Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
#175 Dtp:204 Page:123
122-129_22360.indd 123 11/16/10 5:18:53 PM
Symmetry is a fundamen-
tal and timeless principle
of visual perception. In
visual communications,
symmetry conveys balance, stability, and harmony. When visual
elements are completely balanced or centered, they are in a state
of equilibrium where all elements have equal weight. The result
“Symmetry is static—that is to say quiet; that is to say
William addison dWiggins (1880–1956), American, Book Designer, Calligrapher, Typographer
sym·me·try \'si-m -tre
\ n
1: balanced proportions;
also: beauty of form arising from
balanced proportions
Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
12-C59773 #175 Dtp:204 Page:123
Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
12-C59773 #175 Dtp:204 Page:122
122-129_22360.indd 123 12/12/10 8:37 AM
Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
12-C59773 #175 Dtp:204 Page:124
122-129_22360.indd 124 12/12/10 8:38 AM
th e la n guag e of gr ap hic d es i gn
19 49
William Shakespeare: The Tragedy of King Lear
London, United Kingdom
In 1947, Jan Tschichold (1902–1974)
emigrated from Switzerland to Great
Britain to accept a position at Penguin
Books as its new design director. Founded
in 1935, Penguin Books was one of the most
commercially successful book publishers
in Great Britain.
Prior to Tschicholds arrival in London,
Penguin paperbacks were not produced
with any specific design standards or pro-
duction criteria. Their existing standards,
dated and limited, were generic and inap-
propriate in comparison with the publish-
er’s reputation and offerings. Tschichold
quickly realized that a new and unique set
of compositional rules and standards were
needed at the publishing house.
Tschichold’s redesign of Penguin
books in the late 1940s not only revolu-
tionized typographic conventions but also
reintroduced compositional standards that
had long been labeled out-of-date.
Tschichold developed a pragmatic look
for Penguin Books that was extremely ap-
propriate for a large number of book titles,
while increasing a level of balance, consis-
tency, and readability throughout their cat-
alog. In his view, adherence to the tenets of
classical typography—symmetry, legibility,
a balance of type styles, wide margins, con-
trast, simplicity, and integrated rules and
ornaments—were all integral to a book’s
timeless function.
Tschichold had begun to reject the
rules of Die Neue Typographie (The New
Typography) and functional Bauhaus prin-
ciples while designing books in Switzer-
land between 1933 and 1946. He realized
then that symmetrical and asymmetrical
typographic treatments could equally ac-
complish the requirements and goals of
successful book design.
is a state of visual balance and is identified
as symmetry. It is a compositional state
where design elements are organized on the
central axis of a composition (either its
horizontal or vertical axis). A similar compo-
sitional state can be achieved when design
elements are organized in relation to each
other’s central axes. A symmetrical composi-
tion is static, stationary, and balanced, with
the negative spaces around its elements or
the contours of its elements located around
its central axis all appearing the same or of
equal weight.
(continued on page 126)
And PArtners
New York, New York, USA
Miriello GrAfico
San Diego, California, USA
Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
#175 Dtp:204 Page:124
122-129_22360.indd 124 11/16/10 5:05:40 PM

Get The Language of Graphic Design now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.