Graphic design is made to be published. It is literally and figuratively the applied art of communication in the public space – and as such forms an integral part of a broader social context. The graphic designer needs to relate to his or her times and to the current position of his or her profession. Over the centuries, we come across numerous designers who rejected the dominant social order and the role assigned to them. Designers who deviated from the ‘norm’ and tried to change the world, rewrite prevailing codes and branch out from well-trodden paths. From the foundations of their craft – encompassing the entire spectrum from design and publication to the distribution of ideas – they fought for what they believed in and strove to transform society.
And quite a few of them have attempted to communicate their ideals – and how to attain them – through various texts, lectures and manifestos. The Palace of Typographic Masonry would sink into the swamp if I didn’t stabilise it with its predecessors’ idealistic perspectives. Richard Niessen liked to shed light on ten of them – ‘The Written Keystones’ – in the Department of Order. He discusses them against the background of societal trends, connects them with his own experiences as a graphic designer and shows how they reverberate to this day in the Palace of Typographic Masonry.