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Läsmaskinen. Aspekter på bild och bok med utgångspunkt i Anders Billows verksamhet 1923–1953

By Jan Jönsson


The title of this thesis is The Reading Machine. Aspects of Image and Book in the Works of Anders Billow 1923 – 1953. My aim is to revise and complement the historical understanding of the establishing of the modernistic “new typography” within the theory and practice of graphic design. A wider ambition is to, through example, better clarify the surrounding society’s influence on design and how new design is established. The analysis is based on Swedish circumstances in general, and the graphic designer Anders Billow (1890-1964) in particular. Billow established himself as the leading interpreter of the modernist movement in Sweden. However, his work show many different sides which broaden and question the watchwords presented as ”the new typography”. Above all, his work problematize a stereotypical polarity between tradition and renewal. When it comes to tradition and renewal, I have chosen the opposite view, in a theoretical and methodical sense. By mapping out the susceptibility for change, rather than deriving the origins of new ideas, this analysis shows how the articulations of questions raised by ”the new typography” related to discussions which were already present within the graphic trade press in several ways. The real objects are presented in a similar complexity. Some elements of design are new with a traditional expression, and there is also tradition present in elements previously described as modern. One crucial aspect of the theory and practice of “the new typography” is the use of photographic images. Within Anders Billow’s new work there was a strong connection between the use of photographic images and the development of his own graphic design. The dissertation also analyses why Billow believed that the authority of documentary photographic images was undermined by different expressions of popular culture. The method of this thesis is discourse analytical, where the dedicated matter that is being analysed mainly consists of critique in the trade press. Added to this are two different chapters with object related studies of printed books and images, as well as sketches and working materials

Topics: Art History, Anders Billow, Grapic design, Swedish modernism, Documentary photography, The New Typography, Arts & Craft, Illustrated books
Year: 2007
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