I’ll start by admitting that the name Wim Crouwel, up until very recently, held very little importance in my mind.
The Dutch designer’s work had never been something I’d studied or stumbled across, and when I did see bits and pieces it never really took my breath away.
I recently visited his retrospective – ‘A Graphic Odyssey‘ – at the Design Museum in London as part of a self-motivated ‘cultural awareness’ trip as I like to call it (my wife referred to it in perhaps a more realistic way as a ‘jolly’!). Living and working in Devon has its great benefits: I love the area, I’m very settled both personally and professionally and am fairly familiar with its cultural surroundings.
But being so far from the ‘action’ of major cities can lead an ignorance and shortage of day-to-day inspiration so I decided to head up to London and catch up on and remind myself of some of what it has to offer!
I quickly became aware of Crouwel’s huge part in design history (and present) – a revolutionary man who worked hard to challenge the expectations of the day.
His fonts (such as New Alphabet and Gridnik) which I’d previously not warmed to for practical reasons suddenly found context less as legible, beautiful forms, more as investigations, experiments and gauntlets thrown at the feet of the critics. Indeed one note in the exhibition quoted that New Alphabet (above) in particular was intended to “provoke a dialogue on the impact of new technology as opposed to creating a functional font”.
Posters via ‘Wanken‘ blog
Crouwel’s posters are objects of boldness, if not beauty.
Crouwel’s posters are objects of boldness, if not beauty. Structured grids featured heavily, whether seen or unseen, and type and flat colour were used to great effect. I must admit that his posters weren’t the items that most appealed to my taste and are the most aged parts of Crouwel’s work, but his logos were another matter.
I was struck by the timelessness of the marques and symbols displayed on the far wall of the exhibition room. Printed black on grey square background, each had a charm and a quality to it that, to varying degrees, could easily be mistaken for a piece of work produced in the last decade rather than 50 years ago. Every one was consistent with Crouwel’s signature structural approach but each was distinctly memorable and unique.
It was a fantastic exhibition and one that certainly gave me a new insight into one of the world’s most innovative and boundary pushing designers. Such a shame that taking photos is prohibited and finding specific works online is so difficult!