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Asymmetry is the oppo-
site of symmetry. Asym-
metrical balance, also
called informal balance,
means without symmetry. This definition by itself has nothing to
do with balance. It means only that images within a composition
do not mirror one another. The term, however, is usually used to
Asymmetry is the rhythmic expression of functional design.
Jan Tschichold (1902–1974), German–Swiss, Author, Book Designer, Educator, Typographer
asym·me·try \( )a
-'si-m -tre
\ n
1: lack of balance or symmetry
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Job No:11-22360 Title:RP-Language of Graphic Design
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th e la n guag e of gr ap hic d es i gn
Basel, Switzerland
Jan Tschichold (1902–1974) was born
in Leipzig, Germany, the eldest son of a sign
painter and calligrapher. He studied cal-
ligraphy, engraving, typography, and book
arts at Leipzig’s Academy for Graphic Arts
and Book Production. Soon after establish-
ing himself as a graphic designer, he be-
came aware of the need for a new approach
to typography.
At the time, typography was based on
the principle of centered type or symmetry,
using frame, border, and ornament to pro-
vide further texture, distinction, and indi-
viduality to each composition. Tschichold
identified this approach as the “box block
style” of typography, an approach that was
predictable, uninteresting, and outdated.
In August 1923, he attended the first
Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar and quickly
started to assimilate this new design phi-
losophy. Influenced and informed by the
work of modern avant-garde artists and
designers such as Herbert Bayer, Paul Klee,
El Lissitzky, and Piet Zwart, Tschichold
wanted to liberate visual form from its re-
strictive rules and provide designers with
greater freedom and flexibility.
He believed that typographic infor-
mation had to be purely functional and
composed in a clear and precise manner,
or else it would be ignored. Starting in
1925, he began writing a series of articles
and publications proposing a revolution-
ary approach to a “newtypographyan
approach strongly influenced by both the
Bauhaus and the Russian Constructivists.
The major tenets of the New
Typography were asymmetric composi-
tions of elements based on their relative
importance, the preference for sans serif
type, and the creative use of white space.
These tenets were ultimately summarized
describe a kind of balance that does not rely
upon the principle of symmetry. With asym-
metry, one dominant form or compositional
element is often offset by smaller forms or
compositional elements. In general, asym-
metrical compositions tend to have a greater
sense of visual tension than symmetrically
balanced compositions.
References in Nature
Asymmetry in nature is uncommon and is
a skill development trait identified as
“handedness,” a property of an object (such
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