The company began as Taschen Comics, publishing Benedikt's comic collection. Taschen has been a pioneer in making lesser-seen art available to mainstream bookstores, including some fetishistic imagery, queer art, historical erotica, pornography and adult magazines (including multiple books with Playboy magazine). The firm has brought potentially controversial art into broader public view, publishing it alongside its more mainstream books of comics reprints, art photography, painting, design, fashion, advertising history, film, and architecture.
In 1985, Taschen introduced the Basic Art series with an inaugural title on Salvador Dalí. The series today comprises over 100 titles available in up to thirty languages, each about a separate artist, from classical to contemporary. Further series followed, alongside an expansion into new themes like architecture, design, film, and lifestyle. As an example, the firm also publishes a "Basic Architecture" series in the same style as "Basic Art" that covers some of the most prominent architects in history.