Constructivism, De Stijl and Tschichold

Constructivism found its origins in Russia around 1915. It is credited as being coined by Kasmir Malevich when referring to work produced by Aleksander Rodchenko. Aleksander Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin were the founders of the movement. Constructivism was an artistic and architectural movement centered around art reflecting the post war modern industrial world, and using art as a medium towards social change or serve a purpose. They sought to construct art and where inspired by industrial machinery and materials. Tatlin along with his follows took up residence in Moscow before the Soviet Union then oppressed the movement and the group dispersed with key members moving across Europe before spreading it further afield. The members of the movement went on to influence others who inturn spread it to other art houses, movements and countries with constructivism having ties with the de Stijl artist and architects as well as the Bauhaus.

Alexander Rodchenko, Books (Please!) In All Branches of Knowledge, 1924

De Stijl which is Dutch for ‘the style’ was founded in 1917 by abstract artists Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. De Stijl was also a publication that Mondrian used to share his ideas on art. The movement was centered around simplicity and abstraction to express a Utopian idea of harmony and order. The movement used primary colours as well as squares, rectangles, vertical and horizontal lines in its works. The movement eventually ended after its members came to the realisation that their vision was unattainable.

Piet Mondrian, Composition A, 1923

Jan Tschichold was the son of a sign painter and was trained in calligraphy. He began working with typography and an early age and later worked with Paul Renner (designer of Futura). When the Nazi party came to power Tschichold fled to Switzerland because his emphasis on sans-serif typefaces was deemed a threat to Germany’s traditional use of blackletter. He favoured only sans-serif types and condemned others. He set forth guidelines to standardise certain aspects of type and using it in design. He worked at Penguin Books for a while and developed a standardisation for designing covers for books.

Jan Tschichold, Book Covers, 1926, 1926, 1927