The German designer Willy Fleckhaus gets so much attention from editorial designers that it’s easy to overlook the fact we have very little record of his work. The revolutionary – in content and design – magazine Twen was his masterpiece, regularly featured in books, articles and lectures about editorial work. Copies are available on eBay, and there was a German language book, ‘Revision ener legende Twen’ a few years back. Now, at last, there’s a better book about his broader work in magazines and books.
‘Fleckhaus: Design, Revolte, Regenbogen,’ (‘Design, Revolt, Rainbow’) accompanies an exhibition currently at the Villa Stuck in Munich. It’s a well put together compilation, split between books and magazines and includes – hurrah! – an English translation. All the work is presented as photographs of objects, so you can see the overall shape, physical format and paper colour of each piece of work (a personal bugbear of the earlier Twen book was that the edges of magazines were cropped square).
The many examples from Twen look as strong as ever, their bold typography, use of blank space and tight image crops outlining the future of editorial design for everyone since (above). But the relaxed, free sexuality of the imagery also stands out. It’s great to see other work too, such as earlier examples from Quick and later work for Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazine (below). All is notable, but none quite reaches the heights of Twen; it is rightly the work he is famous for.
If Twen remains essentially contemporary — it’s astonishing to think the magazine was published in the sixties — his book designs feels equally of today. You could easily stumble across 1963’s rainbow-coloured set of front cover designs for Edition Suhrkamp (above) on Instagram today and mistake them for the latest Penguin series.
‘Fleckhaus: Design, Revolte, Regenbogen’ is published by Hartmann Projects