Armand Mevis and Linda van Deursen established their office for graphic design in 1987 after having graduated at the Rietveld Academy Amsterdam. Mainly active within the cultural sector – for museums, galleries, theatres, art book publishers or artists – Mevis & Van Deursen have played a critical role in Dutch graphic design because of their unique approach: they act as authors and editors, rather than as service providers, working in a correspondingly conceptual manner.
“I am more a conceptual designer than a graphic one. The most important thing when it comes to approaching a project is that it works as a whole. For example, typography plays a significant role, but in the end the fact that a Helvetica or another sans serif was chosen isn’t all that important to me, I’m more concerned with the overall project.” Irma Boom, the woman behind many of the most remarkable books made in the Netherlands has been described as ‘The Queen of Books’, well reputed for her artistic autonomy within her field. Her bold experimental approach to her projects often challenges the convention of traditional books in both physical design and printed content.
“The digital age has profoundly changed the way we produce, share and use information. As the traditional intermediaries between editors and readers, designers of information have to establish a new balance between these forces. In doing so, they need to redefine their own position as well.” Next to designing digital information environments, maps, typefaces and spatial installations Studio Joost Grootens works primarily in the field of book design, taking a position far from the artistic side of graphic design. “Studio Joost Grootens works for readers”.
Experimental Jetset is a small, independent, Amsterdam-based graphic design studio, founded in 1997 by (and still consisting of) Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen. Focusing on printed matter and site-specific installations, and describing their methodology as “turning language into objects”, Experimental Jetset have worked on projects for a wide variety of institutes. While their heroes are modernist designers like Wim Crouwel, they combine this affinity with a DIY punk spirit that (they claim) has always been part of modernism’s vocabulary.
Thomas Widdershoven and Nikki Gonnissen are the founders of 'thonik'. With their motto 'Happy Modernism', thonik moves in a 'friendly, optimistic and natural' way towards 'branding', the creation of brands (including their own Thonik brand), dominating a large part of the Dutch public sector. The agency succeeds in connecting the areas of graphic design, corporate identity and advertising and revitalizes modernism, but despite that vitality the idiom of the office is rather poor. The design is considered simply too bold and too straightforward: as a result the power decreases and the danger of one-dimensionality lurks.
Harmen Liemburg (1966) started his career as a cartographer. In search of a way to increase his expression possibilities in the graphic field, he went to the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. He became part of a new generation of designers, one that is closely connected to the world of visual arts, museums and education. In many ways, Liemburg is an artist in the traditional sense. He is obsessed with screen printing, and uses the medium to create unexpected results.
Hansje van Halem (1978) graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and started her own studio in Amsterdam in 2003. She is a designer of books, decorated endpapers, stamps, posters and recently also architectural objects. Her experiments with letter shapes and patterns, often in combination, move between applied and autonomous. An example of this is the visual identity for the Lowlands Festival, which was launched last year.
Design studio LUST (1996-2017) was formed by Jeroen Barendse, Thomas Castro and Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen. The studio made work that moves on the cutting edge of classical graphic design, digital media, information technology and architecture. LUST functioned as an important precursor to research how people can experience and study the world through digital techniques.
The role of designers in communication and visual culture evolves, from designers serving as commercial “hired guns” to assuming the more empowering roles of design authorship. As an example, design studio Metahaven’s Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk can be considered ‘auteur-producers’: tenacious visionaries who work across multiple platforms to create a broad variety of functional objects, as well as a prolific amount of insistent, manifesto-like critical and self-referential writing. More and more it has become standard practice in design education to teach designers to develop their own voice and create self-initiated projects.