Spring 1998

The endless library at the end of print

Does the current avalanche of glossy books constitute a genuine design history – or mere graphic ephemera? By Teal Triggs

Only a few years ago we were told of the move away from the vestigial order of the printed word towards a ‘new world distinguished by its reliance on electronic communications.’ Yet despite the gibbering enthusiasm of techno evangelists, indications are that this shift may not be as dramatic as once thought. The book – often hard-backed, large-format and beautifully printed – is alive and well and lining the shelves of designers’ libraries. So what should we expect, as a glossy avalanche of such books spills out into the design community? Do these thick volumes constitute a genuine history of contemporary graphic design or are they merely repositories of graphic ephemera.

Unpacking my library
My first introduction to the world of graphic design was though the books and magazines overflowing the bookshelves of my parents’ home in Texas. For a kid interested in the visual arts it was paradise to be allowed to rummages through the pages of beautifully printed copies of Graphis, Print and Communication Arts magazines, books written by the Swiss Modernists Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hofmann and Karl Gerstner, as well as classics by Eric Gill, Beatrice Warde and Jan Tschichold. At one point I remember my father coming home from a bookshop trip with the then newly published American edition of Hans Wingler’s The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago.

Teal Triggs, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Research, School of Graphic Design, LCP, London

Read the full version in Eye no. 27 vol. 7, 1998


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.