Reviewed February 2018
Karen DeWitt, Director Harrye B. Lyons Design Library
North Carolina State University Libraries
Typographische Monatsblätter brought Swiss typography to a world audience and is an important journal for the study of graphic design. In existence for over 70 years, the journal was most influential between 1960 and 1990. Both the Typographische Monatsblätter Research Archive and a publication titled 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblätter are the outgrowth of the research of Louise Paradis for her master’s degree in art direction from ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne, Switzerland. This review focuses solely on the online Research Archive and its possible use to library researchers.
The Typographische Monatsblätter Research Archive is a free, online, and easily navigable website. It consists of six sections: a cover index, an issue index, a list of designers, a list of interviews, a section about the archive, and a section on older covers from pre-1960 issues. It is unfortunate that some sort of explanation is no immediately provided on the site homepage. The cover index appears on the main page, and this leads the viewer to assume that clicking on a cover will lead to the fully digitized issue. This is not the case; the cover is the only part of each issue that is digitized. But that does not mean that the cover index is without merit; in such a visual field to be able to scan through decades of cover images allows the viewer to get a sense of the scope of the journal and the changes in graphic design and typography over time. Clicking on each cover also leads to a page with information about the designer of the cover, the typefaces used, and a link to the table of contents for that issue and link to the “Impressum” or imprint/credits for the issue. For researchers at libraries without access to the printed journal, this can be important information that would allow them to request articles from the journal.
The designer list is not long, and the biographies are typically only one sentence, but there is also a bibliography for each designer, listing articles about that person. An image or images of the cover(s) they designed for the journal are also included on the page.
The most useful section is the interviews with designers. Louise Paradis interviewed over thirty designers (twenty-seven designers are listed on the site) who worked on various covers for the journal and discussed their careers and their experience working on the cover and their thoughts about typography in general. The interviews are in English, and each is preceded by a brief overview of the designer’s career. Even well known graphic designers may not have very much published about them personally, so any interview can be a valuable addition to the body of knowledge about a designer. It is also interesting to get the perspective of these designers on the very famous designers they may have worked with, such as Emil Ruder or Adrian Frutiger. Unfortunately, the interview section is not complete; about half the designers are listed with the interviews “coming soon” but the ones that are complete are very useful, especially for those designers who are not so well known.
The Typographische Monatsblätter Research Archive is a specialized resource, focusing on the issues of the journal between 1960 and 1990, and on those designers who worked on the covers. Nonetheless, there is valuable information to be found, especially in the tables of contents and the interviews with the designers. This is a resource that researchers in typography, especially Swiss typography, should find useful and interesting.