Typographic Innovation and Negative Criticism: A Retrospective from Gutenberg to Carson

By John R. Kleinpeter.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A retrospective search of the history of typography reveals a chain of innovators who were harshly criticized at the time of their innovation, then later recognized for their contribution. As early as Johann Gutenberg, many typographic innovators initially challenged by authorities of the period, have gone on to influence design practice. Alfred Roller, Filippo Marinetti, Jan Tschichold, Piet Zwart, Herb Lubalin, Neville Brody, and David Carson form links in a chain of twentieth-century visionaries who withstood negative criticism by rejecting conventional design in favor of something new. The controversies generated by these innovative design approaches sometimes led to the discontinuation of the approach, but sometimes resulted in quick emulation by others who viewed the work as avant-garde, and eventual assimilation of at least some portion of the technique into common design practice. This history of initial critical rejection followed by an influence on design practice, highlights an important pattern in design history and suggests that learning to recognize, tolerate and value innovation when it appears in design practice is vital to maintaining effective communication in an environment of constant cultural change.

Keywords: Graphic Design History, Typographic Innovation, Johann Gutenberg, Alfred Roller, Filippo Marinetti, Jan Tshichold, Piet Zwart, Herb Lubalin, Neville Brody, David Carson, Negative Criticism

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.193-206. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 636.617KB).

John R. Kleinpeter

Assistant Professor, Department of Design, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California, USA

John R. Kleinpeter began his professional career as a graphic designer in 1982 and is a principal at John Kleinpeter Creative in Irvine, CA. John has been teaching since 2001 and at California State University, Long Beach since 2006. His professional experience includes design for identity, packaging, environmental graphic design, exhibit, web, television and print. John’s research interests include graphic design in history, culture and the build environment.

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