New Everything! A Century of New Typography and New Graphic Design in Frankfurt am Main

25 March – 14 August 2016

After World War I, a unique modernization and design project that would go down in architectural history as Das Neue Frankfurt (“New Frankfurt”) got underway in the metropolis on the Main.

Yet it was a far more comprehensive undertaking that also encompassed political, social and pan-cultural dimensions and aspired towards no less ambitious a goal than to create a new city and a new society. In the exhibition New Everything Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst presened a systematic survey of the typography and graphic design of that era for the first time.

The exhibition focused above all on the 1920s, while also extending the time span to the post-World War II era and into the 1980s, and was moreover enhanced by spotlights on the vibrant world of present-day design.

The 1920s: new typography in the Philipp Albinus Collection

The starting point for New Everything! was a collection of some 7,000 items of both business and private printed matter from the estate of the master printer and typesetter Philipp Albinus, an important Frankfurt exponent of the New Typography.

Until the 1920s printed matter used primarily Gothic type forms going back to the age of the invention of printing. With the advent of the New Typography modernist design took only a few years to gain ground in the world of printed texts.

Further major drivers of this process were the Frankfurt and Offenbach foundries that produced metal type, which from a practical point of view made the Rhine-Main region the most important location for typographic innovation.

The foundries marketed the new typefaces, thereby powerfully promoting acceptance of the New Typography. One such typeface was Futura, which came to be one of the twentieth century’s most successful typefaces.

The post-war period
After 1945, owing in great part to the presence of American advertising agencies and German publishing houses such as Suhrkamp and S. Fischer, but also to the influence of the Kassel “poster school”, Frankfurt was a hotspot of the typographic and advertising graphics activities of the time.

In the 1980s, along the Hanauer Landstrasse, a former industrial area, a kind of Creative Mile developed, with small agencies and artists’ studios. At the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach the visual communication department produced many young designers. The possibilities opened up by digital design and computer typography ushered in a new phase in the history of visual design in Frankfurt which gave less weight than before to simplicity, clarity and reduction and instead – albeit with a constructive purpose – let unsettling and confusing elements take centre stage.

The present
In the exhibition, the intensive exploration of evidence from the past was complemented by examples of contemporary design that, responding to the new urban worlds of experience that have come into being in the Rhine-Main area and Frankfurt since the 1990s, are developing new strategies and alternative approaches to typography and graphic art as design for communication. If this results in interfaces where conflicting concepts of design collide, where ‒figuratively speaking things crunch and crash, the effect was wholly intentional.

Curators: Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp and Prof. em. Friedrich Friedl, Peter Zizka and Matthias Wagner K (contemporary design)

The exhibition is being realized with generous support from