'Library of Shape, Texts and Structures' at A-Z, Berlin. Photograph by Hans Georg Gaul.

However you organize it, a collection of sources and material—some form of archive—is a necessity in creative work. Some have a mess of folders on their desktop along with hastily arranged bookmarks. Some use Pinterest, Instagram’s “save” function, or they loyally upload screenshots onto Tumblr streams. Others are more analog in their approach, filling scrapbooks with magazine cut-outs, or preciously recording in notebooks. This month at a new gallery in Berlin dedicated to showcasing graphic design, A—Z, an exhibition explores the personal process of archiving visual material from the perspective of one designer and educator, Andrea Tinnes. ‘Library of Shape, Texts and Structures’ brings together a variety of forms and sources, revolving around the idea of developing “a graphic library as toolbox for continuous design work.”

The exhibition showcases Tinnes’ personal “library.” She describes it as “a collection of typefaces, shapes, texts, structures, and typographic imagery that I actually use in my work or am simply inspired by.

“An important part of my practise is type design, and I often use a variety of abstract shapes and patterns. I therefore have various source material scattered in both digital and analog folders, and I felt the need to organize, categorize, and archive it all into a logical system. That way, I could access and expand my collection.”

Posters from ‘Library of Shape, Texts and Structures’ at A-Z, Berlin. Design by Andrea Tinnes.

Her archive is organized into three distinct segments: in the gallery, you can browse the analog version of each section through paging through 45 folders organized on a large shelving unit (which together contain 4,500 pages in total). The ‘Shape’ folders represents Tinnes’ digital collection of various forms, such as polygons, diamonds, triangles, bitmaps, lines, stripes, arrows, dingbats, brushes, and criss-crosses. Together, all components make up two typefaces that Tinnes has been working on since a sabbatical three years ago—Allgemein Grotesk and the Affiche Collection—which both combine different skeletons and shapes within one typeface. The Affiche Collection is a versatile all-caps multiple width display family, including three distinct serif styles, including Romana, Latin, and Stencil, along with three sans variants, and it’s distinguished by its terminals of curved strokes.

‘Structure’ represents Tinnes’ collection of textures that she uses in graphic design work, such as gradients, lines, stripes, glitches, splashes, sprinkles, organic forms, or stony and marble-like patterns. Lastly ‘Text’ indicates Tinnes’ collection of articles and writing—“it’s kind of a diary of my reading habits,” she says. Open a folder, and you’ll find writing printed in a simple text documents: There’s ‘Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtapositions’ by Susan Sontag, for example, as well as fragments of Tweets that Tinnes has stumbled upon and found inspiring. “The ‘Text’ section contains an ongoing collection of topics for my teaching assignments, an archive of manifestos, quotes about typography,” she says. “They’re important as they add a contextualizing layer to my purely visual material.”

The exhibition exemplifies how the act of archiving—of researching and rearranging—can facilitate a design process itself: Surrounding the grey shelving unit that holds Tinnes folders are a cacophony of posters, which weave together elements from the folders into the form of bright, bold compositions. In total, Tinnes has created 245 different posters making use of her library. “Apart from my own use of the material, with this exhibition, I hope to encourage other designers to create their own personal visual library,” she says.

On the notoriously difficult task of exhibiting type, Tinnes is adamant that curators of graphic design must rethink and re-examine how designs are presented when removed from their “real world context.”

“How do you present and exhibit graphic design, and specifically type, within the context of the white cube? And how do you create a unique spatial atmosphere that celebrates the two-dimensional forms of typefaces within three-dimensional space?” she says. “I’m convinced  that type has to be enlivened when within an exhibition space. Often, you’ll see the usual specimen boards with lines of text including various weights. They don’t create an interesting experience. For ‘Library of Shapes, Texts and Structures,’ I therefore wanted to create a kind of typographic ‘Wunderkrammer’ with dense hanging posters in a tight space—celebrating bold graphic statements and playful use of color.”