces in 1930s Scandinavia: Functionalism and Social Democracy. Commonly perceived as closely related, not only to one another, but to Scandinavian architecture and design of the period, the discussion of these two forces is used to relate typography to the wider design field. It will be argued that whilst initially separate strands, New Typography and Functionalism were quickly coflated, shifting the focus of debate from aesthetic matters to those of function. Taken up as a domestication strategy, this shift paradoxically allowed traditionalist views of typography to be put forward as more progressive than the teachings of Tschichold or the practices of the avant-garde.
The use of photomontage was limited in a commercial context. This particular aspect of New Typography was thereby able to retain its radical political associations, and found prominent use in the discreet zones formed by the publications of Clartéist publishing house Mondes Forlag, publications associated with Functionalist architects and the graphic materials created for the Social Democratic parties’ youth and women’s groups.
A clear organisational commitment to both Functionalism and New Typography was made by the Swedish cooperative society, Kooperativa Förbundet. It not only made pioneering use of Functionalism in architecture, but established a house style based on New Typography for its ‘konsum’ stores.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W210 Graphic Design > W211 Typography
Funders: Birgit och Gad Rausings Stiftelse för Humanistisk Forskning,, Grafill, Letterstedska Föreningen, The Photographic History Research Centre (De Montfort University), The Sir Richard Stapely Educational Trust
Date Deposited: 02 May 2018 15:24
Last Modified: 02 May 2021 08:38
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3424
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