building  retrospectively

Gemeindebuch Lech – book design

In the mid-1990s Ludwig Muxel, the mayor of Lech, called me up and said that he was fully aware that our studio does not do any tourism advertising. But, precisely on that account, he continued, he wanted us to design the image for the community and town of Lech. He recognized that tourism marketing and the communication of a town are two very different things. For the town we developed a corporate design that could be very simply applied to the daily work of the administration. Minutes of meetings, town newspaper, official decisions, hundreds of signs – the range of applications in such a public administration is extremely wide. As the basis for our corporate design program we deliberately chose not to use a new symbol but revived the heraldic coat of arms, which we linked with a complex family of typefaces. The color elements of the municipal coat of arms also determined the spectrum of colours used for the public image, which the town has used and cultivated since that time. All the elements of the design function according to rules defined for uses such as correspondence, digital and analogue information media as well as the directional system in the town. In typographical terms we searched for a richly varied typeface that can be official, neutral, traditional and yet contemporary. The Trinité family of typefaces by Bram de Does from Enschede offers precisely all of these qualities. According to Peter Matthias Noordzij from Enschede, in 1995 the town of Lech was the only user of this typeface in Austria. In the standard form it is slightly inclined in the direction of reading, the individual letters are made with a high formal quality, and the result is a typeset with a sovereign and calm appearance that is graceful and easily legible. The special aspect of this Antiqua is that this family of typefaces is expanded by three different kinds of ascenders and descenders. In a matrix we defined different areas of application for different font styles – festive documents or certificates in calligraphic Italic style with longer ascenders and descenders, for directional signs the regular style in medium weight with shorter ascenders and descenders. The design work consisted of enabling the local authority to design, and in part also produce, its own information and communication material. Only the exceptional applications are designed in our studio, these include, since 1996, the graphic design for the annual symposium Philosophicum Lech (in freelance collaboration with graphic designer Bernd Altenried), as well as the work on the Gemeindebuch Lech.

Gemeindebücher (literally town or community books) focus primarily on the populace of a town or village. The reason for producing such publications is generally linked to a wish to present the history and characteristics of a place and to illustrate its spatial, cultural and social nature by offering in-depth information. A further, and almost equally important, goal is to present the place in the focus of current scientific knowledge and to make this knowledge available for later generations. In contrast to disparate, short-lived information, for such soundly based contents of real quality the book is the ideal medium. The added value of well-made town or village books lies in their long-term effect as regards shaping consciousness and creating a sense of identity.

The contributions to the Gemeindebuch Lech deal with the geographical characteristics, the human environment and the economic area, and with the specific history and identity of the Walser people. Within the individual contributions the focal points were left up to the various authors. For us the major challenge lay in defining and consistently implementing a uniform design framework for the scientifically prepared contents and the wide variety of visual material from very different sources. The anaxial, two-column layout of the text and a consistent rhythm of scale allowed us to make generous edge columns with plenty of white space, which provided the necessary framework for very different combinations of texts and images.
The typeface menu consists of Trinité (used for the corporate design), which is here employed for the continuous text in a reader-friendly diction, combined with small set marginalia in Foundry Sans from David Quay and Freda Sack.

The book block, which was worked out from the small to the large scale, in the final phase in collaboration with typographer Lutz Krause, is produced in excellent lithographical and print quality and finished and bound to bibliophile standards. It is protected by a newly developed concept for the front and back endpapers as well as a dust jacket designed with two different sides. It uses a topographical motif from the area around Lech, shown on one side during summer, on the other during winter, in both cases using the same section of landscape. The characteristics of these images are so strong that it was decided not to print the book title across them.

Reinhard Gassner