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"de Stijl" Tag


Marshall Moderism


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

IMG_0377_2

The Design Derby exhibition at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam compares what was happening in design in the Netherlands and Belgium from 1815 to present day. Pieces were picked as representative of the era of design in both countries, which allowed you to make comparisons of the objects for design and aesthetic value, but also by being displayed chronologically, you are able to see where on the timeline they place and thus allowed you to to understand the context in which they were designed and the preceding works/ inspiration. I picked two pieces from the 1950’s produced during the post war reconstruction period; a fascinating time for the reestablishment of design as a social, economical and cultural actuality.

I chose two pieces with very similar aesthetic qualities and obvious connections visually/materially, produced a year apart they are from exactly the same period so can be perceived from a single point in European history despite different national situations.
The first piece is a bookshelf designed by D.Dekker for Tomado – Dordrecht in 1958, The shelves are a genius design, with simple brackets on either side and tin trays which can be slotted in at any level, there’s a variety of combinations/arrangements of the unit so they adapt easily to any room.

Tomado Bookcase

The second is desk and chair by Jacques Seeuwes, designed for the architecture department of the University of Ghent in 1959. The only colour used is a bright blue Formica on the table, which compliments the soft dark tones of the oak seat and foot rest.  Its a vivid primary colour which is fitting with the modernity that was being practiced in the design at the time, when the chair is tucked under the table, there is brilliant flow of the basic forms, and the subtleties in angles of the chair suggest a certain spring to it by highlighting the ergonomics which contrast to the stubborn rigidity of the black tubular frame, they both exhibit a neo-plastic approach to design. This is collection of research i made in order to further understand the situation of each country after the war and how design fit into their society at the time. What were the inspirations/ defining influences in the Netherlands and Belgium which concluded in two very similar pieces of furniture.

Jacques Seeuwes Desk

 

De Stijl introduced an important merging of art an design by promoting an Utopian philosophical approach to aesthetics. The goal was to catch timeless beauty in spare precision, De Stijl movement was a reaction against the excessive decoration of the Art nouveau that preceded. It was an attempt at a universal language in design and aesthetic, that applied rules which erased all subjectivity to the artist because the individual was loosing its significance, ideals of the period shift from visually heavy to visually light and ‘de Stijl could be seen as social redemption.

During the post war reconstruction period, Tomado thrived because its products represented the incoming modern Dutch household; cheap, affordable, functional furniture. The core of Tomado string furniture was formed by pragmatism, before the war there was a demand of bits and bobs and comfort in clutter, but in the aftermath, there was a desire for a fresh functional way of living to maximize efficient recovery and thus wanted to be surrounded by practical and rational possessions. Tomado’s minimalist airy structures symbolized the modern age, and these bookshelves in particular were commonly present in households around the country, just like IKEA is nowadays.

tomado bij charlie ikea

 

The Dutch government returned to the Netherlands from its exile in London in 1945. The government, while in London, had created plans which would speed up the country’s challenging industrial and economic reconstruction, there was no conflict between industry and the arts, because the Netherlands has a trading history and sourced its cultural input from its colonies in Asia. This meant that recognizing the need for mass production to furnish homes wasn’t politically opposed and the dutch produced functional furniture for the masses with talented designers appointed to every sector, Marshall Aid investment into the Netherlands accelerated industrialization and by 1950, 38% of the population was working in manufacturing or some form of industry.

In Belgium, there is a rich history of the arts and crafts from their own country because they had no interest in their colonies in Africa. This meant that high level professional craftsmen worked hard to produce and design quality products, and then after the war they were fighting against the industrial takeover. However there were a lot of poor factory workers and thus mass production was a cheap necessity, people weren’t as encouraged by the government to pursue design careers whereas in the Netherlands every state company had a designer.

Marshall Aid played a large role in the modernization of Europe, with the investment to rebuild its financial economical and industrial systems, and along with the money came the intention to inject a new ‘spirit of productivity’.

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In Belgium they funded the Belgium Office for Increasing Productivity (BDOP), which supported The Design Centre. Design in Belgium was struggling to find its place in society, The Design Centre aimed to broaden the understanding of design as a social, economical and cultural phenomenon, however, the BDOP demanded a definition of design which was appropriate to the contribution towards the economic efficiency, it was struggling to leave behind the origins of design promotion, dominated by national export interest and be recognized for its social and cultural value by the Belgian government, this was frustrating because of course they believed that design is the most visible and pervasive cultural manifestation of a country at any time.

Industrial design was redefined in Belgium  in the 1950’s, and planted foundations in 1954 under the reign of the first social-liberal government.
Industrial design is a creative activity whose aim is to determine the formal qualities of objects produced by industry. These formal qualities are not only the external features but are principally those structural and functional relationships which convert a system to a coherent unity both from the point of view of the producer and the user. Industrial design extends to embrace all the aspects of human environment which are conditioned by industrial production.

With this definition you can understand how the values of De Stijl integrated easily with this new wave of industrialization. Design was being viewed as a practical notion where productivity and efficiency is key, with such a mechanical demographic, it makes sense that the prevailing approach to design in Belgium was that of De Stijl – the international modern style, and easy to replicate in industry.

After WW2 De Stijl became known as the International Modern Style. However without Theo van Doesburg to lead the way and enforce the ideals and definitions of the movement, the strict pre-war rules were broken. The post-war reconstruction forcing society to depict a new way through complete disarray towards the future, efficiency was key and maintenance of artistic values weren’t withheld so preciously. Broader structural design properties of industrial materials could be worked with more easily in mass production too and the extreme ideals of De Stijl were not practical anymore.

To conclude, the unifying desperation of each country to rebuild after the upheaval of the war and the catastrophic state in which the Nazi’s left, meant the productivity objectives that accompanied the Marshall aid from U.S, persisted to define the countries’ reform and thus profitability and potency heavily determined design of the post war era.

 

Paul Schuitema


Sunday, November 18, 2012
When I presented the designer I selected to write about to my teacher, and mentioned the fact that it was difficult to find information about him even at the libraries, he asked me to think of what made me chose Paul Schuitema and not one other of his contemporaries like Moholy-Nagy or Piet Zwart.
Actually the answer is quite simple. When I first entered the exhibition I was very impressed of how the museum chose to present his work, as if it was a work in progress in his studio. The presentation consisted of repetition, cuts, different papers, drawings, different tryouts, and sketches, all very obsessive and concentrated, almost like a mechanical machine.

 

Of course, all of this made sense immediately as I read that he lived in the time of industrialization and mass production after World War 1 and was inspired and worked with the ideas of the Russian constructivism, the Dutch DeStijl, German Bauhaus and “New Objectivity”. But still, first I was a bit startled. I tried to look for something else because I thought, like my teacher also said, that photography is as such an autonomous medium so in not very many cases it can be seen and understood as design. Than I understood that he uses images as “Applied or Useful Photography” – cutting and organizing them with pieces of text, creating a sort of collage for posters and advertisements – using the techniques and aesthetics of Graphic Design.

I knew he had links with the Bauhaus and the “New Objectivity” movement and I found the names of the other better known designers of his time, but there was nothing mentioned about Paul Schuitema. Finally, after reading about all the theories from Weimar, I found some scanned pages from the english vesion of the book “Visual Organizer”.

Soon I discovered that he was not only a graphic designer, but also a furniture designer, a photographer, and a typographer. He studied Drawing and Figurative painting at the Academie voor  Beeldende Kunsten in Rotterdam. He was a member of Kurt Schwitters’ “Circle of New Designers”. In 1931 he designed the poster for an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum (which displays names such as  Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Beyer, Karl Teige. Lajos Kassak, Jan Tschichold, Piet Zwart, Cesar Domela and himself) and yet despite the seeming fact that in his time he was a well known advertisement designer, today people seem to have forgotten him.

 

       Exhibition Poster       Berkel  Berkel

 

In the early ‘20s he had to perform building-jobs to support himself. This is the moment when he got in contact with the working class. This was soon to be a big influence upon his works. Berkel is mentioned as being the first who gave Schuitema the opportunity to work on graphic design. And here comes the moment when the photographs he uses becomes as important as typography in advertising a product. At first he worked with professional photographers, but because of their ‘artistic’ approach they couldn’t catch the simplicity of the subject as Schuitema wanted it, so he had to learn to use the camera, and all the techniques included, so he could get rid of the decoration and aesthetics and created his own photography.

“If you become more of an expert yourself, and if you are also creative, your work will only get better” Schuitema once said.

 

  Photography

 

His contemporaries understood his wish to abandon any form of decoration in his prints, and saw his works becoming as sober and direct as he himself. Schuitema used the spatial effect of text by printing one on top of the other (only san-serif’s), simplicity, asymmetry and contrast such as horizontals, verticals, and diagonals, juxtaposed. Applying narrow, bold, small or big letters, mostly red, black, white, and sometimes blue, colors he managed to create dynamic covers. In relation to this process his images are not only illustrations or symbols or decorations, which accompany texts, but represent an organically linked body of work.

“You sought automatically for unity of text and image. This is also the reason why you printed the letters on the photo, then you got at least one optical occurrence. A red text on a black and white photo, a black text on a red picture.”

De Stijl


Friday, November 25, 2011

Dutch periodical founded by Theo Van Doesburg in 1917 and published in Leiden until 1932; the name was also applied from the 1920s to a distinctive movement and to the group of artists associated with it. The periodical’s subtitle, Maandblad voor de beeldende vakken (Monthly Journal of the Expressive Professions), indicates the range of artists to which it was appealing, and van Doesburg’s intention was that it be a platform for all those who were concerned with a new art: painters, sculptors, architects, urban planners, typographers, interior designers etc.

Proponents of De Stijl sought to express a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. They advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour; they simplified visual compositions to the vertical and horizontal directions, and used only primary colours along with black and white.

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Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Red, Black, Blue and Grey

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(more…)

Twisting: from “the Stijl” to “the Amsterdam School” by bicycle


Thursday, November 17, 2011

during a 3 hour bycicle tour two parallel architectural movements from the early twentieth [The Amsterdam School and De Stijl] were highlighted

stadionkade - stadionplein - stadionweg

cliostraat - olypiaplein - valeriusplein - koninginneweg

amstelveenseweg - surinameplein - hoofdweg - mercatorplein - jan evertsenstraat

frederik hendrikstraat - nassaukade - spaarndammerbuurt

hembrugstraat - zaanstraat - haarlemmerplein - haarlemmerdijk

haarlemmerstraat - prins hendrikkade - damrak - prins hendrikkade

geldersekade - oudezijds voorburgwal - rokin

muntplein - vijzelstraat

a week later we completed the tour –started at "The Rietveld Academie"– by visiting the ultimate architectural "de Stijl" statement "Rietveld Schröder House" Utrecht

D group /Type Design, from Experimental to Corporate


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film by Gary Hewitt, about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. (http://www.helveticafilm.com/) Helvetica introduces type as more than common. A specialized design discipline.

helvetica movie image1helvetica movie image2

A lecture by Henk Groenendijk on experiments in type design, related to ‘developping cultural and economical progress in the 1950-’70, gave more insight in the context that proved so fertile for Helvetica’s rise to stardom.

Indiana Number-paintingLogo’s from fiftiesSandberg Experimenta TypograficaModern Banking

Time and space is a given phenomenon in education at the Rietveld Academie, where things constantly present themselves in past and contemporary creative projects. As an almost casual gesture, some 2nd year students from the graphic design department dropped by to present their recent type designs in progress.

Student type design

Finally research material was edited down to A4 sized guided tours into selected subjects. All subjects presented in this list are also available as hard copy research prints at the ResearchFolders available at the Rietveld library.

As usual we selected subjects with a direct connection to the context of the presented material in this classbloc. In this case Helvetica the Movie” and its content, was researched through subjects like the Corporate Alphabet, Wim Crouwel, Laurenz Brunner, Experimental Jetset, Norm type design and their publication “TheThing” or Letterpress.

The lecture gave a much broader perspective from which researches like de Stijl fonts, Buro Destruct, Zaph Dingbats, the Univers Font, Systemfonts, Swiss Style/Modernisme, Guy Rombout‘s AZart and Edward Fella were initiated. Widening the discussion towards the Helvetica subject by adding links to the actuality, some more subjects were added, Jonathan Barnbrook. Richard Niessen, Type Radio, Emigre‘s Zuzana Licko, Jonathan Puckey‘s Type Tool, the mysterious typebased posters of Michel Schuurman and ultimately the concept of Dead Type by Hansjakob Fehr


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