Visual Design. The Periodical Page as a Designed Surface / Visuelles Design. Die Journalseite als gestaltete Fläche

DFG Forschergruppe „Journalliteratur“
23.11.2017 - 25.11.2017
Anja Burghardt, Institut für Slavische Philologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

The international conference „Visual Design. The Periodical Page as a Designed Surface“ showed how fruitful and important it is to bring together research from the different angles and methods of various disciplines in order to come to terms with the Journal (understood as the entire spectrum of periodical print publication) with its manifold mutually interdependent aspects. Scholars from Germanic, English and comparative literature, book as well as media studies and art history showed fascinating material from (mostly 19th century) German, French, British, and Arabic journals. The conference brought together the technological, economic and organizational preconditions with issues of aesthetics and designs and the cultures of reception of the Journal.

NIKOLAUS WEICHSELBAUMER (Mainz) showed how the growing number of Linotype setting machines, which accelerate immensely the speed of printing and by which in the 1910s/1920s almost all newspaper printing was done, influenced the layout: Apart from changes of scripts, e.g. the breadth of columns was standardized, pictures were separated from the text, or variations in font sizes were reduced. Equally the invention and spread of the Teletype setting system, introduced in the 1930s, which allowed for electronic submission over long distances, brought with it standardizations. The remaining freedom in layout was due mostly to the common combination of Linotype and hand setting.

Different half tone printing techniques for photographs were the main focus THIERRY GERVAIS’ (Toronto) paper. While photographs published in illustrated magazines had long been regarded as reliable sources in that they are direct reproductions of photographs, a closer look at printed photographs points to how often and to what degrees they are retouched. Good contrasts and a “good picture” (e.g. in terms of composition) are the primary concern in the use for magazines.

In many papers, technical issues of printing were brought together with the page layout and the semantics of the articles. By drawing on examples from the “Illustrated London News” (1860-1900), TOM GRETTON (London) addressed the magazine designers’ status. They chose the pictures, sketches and photographs; in many cases editorial artists combined different pictures into a collage or a montage to accompany the text, before they commissioned the wood engravers to create the printing template. Since the journalistic message is created by the whole (double-)page with its arrangement of the pictures, their interplay with the text, their size and format, the magazine designers are to be regarded not merely as assemblers, but as authors. As they remained unnamed, the artistic authorship was ascribed to the magazine.

Referring to Georg Simmel’s notions of order and connecting it to Rudoph Arnheim’s definition of disorder as a collision of different order systems, VINCENT FRÖHLICH (Marburg) analysed spreads. With symmetry and direction of glances he argued – mostly drawing on the “Berliner Ilustrirte Zeitung”, but also on the more distinguished “Leipziger Illustrierte” – that passages and entire pages in their sequences offer a “flow”, which is marked by rhythmic alterations of symmetry and their disruptions.

Drawing attention to the usages of blank spaces and typographical markers of sections, MARIA DAMKJÆR (Copenhagen) showed a variety of page fillers, an amorphous changeable category, which comprised clippings and jokes as much as extremely reduced stories. Clearly shown as separate from the main article, they point to the relation between glancing and reading in that they are highlighted as ephemeral.

Readers’ gazes had a role also in HALA AUJI’S (Beirut) paper, which focussed on two Arabic scientific journals from the second half of the 19th century, “al Tabib” (The physician) and “al-Muqataf” (Selections). These magazines presented a new kind of media in the late Ottoman Empire at a time of major social and political changes. Pictures were used to popularize and negotiate modern enquiry. By deviating from Arabic traditions of illustration and by searching for new modes of writing, by presenting technical developments or astronomic discoveries and combining them with arts and literature such magazines tried to establish the journal as a modern medium for the modern public intellectual.

The image of the modern person was central also in ZSOLT MÉSZÁROS’ (Budapest) contribution. He compared the first years of “Monsieur”, the first French fashion magazine for men, and “Vogue française” (1920), the first European women fashion magazine. Covering a broad spectre of themes, both magazines modify the images before the First World War: “Monsieur” finally offers the image of the dandy as the modern man of the French civil society, whereas the fragmentary character and lofty layout of “Vogue” displays a re-feminization of the elegant woman despite the various references to women’s liberation.

The paper by KIT BELGUM (Austin, Texas) explored German 19th-century family magazines such as “Vom Fels zum Meer”, “Über Land und Meer”, and the “Illustrirte Welt”. As conservative as these journals otherwise are, in their travel sections they use a broad variety of layout experiments, arranging pictures in such a way that in the interplay with the text they enable an impression of three-dimensionality, and accordingly vivid images. The foreign – so Belgum argued – apparently allows for more freedom in pictorial depiction and page layout.

ANDREAS BECK (Bochum) presented examples mainly from the “Musée des familles” (1830s), in which the journal page as a three-dimensional object with its both-side printed, often semi-opaque paper became formative for the content. For example, in an illustrated article a window on the front page, around which a group of people is located, corresponds with a text passage on the back, which is a lament about the lack of a window. Via a number of cross-references to the image it turns into a self-reflexive comment about society and fashion. Such a use of the materiality of the paper, which took up the (unwanted) effects of print processes in texts and images, had their high time from the 1830s till 1840s.

A number of papers addressed different aspects of the relation between literature and journals: STEPHEN DONOVAN (Uppsala) presented the crosshead as one feature, which influenced the chapter headings in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1885): in layout and wording they echo the newspaper crossheads. Seeing that the crosshead among others creates a second voice that is different from the voice of the main text, he suggested that keeping in mind this influence might help to understand the role and meaning of Stevenson’s headings with their varying and at times unclear relations to the body of the text.

MADLEEN PODEWSKI (Berlin) concentrated on the publication context of Mörike’s poem “An eine Lampe”, first published in the daily newspaper “Morgenblatt”. Here, the poem does not stand out visually from other texts in the journal, in contrast to the first book publication and the complete edition of Mörike’s works. The respective material realisations at the historical points of time of their publication differ significantly and as such indicate historical changes in reading conventions.

BERNHARD METZ (Berlin) raised the question of how the technical development of the (much accelerated print techniques) influenced the serial or feuilleton novel, focussing on Balzac’s “Comédie humaine”. New topics and themes came up with the new printing industry and the immense number of magazines and newspapers brought forth phenomena such as collective authorship and ghost writing.

Also, NICOLA KAMINSKI (Bochum) addressed critical implications of typography. The “Phöbus”, which was edited from 1808 on as a monthly journal by Heinrich von Kleist and Adam Heinrich Müller, was marked off by a number of violations against typographic rules of the time. As she showed with examples of Kleist’s “Penthesilea” and “Der zerbrochene Krug” the disparate typographical appearance of the pages became the spatial mise en scène of the printed fragments of the plays. The editors used them for polemical arguments with classicistic criticism and approaches to theatre.

Straightforward social issues came up with two papers: CAROLE O’REILLY (Manchester) showed examples of visual city representations in 19th century British satirical periodicals. With “The Arrow”, “The Free Lance” and, “The City Lantern” she pointed to exemplary histories of satirical journals, which had to find a middle course between on the one hand critical reports, and financial dependencies on the other, which limited their freedom in reporting about administrative irregularities or social evils. Towards the end of the 19th century the shrinking critical stance and the growth of drama, art, and in general the entertainment content was mirrored in the changes of the mastheads designs.

Also, CHRISTINE WOODY (Philadelphia) emphasized the socio-political side of the press. By contrasting small, radical, so-called unstamped newspapers for the working class with their middle-class counterparts she showed how deviations in layout made visible the political orientation: The speed of the newspaper production was stressed, and thus the urgency of local political activities.

Further sides of the journals’ performativity came out in different contexts: CHRISTIAN BACHMANN (Bochum) presented illustrated journals from the second half of the 19th century, when – with impulses from Paris and London – Vienna in particular became a place of vivid satirical journals. Using a multi-model approach (with modification) he showed for a variety of articles from “Kikeriki” ways of inviting readers to certain activities, like turning around the issue, or cutting out a picture resulting in satirical effects.

VANCE BYRD (Grinnell, Iowa) presented ways in which fashion magazines such as the “Illustrierte Frauenzeitung” (1874-1911) processed the making of clothes, and thus implicitly created ideals also about personhood and normative conceptions of what a woman should be like. By a complex net of cross references, the readers were invited to buy as many supplements as possible, to sew the dresses shown in the magazine for themselves, and to buy the required material. In thus urging the readers to become actors and engaging them into guided creative processes, the magazines can be regarded as part of a broader praxis made popular by Museums of applied arts, which were designed to raise the creativity of a larger public.

Though for an earlier time, KATHARINA ECK’S (Bremen) talk on fashion and housewives’ magazines also brought out ways of shaping not only designs but also persons. The high-grade design of the “Journal des Luxus und der Moden” (1786-1827) made not only suggestions for gifts or how to choose a suitable table, but also transmitted moral values and notions of good taste.

In JENNIFER A. GREENHILL’S (Los Angeles) paper the normative sides of typography came to the fore in their stimulating aim. On account of advertising handbooks of the 1920s and Will Bradley’s work in particular, she highlighted that the page layout of the journal adopted many of the commercial layout strategies. By the example of the “Ladies Home Journal”, she argued that the advertising industry and illustrated journalism formulated economics of the readers’ gaze and an aesthetics of attention. The printed page was regarded as one means of advertising, which should “touch the beholders upon the arm” so that they buy e.g. certain furniture.

The close connection between advertising and layout – in this case of the double page of the jacket – was also the point of interest in MARIE-EVE THÉRENTY’S (Montpellier) presentation. She argued that with journals such as “Vu”, “Détective” or “Voilà” a new visual dispositif developed.

FELIX KOLTERMANN (Hildesheim) brought in a change of time and medium, when he drew attention to newsprint photo books of the 21st century from his private collection. With selected examples of the genre he introduced an – as he argued – new type of avant-garde artefacts, in which layout and materiality are brought into specific relations by an inventive usage of large format unbound double pages: While most of the “books” can be read in their given sequentiality, they all provide a second kind of spread, for once the issue is taken apart, each spread shows a single photograph.

The conference was concluded so to speak by a threefold cliff hanger: The conference volume will be published probably this year; two conferences by the research group will follow, in 2018 in Bochum, and in 2019 in Cologne.

Conference Overview:

Panel 1: History of Technology and Layout

Nikolaus Weichselbaumer (Book Studies, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz): Linotype and Teletypesetter. Typesetting as a driving force for the development of newspaper layouts.

Tom Gretton (History of Art, University College London): Makers’ names and authorship in magazine pictures in London, Paris and Leipzig c.1860 – c.1900.

Vincent Fröhlich (Media Studies, Philipps-Universität Marburg): Dis/Order: A comparison between different layout logics of British and German illustrated magazines.

Hala Auji (Islamic Art History, American University of Beirut): Contemporaneity, visuality, and 19th century Arabic literary-scientific journals.

Thierry Gervais (Film and Photography Preservation and Collection Management program and Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson University, Toronto): Photography: A multifaceted tool for the 19th century illustrated press.

Panel 2 Cultures of Reception: Design and Audiences

Zsolt Mészáros (independent researcher, Budapest): 1920 – «Monsieur» et «Vogue français».

Kit Belgum (Germanic Studies, University of Texas at Austin): Visual constraints: Revealing and concealing the world in popular geographical magazines.

Panel 3: Typographic Strategies

Marie-Eve Thérenty (French Literature and Center of research RIRRA 21, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3): L’hebdomadaire français en miroir: le dispositive de la couverture photographique dans les années 1930 («Vu», «Voilà», «Détective»).

Stephen Donovan (English Literature, Uppsala University): Indexicality and the newspaper crosshead in Britain, 1881–1890.

Maria Damkjær (English Literature, University of Copenhagen): The page filler.

Carole O’Reilly (Media and Cultural Studies, University of Salford, Manchester): Lanterns and jackdaws: Visual representations of the city in 19th century British satirical periodicals.

Panel 4: Change of Media Formats: between Book and Journal

Bernhard Metz (Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin): Der Fortsetzungs-/Feuilletonroman als europäisches Publikationsereignis: Brüche und Kontinuitäten.

Madleen Podewski (Private lecturer, Freie Universität Berlin): »Was aber schön ist, selig scheint es (nicht) in ihm selbst«. Mörikes Auf eine Lampe als Druckobjekt.

Felix Koltermann (Media, Theatre and Popular Culture, Universität Hildesheim): Die hybride Doppelseite. Fotografische Künstlerbücher im Zeitungsdruck.

Panel 5: Materiality of the Page

Christian Bachmann (Research Unit „Journalliteratur“, Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Mehr als multimodal: Materialität und Performativität der illustrierten Satirezeitschrift des 19. Jahrhunderts.

Andreas Beck (Research Unit „Journalliteratur“, Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Einstürzende Textbauten, Lücken im Schriftsatz, schattierender und durchscheinender Druck – von der Produktivität des Bedruckstoffs Papier im illustrierten Journal.

Vance Byrd (Department of German, Grinnell College, Iowa): Lese- und Handarbeiten: Illustrated German fashion journals and sewing in the 19th century.

Panel 6: Ideological Implications of Formatting

Katharina Eck (Art History, Film Studies and Art Education, Universität Bremen): Zeigestrategien früher Mode- und Haus(frauen)journale – vom „Journal des Luxus und der Moden“ bis zur „Gartenlaube“. Text-Bild-Gefüge und visuelle Marker auf gestalteten Seiten der Familienpolitik und Wohnerziehung.

Nicola Kaminski (German Literature, Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Die Quartseite als »Kampfplatz«. Der Dresdner „Phöbus“. Ein Journal für die Kunst als typographischer Gegenschauplatz zur »Bühne von Weimar«.

Jennifer A. Greenhill (Art History, University of Southern California, Los Angeles): Selling structure: The periodical page as sales interface.

Christine Woody (British Literature, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia): Performing radicalism in the unstamped periodicals of Romantic Britain

Tagungsbericht: Visual Design. The Periodical Page as a Designed Surface / Visuelles Design. Die Journalseite als gestaltete Fläche, 23.11.2017 – 25.11.2017 Marburg, in: H-Soz-Kult, 14.02.2018, <>.