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can use a knife. Again emphasizing the importance of context, Kraus’ magazine Die Fackel presented how slang and colloquial expressions seen in action expose hidden truths. Kraus, Loos and Wittgenstein each revealed how the term “use” was divided from “form”, and how, when reunited, use occupied the privileged position through its close connection with context - since it was use-in-context that was key to (ultimately important) social significance.

Fackel Dictionary: Idioms

In Die Fackel, Kraus presented his ideas about colloquial speech-in-context by giving it typographic form. Anne Burdick’s book design for Fackel Dictionary: Idioms takes as its starting point the typography of Die Fackel and moves outwards from letterform to the operational and diagrammatic structure of page-layout.3 The language of typographic associations puts the design process into play. Interestingly, Burdick doesn’t speak German, the language of the book. Although she had help from translators to understand Kraus’ text, this fact suggests a privileging of letterform and typography over other kinds of meaning.

Fackel Dictionary: Idioms functions as a dictionary of interpretations: Kraus presents early 20th century colloquial expressions, puts them in context and they in turn are explained in a late 20th century light. In other words, as Burdick puts it, the project is about “late twentieth century commentary on early twentieth century texts.”4. The complexity of the book is mitigated by the clear formal expression of its operational structure. Three columns reproduce, contextualize and interpret phrases from Die Fackel. The center column contains quotations in the form of actual images of the pages of Kraus’ magazine along with quotations that appear in the typographic system of the dictionary in a simple, everyday roman font referencing the typography of Die Fackel. On the left-hand side, a “documentation” column in Akzidenz Grotesk - a sans serif typeface published around the turn of the century with an objective, scientific look, places the quotations in context of Die Fackel or other reference texts. The right-hand column of editorial commentary explains how and why the excerpts were chosen and is set in a postmodern interpretation of late nineteenth century slab serif typefaces – a close relative of the roman faces used in Die Fackel. The resulting pages are light, airy, converting complexity into an appealing texture suggestive of a game. Burdick’s project addresses the issue of how designers make something new from a starting point of historical research and interpretation.

3 Anne Burdick “Graphic Design: Constructing Identities and Mapping Interactions” in The Fackel Dictionary: Idioms, by Karl Krauss. (Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2000), 1029


Ibid., 1034

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