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"juxtaposition" Tag

Goed Maar Mooi?!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

In this quick visual essay I would like to discuss some personal observations I’ve made based upon visiting the Bauhaus exhibition and being involved in contemporary graphic design. Bauhaus has had a tremendous influence on typography and was the “standard” for at least 50 years in the 20th century. Interface design is still heavily influenced by the movement and school.
I ran into the following type-design when visiting the exhibition:

"Goed Maar Mooi"

It says “Goed maar mooi” meaning something along the lines of “Good but pretty” which reminds me of similar phrases like “less is more”. I think this mantra encapsulates my observations quite nicely. Bauhaus seems to have a reputation of being mostly function-driven, however I think there was a lot of thought put into aesthetic qualities as well. Bauhaus is well known for the rounded typeface design by Herbert Bayer:

The Bauhaus Typeface

The rounded shapes are well-associated with Bauhaus and play a big part in their identity. Along with a modern-looking sans-serif look.  However I’ve also noticed a great focus on experimentation with grid-systems such as in the following examples:

Examples of grid-based design in the Bauhaus exhibition

I’d like to return to the previous “Good but pretty” mantra established before.
If we interpret “good” as “functional” or in this case: “legible”  I think these examples are less “good” than the previously mentioned rounded typeface Bauhaus is known for. The designer seems to painstakingly stick to an established grid, providing some kind of design-guideline. You lose legibility with this approach. This makes me wonder if these typefaces were design with a  specific function in mind, such as Wim Crouwel’s Neue Alphabet or the typeface used in trams in Amsterdam. The designs however do speak to the “pretty” part of the mantra: the grid system creates an interesting look still popular today.

I think recent design trends in large companies have shifted towards a Bauhaus mentality of being functional. Especially to be legible on a small phone-screen this goes for  typefaces, logo’s, icon’s etc. The minimal interface design popularised by Apple’s iPhone has seeped through a lot of modern-day interface design and identity design.

Jonathan Ive, chief design at Apple, has mentioned Dieter Rams as an influence in this text.
Dieter Rams has in-turn mentioned Bauhaus as an influence in an interview.
Rowan Moore also mentioned this in the article: Bauhaus at 100: its legacy in five key designs he wrote for The Guardian about Bauhaus’ 100 year anniversary. The article also mentioned objects such as signs in airports and Ikea chairs, it’s definitely worth a read.

The iPhone interface

I would relate the functional layout, rounded corners and minimal icons to the Bauhaus school. Both excel at bringing order to something very complex. A phone can basically do anything you want it to these days, the functionality exceeds past technology bij combining cameras, computers, maps and music players all in one device. It is a real challenge to make a user-friendly device with so many options. I think the unified grid-system, easy-to-read iconography and interface allow for this to be the case.
Apple has consistently been using sans-serif typefaces in recent years and even introduced it’s own “San Francisco” typeface for their iOS operating system.
Traditional fashion houses have changed their “heritage” looking serif typefaces to modern looking. Companies such as Google, eBay and Instagram have opted to change their former intricate logo’s to more minimal “flat” interpretations of their previous logo’s.

Various Fashion logo's

I have observed younger contemporary designers rebel against this direction by coming up with wild and eclectic designs. I have heard arguments that people consider the sans-serif looking too safe and “same-y” do these fashion houses lose a piece of their identity when they’re all getting sans-serif redesigns by Peter Saville?
Another point I would like to rise that goes hand-in-hand with the rise of eclectic designs is the rise of analog (looking) designs. I personally like this

It’s an easy task to create a perfectly-uniform and perfectly-straight line in Photoshop. However it’s very difficult, or rather impossible, to create a realistic pencil-drawing or oil-painting. As people drift away from the “flat” design trends they end up with textures found in analog work.

I personally think it’s interesting smaller contemporary designers have been taking risks in this regard by creating an eclectic mix by juxtaposing Bauhaus aspects such as clean sans-serif typefaces with serif typefaces and interesting textures and imperfections.
This recent development could be seen as “Modernism and Eclecticism”. The “Rendez-Vous at OT301” typeface is still reminiscent of the Bauhaus aesthetic. However, it is combined with Serif typefaces that have an imperfect look, like how the width of the type saying “6 euro before midnight” and “8 euro after” differs. The poster appears to be screen-printed but the red layer isn’t aligned perfectly. The black “eyes” also have a distinct textures look as if they’re hand-painted. This eclectic mix of elements makes the individual elements stronger in my opinion. The distinct characteristics of the “hand-painted” eyes are accentuated by placing them next to the perfectly clean “Rendez-Vous” header.

content vs appearance?

Monday, January 30, 2017

In high school, my teachers always thought that the content of a book was more important than the appearance. I had to choose my books based on the texts inside of those. Opposite to what I was asked to do high school, in this Basicyear I was asked to choose a book on its graphic design. I was pretty surprised when I was told to because I am totally not used to do that. I liked the idea of it immediately. At the same time, I actually did not really get why we had to reflect a book’s appearance until we had this guest presentation of Elisabeth Klement, a teacher from the graphic design department in Rietveld. She showed lots of books where she did the graphic design for or just really liked. She told us that the content of a book is dependent on the looks of it and also the other way around.
So when I was wandering through the library, this specific peachy/sand/pink colored book caught my attention immediately. I remembered that Elisabeth showed this one in her presentation. I took it out of the shelves and saw this nice bold font on the front saying: ‘From A to K, Aglaia Konrad’


The book is like an encyclopedia. In an alphabetically placed order, you go through a list of words which refer to the rapidly advancing process of urban globalization. The content is focused on the relationship of society and spaces and how they change. On the cover of the book, the letters and words A to K are spread playfully over the cover. The A and the K are echoing behind the title as big geometric shapes which remind me of modernistic buildings from the past 50 years. graphic designer Linda Van Deursen made the decisions about the fonts, the cover, and the initial layout. She created an architectonic feeling in all these choices. The co-designer of the book is Eva Heisterkamp, a freelancer who got this job from Linda because she thought the job would suit her.

Aglaia Konrad is an Austrian photographer. She has a fascination for architecture, urbanization and especially their transformation. This leads into rough photographs of abandoned buildings, unfinished constructions and city infrastructures without any human beings involved. She experiences architecture and urbanization as something overwhelming. Something elusive. It is not simply about architecture but about trying to understand space and how it becomes nature itself in at a certain point. She studies the signs and codes, actions, representations and meaning of the architectural system.
Last year she had a solo exhibition called ‘From A to K’ in Museum M in Leuven. Paired with this exhibition she decided to publish a book included all the terms referring to her studies in alphabetical order. The photos featured in the book are her works from 1950 on till now.

Screen shot 2017-03-06 at 4.57.46 PM

Linda van Deursen acclaimed international fame. Together with Armand Mevis she established the graphic design studio Mevis & van Deursen in 1986. Linda Deursen has been head of the graphic design department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy from 2001 till 2014. She is a critic at Yale School of Art since 2003. The agency has done great things. For example identity projects, organizing events, exhibitions. One of their more recent projects is the logo and identity for Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. They were awarded for several art prizes as the Amsterdam Prize and the Grand Prix at The Brno Biennial
Recently they also design the printed version of the magazine South as a state of mind: DOCUMENTA 14.  A magazine which is being published four times biannually till the opening of the exhibition in Athens which is paired with documenta 14. The magazine could be seen as a manifestation included critique, art, literature and research.


Eva Heisterkamp was a student of Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she graduated in 2007 in the TxT department. Joke Robaard was head of the department back then. After having worked for Mevis & van Deursen for four years she now became head designer of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I was especially interested in her role in the whole design project I was wondering how much she had to say about the layout and division of the content. She answered me all my questions clearly in an email.

After analyzing this book the past few weeks, I could tell that the design of the book made the content stronger. Using Times Ten and Univers as main type fonts is very convincing. The fonts are formal but also a bit playful because they are a bit horizontally stretched. The empty space between the words refers to the emptiness of the decayed cities. The repetition of the words in alphabetical order refer to the repetition of modernistic buildings and the recurrence of urbanization. Every page has a vertical line placed on the left side, which accentuates the vertical aspect of modernistic cities where all buildings are raising to the sky. The book sometimes still seems under construction like cities themselves are. At one page you just see a row of O’s on the left side and a picture placed over what used to be ‘ the rest’ of the word which starts with an O. The pictures are most of the time black and white except for some pages. Eva herself decided which pages she wanted to be in color and which ones to be in black and white. There is also another book which is all printed in color but less editions of those were published.


Aglaia selected the pictures per chapter. She communicated this to Linda and Eva. Eva told me that through the whole process a lot of things changed and she could decide a lot in the design process. For example this case she told me that the font size of the essays were smaller in the beginning. In the last correcting round, the authors of the texts disagreed with the font size. The whole layout shifted, which made it very hard to finish the book in time. I find it very remarkable and a bit funny that the title refers to an unfinished alphabet because the design itself also seems like ‘unfinished’. Eva noted that here and there are some mistakes been made in the design, but I think we will find it out ourselves.The content, the appearance and even the process were constantly progressing. It all was endlessly in juxtaposition. That’s why I think content and appearance are always dependent on each other.


Aglaia Konrad, from A to K /Rietveld library catalogue no : konr 2

Design’s Delight by Jan van Toorn

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Design’s delight is a book of which as well the content as the design are by Jan van Toorn, a dutch graphic designer. The aim of his book is to question and to comment the way designers work now. You can tell this by both the content and the way it is designed.


The cover of the book is rather simple, but shows already some of the characteristics of the graphic designs of Jan van Toorn. Various thicknesses of letters have been used, to make distinctions between different sorts of text, the text in the top right corner, for example, is shown as well in English as in Dutch, but to divide these two the English part has been set in bold type.

Another characteristic of Jan van Toorns design is making a text that should incite the reader to “active reading”. He does this by putting the text on a page in different directions, you can see this at the bottom of the cover, where the text has been put upside down, but also at the sides of the cover, where the text has been turned. This stimulates the reader to read the book in an active way, by having to turn it around to read everything it says.

idea ideea

The first pages of the book are used to offer an introduction to the further part of the book. Different pages has been used to write the sentence “design is a good idea desperately seeking images and other forms of truth”, which actually is the core idea behind the book. By spreading the sentence over a few pages, more attention of the reader is asked to figure out exactly which point is made. With every page, a new word is added. Again the text is shown in both English and Dutch, and these two are again divided by setting them in different thickness and types.

essay essaycollage

After the introducing pages the book continues with an essay on ‘thinking the visual’, placed on the page in a simple, clear way, again both in English and Dutch in different typefaces. Still, in the essay, van Toorn keeps adding sentences that have been turned around in the middle of the pages, and the pages after the essay are filled with little pieces of text that have been placed in an almost collage-like way, spread out and turned around over the pages, sometimes even combined with images, encouraging the reader to turn the book around and play with the book in order to read what it says.


After this part, the biggest text part of the book, van Toorn starts working out the main idea of his book, showing it in a lot of pages filled with different images that have been taking from media like newspapers, television, magazines and various advertisements. Every single thing that is shown in these media has been given a form by a designer. The book is on the role of this designer, and the influence a designer has on the way information is given. In these pages, the most important part of the book, Jan van Toorn explores the opportunities of the role of a designer. He makes various juxtapositions of images from different media, and by doing this he adds a different meaning to them, encouraging the reader to think about these different meanings, and, indirectly, the role of the designer who puts these images together.


Most of the pages exist of one big image, shown as a spread, only leaving some white space at the bottom of the pages, where text is shown. Across most of the images other images have been places, but the design changes a lot, sometimes only 1 images are shown or images are placed next to each other in a row. The text below the images, again, has been placed upside down and turned around. Because the text is below the image you make, as a reader, a connection between the two, as if the text is a description of the image shown above. Which often is not the case, but the texts mostly illustrates the meaning of the juxtaposition of the images shown in the pages.

Also a number is shown in this white space, indicating the current chapter you are in, and the title of this chapter is always shown in the top left corner of the right page. At every first page of a new chapter the title of the chapter is also shown in handwritten letters, next to the number of the chapter. Because of this continuous showing of the chapter you are in, there is something that you can hold on to during the reading of the book, because of the chaos of the combination of all the different images, in which a lot happens and which contain a lot of colors, you would otherwise easily lose grip of what you’re reading.


The next part of the book is again a small text part, on the method and means of dialogic practice. It is designed in a similar way as the essay at the beginning on the book, but now the English and Dutch part are not divided in two columns on the same page, but one page is filled with English and the other with Dutch. The same typefaces are used again to make the separation.

always failing

After this text part different pages are used to write one sentence, just as in the beginning of the book. The design is very similar, only the sentence and the images behind it are different, but as a reader you understand directly that it refers to the start of the book.


The last part of the book is the afterword, which is designed the same as the preceding text part.


The book has a glue binding, and because the book contains a lot of images the spine of the book has a blend of all different kinds of colors, which kind of reminds you of newspapers and magazines, and it might as well be a reference to these media, where the images in the book are coming from. You can unfold a part of the back of the cover, which at the inside shows a poster-like design of a text in different sizes. At the outside of this part, the part that is the last page of the book when it isn’t unfold, the colophon and the contents of the book are shown.

achterflapdicht achterflap

All in all, I think the design of the book serves it’s content very well. The combinations of the images and text are very well done, they complement each other on every page. The basic design is very continuous throughout the book, which works very well because the chaos of the images keeps changing. Design’s delight by Jan van Toorn was an intriguing book to research, because of both its content as its design.


private collection

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