I've just started reading the classic Hochuli/Kinross book Designing books: practice and theory and although I'm really just a few pages in I'm already excited and encouraged to read on. It's already very interesting. Hochuli kicks off by exploring the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry and suggests the idea that what we tend to consider to be typographic symmetry is really, specifically and merely axial symmetry and that the original, broader idea of symmetry (referencing the word's Greek origin) is more about harmony and balance than what is actually bilateral similarity; inferring that a symmetrical page doesn't really have to have a central axis within it, about which the typography sits or have an exactly reflective layout. That's interesting isn't it? Hochuli, being Hochuli, goes on to argue that bilateral symmetry isn't really symmetrical in the way we think it is anyway because if you look at it in detail (as Hochuli does) the words of course, aren't bilaterally symmetrical.
Another, related, thing he explains is that while many consider the starting point for book design to be the double page spread, it is in fact the central spine axis and the relationship of elements to it. I'd never thought about that before. But then, I'm not a book designer...perhaps all this is common knowledge to those that are.
And then there's a bit that I found most encouraging and reassuring to read. He talks about his modernist (Swiss) background and how his colleague, Rudolf Hostettler, helped him break away from it's dogma. Hochuli relates this to Tschichold and how he turned his back on modernism in favour of traditional typography. After a discussion with Hostettler, Hochuli realised that not everything could be dressed up in the trappings of modernism and that, in his own words, "...Tschichold was more than just a traitor to modernism..."; that rather than subscribing dogmatically to one particular orthodoxy it is better to find the most appropriate solution for the job in hand.
This seemed very important to me. Tschichold's call to "uphold the principle of identity between content and expression" formed the backbone of practically everything I've done as a designer and I always felt that while many, I think, see his shift in position to have been contradictory, I always thought he hadn't moved that far; he'd just decided to do a different kind of work; a kind of work more suited to traditional typography. I've always felt that he'd remained true to his "identity principle".
Not sure quite how valid that is; I'm not a design historian or anything, I've just read a bit of stuff here and there. Anyway, a great book so far. Hope it stays this interesting.