Wolfgang Weingart

Weingart leafing through K magazine, which was developed by students at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel in the 1960s, and commenting: “There was Ruder-type experimentation, which for me is wallpaper typography. Repetition typography, for me, is not typography. In the beginning maybe repetition typography looked new, looked strange, but if you see it too much, it is boring.”
The designer-typographer in his former studio in Basel, several weeks before his entire archive was given to the Museum für Gestaltung Zurich.
The designer-typographer explains his design experiments and accidents by showing examples from his book My Way to Typography.
In his work, Weingart has played with different typographic elements in order to revitalize certain basic relationships—spacing in particular. He stretched words to various lengths and obtained varied effects, sometimes even unreadability.
Weingart's favorite media are film material and lead-type components.


Typographer and graphic designer Wolfgang Weingart gained international recognition in the 1970s by developing a striking visual language that challenged conceptions of Swiss typography at the time. Owing to this, and to his great influence as a teacher at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel starting from 1968, he became known as the father of the New Wave style.

Following Weingart’s studies at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel, from 1964 to 66, influential teacher Armin Hofmann allowed him to remain at the school longer, and Emil Ruder allowed him extended access to its type shop. During this period he worked independently, and began to play with typographic concepts and components such as slant, weight, size, limits of readability, and the effects of letter spacing. These experiments, along with his use of filmsetting, led to staggering results, and caused a stir not only in Switzerland but also on the international typography and design scene. His most renowned work was a radical series of covers for Typografische Monatsblätter between 1972 and 73. The series created such momentum that Weingart soon set out on a US tour which propelled him to stardom and led to many years of tours to the US and worldwide.

When the new International Advanced Program for Graphic Design at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel was inaugurated in 1968, Weingart was appointed assistant to its director Emil Ruder, yet owing to the latter’s ailing health Weingart became a full-time teacher. Having encouraged his students to find their own voice, many of those who returned or emigrated in the US continued his legacy there and thus spread his name further.

Weingart’s work was published regularly in Typografische Monatsblätter starting in 1966. As his contributions became more prominent in the 1970s he achieved great visibility and renown internationally. His work left no one indifferent as he both challenged and roused the sedate design sphere of his time.


Louise Paradis   How would you describe the position of TM magazine in the world of graphic design and typography between 1965 and 85? Was the magazine important to you?

Wolfgang Weingart   Why 1965 to 85?

LP   Because I think it is an interesting in-between period. You still had very Swiss work, but something else was also happening.

WW   Before 1965, you had important people doing covers for TM, like Herbert Matter for example. Then came the time of Emil Ruder and Robert Büchler—all people from Basel. It was the 40s and 50s. Emil Ruder came with very elementary typographic problems, and some of his students, for example Yves Zimmermann, would work and create upon these. But what you can see is, every time, a formalist problem. Every time the letters T and M were played with, and so on. They played with those initials and capitals every time until the 60s. There was a kind of idea of education behind it. In the beginning of the 70s, I had the idea to make “learning covers.” What is typography? What is communication? What is text? There is no theoretical explanation for what is text … What is an alphabet? To bring up these questions was totally new.

LP   Yes, I think your TM cover series of 1972 to 73 was totally new; it completely stands out. You picked excerpts of texts by designers for that series. I saw that you picked one by a Canadian designer.

WW   Carl Dair. That cover is not in my book, because I don’t like it. It was all hand-composed. And then it continued with students of mine, kind of teaching collages.

LP   How did the series come about? Did Rudolf Hostettler contact you? Or did you propose to him to do a series?

WW   I was a member of the TM editorial commission, and every half a year we had a meeting. What’s happening next, and so on. I had the idea to make test prints in the type shop at my school, and I presented about 10 covers to this commission. There was only one person against it. And the other people said OK. At that time, we didn’t know what consequences it would have. They were all afraid, because it was so totally different. Anti-Swiss, anti-Swiss. They were a little bit cautious, but they said, “Yes, do it.”

LP   Who was the person who opposed your idea?

WW   You probably don’t know him. He is a German, Walter Zerbe. He is like a Jan Tschichold guy, very classical, a kind of a conservative typographer. He emigrated from Germany to Switzerland. Why? I don’t know, he wasn’t Jewish. He wrote a very good book about printing and composing, called Satztechnik und Gestaltung [Typesetting and Design], together with Leo Davidshofer. I have it in my library at home. He was also the main typography teacher at Bern. You never heard about typography from Bern. You heard only about Basel and Zurich, but Zurich didn’t have a lead teacher, like Ruder at Basel. They were more into graphic designers like Josef Müller-Brockmann and all those people. Important typography people didn’t exist in Zurich. There was Alfred Williman, but he was designing typefaces and doing calligraphy more. There was Ernst Keller as a graphic designer, but none were specialized in typography, like at Basel.

LP   What about Hans-Rudolf Lutz, wasn’t he in Zurich?

WW   Yes, he did an apprenticeship in Zurich, in a big printing house. He went to the Schule für Gestaltung Basel for one year, to take the special class Gestaltungsklasse für Typografie [class for typographic design] led by Ruder, between 1963 and 64.

LP   That was before the International Advanced Program for Graphic Design at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel was established, right? I had heard about this special class, Gestaltungsklasse für Typografie, and that they accepted very few people, maybe two or three per year.

WW   Yeah, that was from the beginning of the 50s. It was Ruder’s idea that hand-composers, lead-composers would have the chance to learn how to make typography visually. But he started with a class of not more than three people. Besides that, he taught apprentices, boys and girls, who studied in the city, and had to come to the school for one or two years. During the intervals, the breaks, he would give critiques to no more than three people, like Hans-Rudolf Lutz, or Fritz Gottschalk, and Yves Zimmermann. They came specifically for Emil Ruder, and there was a waiting list of 2 to 3 years, because he took only two to three students at a time. But this class had nothing—nothing—to do with the International Advanced Program for Graphic Design at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel, which started in 1968. I started teaching typography then.

LP   Was it your idea to start that class?

WW   No, it wasn’t my idea, because I wasn’t in Basel. The idea came up in the beginning of the 60s, because the school got more and more international recognition, and more and more students wanted to study in Basel. They had to bring students into other classes, which in general couldn’t take more than 16. Once, in the 60s, Ruder and more specifically Hofmann had the idea to establish a special class for these special needs— international needs. It started in April 68 with around 10 students, mostly from America. Some left because they had to go to the Vietnam War. Then there was concern that we might not have enough students. The beginning was not easy. But it was 90% American, and one Canadian, Claude Forgé.

LP   You also had students from other places, like India.

WW   Yeah, we had students from 35 nations: New Zealand, India, Africa, Brazil, all over Europe, the States, Mexico. In India, they opened a design school with the support of the Ford Foundation, because it was chaos there; still is. The Eameses made The India Report—very interesting. It is a little printed magazine where they present research done in India over many weeks, and they came to the conclusion of starting a design school in Ahmedabad, because there were a lot of fabric industries and rich people there. So the National Institute of Design (NID) was founded, and Hofmann was chosen, the Eameses too, Otl Aicher and Adrian Frutiger, and I think Buckminster Fuller too. All these people were teaching there to build a program. It was a great idea. That is why we had Indian students at Basel.

LP   Do you know if the school is still running?

WW   Yeah, yeah, I was there five years ago for an afternoon. It is still there. People don’t know who is Hofmann anymore, but I found a teacher who has been there for 40 years. Actually, 40 years ago I was at that school as a tourist and I saw Hofmann then, between 1964 and 65. My parents lived in Karachi, in Pakistan, so I traveled to India with my mother, and we visited Ahmedabad. He asked me to come with him to build the school in Ahmedabad, but I had only been teaching in Basel for a year, and I had no English. I said no. They took another typography student of Ruder’s. He built the type shop department in the same way as the Basel type shop, with Swiss type, Swiss furniture.

LP   It must have been pretty exciting to have people coming from everywhere. How long did the International Advanced Program for Graphic Design at Basel last?

WW   Until 2000. It is now at university level.

LP   There is apparently no archive of the students who attended Basel. Did you keep a record?

WW   The names? Women students, a lot of them changed their names after getting married. But I have a whole list. A student of mine started to trace them all. He sent me that list; I have to study it. I am sure there are a lot of mistakes.

LP   During that period, the professions of typographer and graphic designer were two separate entities. I mean, they were obviously linked, but still different jobs.

WW   A graphic designer is a graphic designer, and a typographer is a typographer.

LP   But at some point those disciplines started to merge, right?

WW   Hmm no. Ruder was a very strict typographer. He didn’t like that a typographer made graphic design. He was very stubborn. Hofmann didn’t care, but Ruder was not really happy with a typographer making graphic design. Ruder made pure typography and passed that on to his students. It had nothing to do with graphic design, that is clear. This was also the time when Univers came onto the market and opened a lot of possibilities. It was the big time of Ruder. There was Ruder-type experimentation, which for me is wallpaper typography. Repetition typography, for me, is not typography. In the beginning maybe repetition typography looked new, looked strange, but if you see it too much, it is boring.

LP   Do you define yourself as a typographer or a graphic designer?

WW   Oh nothing. I am kind of an artist. You probably know my book. I did woodcuts and linoleum cuts. They are very artistic.

LP   Do you think you contributed to the merging of the two professions?

WW   I don’t think about it. No typographer was doing the kind of work I was doing; it is closer to art. When I took the direction I did when I was 15 … I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was inspired by artists like Kirchner and the Die Brücke … I always had an internal fight about what to do in the future. Then I became very enthusiastic about Swiss typography, as you can read in my book. I did a piece for my examination in Germany in 1963. I almost didn’t pass it.

LP   How come?

WW   I grew up with a very classical kind of typography. The examiners lived in this kind of world.

LP   So Swiss typography at that time was not very well known?

WW   Only to insiders. In Germany in general it wasn’t. In the beginning of the 60s, it was almost unknown. The Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm existed; it started in 1953 but its work was unknown and strange for Germany. Germany had had the Second World War, it got bombed, it lived in this old world.

LP   I heard that when the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm closed a couple of students went to Basel.

WW   Only two. Dan Friedman and Ken Komai. Ken Komai, an American who now lives here in Basel, and Dan Friedman, who died around 20 years ago. Friedman had a scholarship from an American foundation to go to Ulm. He could have this money only if  he applied to Ulm, because it was a university-level school. He couldn’t apply to Basel, because we were a trade school. Ken Komai, transferred a year later, because he heard from Friedman that the school was interesting. Friedman was in the first year of the new International Program at Basel. Students often came from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, because Kenneth Hiebert was teaching there. He was an old student of Hofmann’s. Hiebert went to Carnegie Mellon to teach graphic design, in the middle of the 60s. In 1968 he made propaganda for this totally new program at Basel. That is why we had about five students from there including Dan Friedman and others. So it was a good thing that we had those students.

LP   The system at the Schule für Gestaltung Basel was very different. You had apprenticeships. It was more of a trade school. You said earlier that it was not considered to be at university level?

WW   That is true of all the schools in Switzerland until 1999.

LP   What do you think about that school system? Do you think the apprenticeship was a good system? What was its value?

WW   I would say that for handcraft it was great. Not every school in Switzerland was as good as Basel. Zurich perhaps, but nobody spoke about Bern and Lucerne, they were totally unknown. But all that university level is nonsense, it is only talking, speaking, and problems. It does nothing. I think it is a bad idea. But it is the primary way for having an academic result in your education.

LP   That is interesting. Graphic design and type design are applied arts. I wonder about the university level question sometimes … I am doing a master class in Lausanne at the moment.

WW   Lausanne was a totally unknown school, everybody laughed about this school. And what Lausanne is today I don’t know exactly. There is no philosophy behind it, like most schools today, not only in Switzerland. There is no great philosophy anymore, like the Bauhaus or Basel. For me, the results now are not at an academic university level. They are very low level. The results in Hofmann’s time, in the 60s and 70s in the advanced class, were high level, academic level. But the stupid government here in Switzerland, they don’t see this kind of thing, they see only paperwork. That is not only here, it is everywhere. I don’t see one school in the world that is interesting.

LP   I believe that there are a couple of schools that stand out, for sure.

WW   So, if I go back to my question. TM was mainly for typographers. If you look at old issues from the 60s and 70s, you can see a lot of technical articles about new composing systems, offset printing. TM featured a certain percentage of typography, then such a percentage for printing, and it became more and more of a design magazine. Especially because of my contribution and my students’ work.

LP   I heard that Basel didn’t have that much money for advertising, and they kind of used TM for that purpose, to promote the school. Do you agree with that?

WW   Yeah yeah, in a way yes. More for typography, not graphic design. Armin Hofmann didn’t publish so much in TM.

LP   Yes, he actually told me that it wasn’t that important for him, because he was a graphic designer, not a typographer.

WW   Publishing wasn’t important to him. Teaching was important. He hated to publish. That is one reason why the Basel School is such a confusing institution. There are so many people; there is Ruder, Hofmann, me. There are different opinions, nothing is written down. Bauhaus and Ulm published their new results all the time. I tried to do it in TM, with my class.

LP   Yes, I saw so many articles by your students: Gregory Vines, Jim Faris, and Lauralee Alben … And for them it was also a very good opportunity to show their work and become a little known.

WW   I created the supplements “TM Communication” and “Typographic Process.” You can see them from 1972 onward, I published student work but also work by other people; studios, typographers, photographers.

LP   What was the goal of those supplements?

WW   To show good arrangement of pages. Most of the time I made the pages as an educational example. That was the idea behind it. To publish different people, artists—and we were totally free to do what we wanted.

LP   When I first encountered “TM communication” and “Typographic Process” I thought they were very refreshing.

WW   It was a whole movement at the time. My idea was to change graphic design, Swiss graphic design, from this very strict way of making typography to a more lively way. And it had some effect, internationally too.

LP   Yes. You made a huge contribution to typography and graphic design. I think your work made every designer look at typography differently; even people who didn’t appreciate it.

WW   There were a lot of people against it at the beginning. But slowly they saw the value. Gottschalk and all those people were against it. But in the end they hired some people from Basel. Because they saw they had no other choice—they had to change something. How much? That’s another question. But they had to change something.

LP   There was a lot of change in technology. You started with lead type and then you saw the computer invasion. Did those changes affect your design?

WW   No. Some teacher in Düsseldorf said that I was the first Photoshop pioneer, and he was not wrong. What you can do now with Photoshop very easily, I did it with film. So the computer brought nothing new for me. I thought I could make different things with the computer, but it was only wishful thinking. For me, manual use, manual results matter much more than pushing buttons. But you cannot be against computers, because they are as necessary as food today.

LP   But the change from lead type to phototypesetting seems to have affected you, right?

WW   That is another thing. Photocomposing and computer composing are a totally different thing. Photocomposing was over film. There were the negative plates of the alphabet, then you made the text step by step, and if you made a mistake you had to start another film. I never worked with photocomposing machines, but I worked with lithography film materials. I used the stet camera, repro camera. I have some examples here. I got new results through transparency. Transparency was my great chance. It is the same principle with the computer: you have the layers.

LP   Other than technical changes, I think there were changes in the way of thinking, in the ideas that were developed, during the period we’re discussing, in graphic design and typography.

WW   You mean the visual changes?

LP   The visual changed but also the ideas presented. For example, there is a series made by Hans-Rudolf Lutz during that time—the series of pastiche covers he made for TM. They brought the idea of contextuality, which was totally new for Switzerland.

WW   Lutz was the opposite of me. Very conceptual ideas. TM readers got confused. But this is a typical conceptual idea.

LP   Lutz and you are cited, in the book Swiss Graphic Design by Richard Hollis, for example, as the two main people to have broken the rules of Swiss graphic design.

WW   Lutz did it in a softer way, he was more diplomatic than me. He was also a fighter, but a very charming, handsome, kind, friendly, tolerant teacher, which I wasn’t.

LP   What kind of teacher were you?

WW   I was also friendly, but not tolerant. Maybe if the work had quality then yes, I was very tolerant. You can see it in the students’ work in TM. We made huge contributions. If you look at the work of Vines, he created a huge variety of visual vocabularies in his project. He was impressed by a door of a castle, and he made an interpretation of it. This was his concept, but it was very different from the kind of concepts Lutz would develop. For his TM cover series of 1977, Lutz only took the text out and put TM instead. The idea was always to do something against Swiss typography, because Swiss typography had no chance to develop. If you did something different, then it was not Swiss typography anymore, and people were against you. If you took a step further, you were an outsider. Ruder did something different, but it was still pure typography, lead typography.

LP   Did you know Rudolf Hostettler?

WW   No, I met him because he had three or four adopted children from Tibet, and they made drawings. Hostettler was interested in children’s drawings. I made a book about children’s drawings, and when I showed him my book he became interested in me. He saw that I was making outstanding typography that he liked and accepted. And that he supported. He actually supported a lot of young people. He saw that I could give new input to TM readers. So I was always very free with what I could do for TM. No limitation—I could make what I liked.

LP   Hostettler was very open. He liked to have a great variety of work. That made the magazine have such great quality.

WW   He was a very educated, interesting, international-thinking person who was fully identified with the magazine. He was open to every good new idea. Without him, I wouldn’t be who I am, because he was the person who published my crazy ideas without question, because he trusted me.

LP   Basically, through TM you were able to show your work and to acquire international recognition. TM was the vehicle for your message.

WW   TM had not a lot of international subscription, perhaps no more than 700 people. But the subscribers were often outstanding designers with an interest in typography, and also libraries. TM became available to students through their library’s subscription, which was a great chance for them since they had no money to subscribe themselves.

LP   That is interesting because there is no record of TM subscribers. One thing that I’ve been really interested to discover is how international the magazine was. I know, for example, that Jack Stauffacher, in California, was an early subscriber. April Greiman mentioned that it was available at her school, the Kansas City Art Institute, in Missouri, when she was a student. So I know that TM had presence here and there in the US and also a bit in Canada. But do you know other places where it could have been seen?

WW   Japan probably, but not too much, because at that time most Japanese didn’t speak English that much, and even less German. But my idea was to make my contribution in three languages. I wanted to make the magazine international. That was one of the reasons TM got more international recognition, because the articles were also in English.

LP   What about Graphis, did you like that magazine?

WW   No, it had nothing to do with us. It was a magazine that showed everything. The publisher, Walter Herdeg, who died many years ago, was looking for quality, but he had another standard of quality than we had. Graphis was not a representative magazine of Swiss typography. Another magazine was Neue Grafik, which featured strictly Swiss typography.

LP   The Schule für Gestaltung Basel and Yale University had a special link. I think you taught there at some point.

WW   Yeah, a few days. Not like Hofmann. He taught there regularly for over 20 years, four weeks a year.

LP   In the 90s Yale had a new director, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. After that, the connection between the two schools stopped.

WW   Yale was very influenced by Basel. Some Basel students and teachers became teachers there. When Sheila Levrant de Bretteville became the new director, she wanted to start a new thing, which made Paul Rand and Armin Hofmann very angry, and they resigned from one day to the next. She thought because she was new, she had to bring new ideas to the program, which is OK, no problem with that, but she was not the right person to continue the connection and friendship between Yale and Basel.

LP   I read somewhere that you are credited as the father of New Wave, what do you think about that?

WW   [Laughs] That’s their problem, not mine.

LP   But do you agree, or simply don’t care?

WW   You can say that without my experimentation at the school in Basel, without my teaching and my work, David Carson or Neville Brody would not be where they are today. I broke the ice. Same goes for the Cranbrook Academy of Art. The McCoys saw TM and my work, and they changed their work from one day to the next and started to imitate me, and it became their own style, that chaos or whatever it is. But they are 100 per cent influenced by my work, and Katherine McCoy said it in an official lecture; she doesn’t hide it.

LP   Yes, some works produced by students at the Cranbrook Academy of Art became icons of postmodernism. What about Émigré magazine? It was not connected to Basel.

WW   Issue 14, of 1990, of Émigré magazine, which was entitled “Heritage,” was about Swiss design. Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, the editors and designers of Émigré, were very early users of the computer. They knew my work probably. But the Macintosh brought a new visual language.

LP   TM made a special issue about your work in 1976. I had seen the same work in your book previously, but I was impressed by additional features presented in that TM issue, for example, the choice of paper and ink added a lot to your work. Was it your decision?

WW   Yes, I made all the decisions. I picked the paper and the ink, and I did the layout and the plates. I did everything.

LP   Which of your students do you think have achieved the most, career-wise? Do you think April Greiman is one of them?

WW   She is one of the few students who found her own way. Many students copied what they learned, not only from me, but from Armin Hofmann and Kurt Hauert too. A few students tried to find their own way, and she is one of them. Dan Friedman also found his own way. But many of the students just do what they learn.

LP   I read in Design Quarterly that the goal of the Basel School was to stimulate students their growth and also to encourage personal expression. So, you were pushing students to experiment, but only a few did it?

WW   Many did it. In the first year and a half, they had to do very basic work. Learn the basics. Then I asked them, “What interests you?” If they had ideas for their own personal project, like a diploma work. Lauralee Alben, for example, found her subject in Superman, Faris found something else, and then Vines found that door. So these were kind of research. I was not interested in a single result, but in the research. I was interested in process-oriented teaching, which Hofmann and other teachers shared too.

LP   It is an interesting approach. Do you still believe in it?

WW   I am not young anymore, and I am not that enthusiastic anymore. In a way, I don’t care that much anymore. I care, but not like before. In the 90s, I used to work seven days a week. Now I do almost nothing.

LP   Is there a reason for that?

WW   Yeah, I have different problems, with my legs, I have difficulty walking. I have health problems. I am very tired: I have to take medicine every day, and it makes me very tired, without enthusiasm. That is horrible, because I was a very enthusiastic workaholic.

LP   The students I met told me that it was very interesting to have you as a teacher, because you were not only the teacher but they also saw you working on your personal projects. I also heard you were very friendly, inviting people over for meals or for drinks.

WW   Yeah, yeah, we had a very healthy social life. Beside hard work, we had a lot of fun. Bicycling to Germany, drinking, eating, and then the next day we were working hard. But work was work and pleasure was pleasure, I made that very clear. School for me is a serious place where you undertake research. Very interesting research. It is not only a room to have fun in. I think the school today is not interesting academically. We have 26 letters in the alphabet, how can we reduce them to 12, or how can you read this text faster, those are interesting research questions. Not to make nice funny work. It is not enough for me. Ulm was doing something interesting, but not in a visual way. The visual question was not that important at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. If you see the work of Otl Aicher, it is not particularly interesting. It is good, clean, but any individuality was forbidden. If you had a little painting from your grandmother in your room, they hated it. You had to have the same pen and same tie as your professor.

LP   So do you think you brought the aspect of individuality to the forefront?

WW   No, Basel was a very individual place. You could say I was one of the most tolerant teachers in Basel. Hofmann was also very open, but he had a kind of specific system in his type-design classes, very Adrian Frutiger-oriented. Most of the things you can see today in different alphabets were forbidden in Basel. A lot of teachers were very stubborn.

LP   I would like to ask you more about your education. Before you started to teach at Basel in 1968, you previously studied at the school. Did you have Ruder as a teacher?

WW   I arrived in 1964. In a way, I had Ruder, but I didn’t go too much to his classes. I don’t know why he accepted me. When you see people like Helmut Schmid, he is probably the best example, also Hans-Rudolf Lutz in a way, Fritz Gottschalk very much, Harry Boller, they were all Ruder’s fans. They admired Ruder. Ruder was a great educator, good personality, intelligent person but for me not crazy enough, too stubborn. He liked my work though. The reason they hired me is a phenomenon, because I fought against the school. The idea when they opened the new program in 1968 was that I would be the assistant to Ruder.

LP   As Ruder became pretty ill and couldn’t really teach in the new program, I think a lot of students were surprised to see you instead of Ruder.

WW   They were sad and mad. They came for Ruder, and they got a guy who they didn’t know. At the time, I made a couple of publications, but only small things, nothing specific. And I had no teaching experience. I was 27. Very quickly I developed a good relationship with the students, and it was not a question anymore, because they saw I had different ideas, and they were hungry for it.

LP   What about Hofmann, did you feel closer to the way he taught than to Ruder?

WW   I didn’t feel close to anyone. They taught in their way. I had nothing to do with Ruder’s teaching method, only the discipline. We love to teach and be with students, that was a common point.

LP   Were you close to Helmut Schmid? Were you at the school at the same time?

WW   Yeah, yeah. Schmid is a difficult person.

LP   How come?

WW   His personality is not easy. I was probably not easy, because I had different ideas to him. He is a Ruder fan. You can’t say anything against Ruder, he gets really mad. You know his books; he is still a very active person in the field. He lives in Osaka.

LP   I saw Jean-Pierre Graber recently. He showed me a note from Jan Tschichold. He told me he will send it to you soon.

WW   You saw Jean-Pierre Graber? He disappeared about 10 years ago and nobody knew where he was. I worked with him a lot. He was very easy to work with, but he was not the same as Hostettler. No personality is replaceable. I didn’t take him as seriously as I did Hostettler.

LP   What was the reason that people contributed to TM?

WW   For God! We didn’t get a lot of money. It was also a good opportunity. You couldn’t find a lot of publications where you could make a page the way you wanted. Publishers of other magazines would have say, “This is empty space, it costs me money.” They didn’t think this empty space is not empty, it is necessary. Or they would say, “I don’t like this, and that is too small.” I didn’t have these problems with TM. I could do anything I wanted, anything. They saw that they could get unique work from me, and they said, “OK, we will do it, no problem.” Jean-Pierre Graber was also totally tolerant.

LP   Who is your biggest inspiration?

WW   It is difficult to answer. Hofmann inspired me more in terms of teaching in a systematic way, and the discipline. And how to communicate with students didactically. So Hofmann is a very important person to me. El Lissitzky, Piet Zwart.

LP   What about the new generation? Is there anyone?

WW   Martin Woodtli, I didn’t like his last work so much, but in general I like it. But the new generation is not mine. My idea was to teach more than only typography. Everybody thought typography was boring, stubborn, made your hands dirty. I had to change all these kind of negative feelings in many students. I had to bring graphic design. So I created a bridge between typography and graphic design. That was one of my so-called tricks.


The above conversation took place in Basel in January 2011. It was copy-edited by Ariella Yedgar.