Friday, October 9, 2009


Found a new source (or fairly new, published last year by Thames & Hudson) about my personal favorite among graphic designers of the past: Jan Tschichold : Master Typographer : His Life, Work & Legacy. It includes a chapter by Martin E. Le Coultre about early work in Munich.

The posters for Phoebus-Palast cinema were Tschichold's first large commission and one in which he was given much latitude to experiment. In late 1926 the Phoebus-Palast was opened with great fanfare as a branch of the Berlin company Phoebus AG. It was the largest cinema in Germany at that time, with seating for 2,174 movie patrons. An orchestra of fifty musicians was available to accompany the films. (It would be some years before the arrival of the "talkies.")

Tschichold seized the opportunity to create for the cinema what today would be called a corporate identity: posters, newspaper advertisements, and programs all formed a unity. Just as the posters stood out in the streets, the ads were prominent in the newspapers. This was vital exposure, since the illuminated advertising used by cinemas in other cities was forbidden in Munich. ...

In the short time between the announcement of the film and its screening (sometimes only a week), it was impractical to design a decorative poster, have it transferred to stone and then lithographed. By sheer necessity Tschichold worked from small sketches that he further developed on site at the printers.

The examples below were all issued in 1927.

The Night of Love

The Beloved Rogue


Prince Louis Ferdinand

The Woman Without a Name

The Pair of Trousers


The General

Sins Against the Child

Ivan the Terrible

The Three Nobodies