WOLFGANG WEINGART: DESIGNER ESSAY
Wolfgang Weingart is famously recognised in the design world for his iconic work in both graphic design and typography. The work he created was classified as Swiss Typography, as he once said; “I took Swiss Typography as my starting point, but then I blew it apart, never forcing any style on my students.”. Throughout this essay, I am going to explore the life of Wolfgang Weingart and aim to discover how he became known as “the father” of the New Wave typography.
“It was the most important years of my life”
Born in February 1941, Weingart spent the first 13 years of his life living in Salem Valley located in southern Germany close to the border of Switzerland.
In his early years, Weingart and his family traveled frequently allowing him to see beautiful landscapes and ancient ruins first hand which later influenced many aspects of his work.
It was then in 1947 when Weingart began his journey in school, where he discovered that he had very little interest is academic subjects. In an interview, earlier this year he admitted “Cramming knowledge into my head didn’t appeal to me.”. So, throughout his years of school, he found ways of cheating, as he did so by drilling holes into the surface of his desk which allowed him to read answers from below.
Near the end of World War II Weingart discovered a valuable lesson about himself in which discovered that he was a doer, not a thinker. One of the things he loved to do was take apart the girl’s bike he owned. Weingart would play and reconstruct different parts of the bike and put it back together again.
In 1954 Weingart and his family packed their things and moved to Lisbon, Portugal where they lived for a total of 2 years. Over these years Weingart experienced education at a German school in which teacher acknowledged his artistic ability and agreed to give him private lessons. His parents took him on trips to Spain, Africa, and the Middle East. This allowed him to see beautiful landscapes and ancient ruins first hand which later influenced much of his work in later life.
When he returned back to Germany his parents enrolled him for the Merz Academy in Stuttgart where he started a 2-year programme in applied art and design. During the course of the programme, he not only learned about painting and drawing but also printing and graphic design. It was here that he began experiments with type and during free time he was keen to set himself personal projects which lead him to use metal type for the first time.
Weingart had a goal of learning in an industry that was relevant to graphic design, in which he began a typesetting apprenticeship at Ruwe Printing, Stuttgart in 1960. He was unaware that the line of work he was undertaking would have a major influence on his future as a designer. In the process of his time here Weingart would spend his weekends playing around and experimenting with type which led him to discover that there was a real creative potential behind type and letter forms. From this he gained a real admiration for the art of metal typesetting and printing, having mentioned in his book “My Way to Typography”; “The thoroughness of training during my apprenticeship, technically and aesthetically, the respect and awe I developed for every letter and for every typeset line was confirmation that my calling had been answered.”.
This was also the year he first encountered Swiss Typography which inspired him remarkably throughout his years of being an apprentice. The International Typographic Style is commonly referred as ‘Swiss Style’. This movement was based on cleanness, readability, objectivity, and structure; the beginning of mathematical grids delivered consistent and easy to follow designs. Other features of the Swiss Style included the typeface Sans Serif and photography which is visible in Weingart’s work. It was artists like Josef-Muller Brockmann, Ernst Keller and Armin Hofmann who innovated the Swiss Style by combing elements from movements like Bauhaus and De Stijl to achieve the clean and simplistic Swiss Style, which still inspires many designers today.