‘How nicely it lies in the hand.’ A much-heard sentiment round the judging table whenever a member of the panel opened this little bible from Amsterdam design agency Experimental Jetset. This was a varied showcase of what they can do – an overview of almost two decades of design practice. ‘It’s just like being allowed to hear eight seconds of a new number on Spotify. And then wanting to hear more,’ opined one member.
This is a book that leaves much else to the imagination: it’s full to the brim with teasers and decoys. We also see hints of vanity, but they aren’t too irritating. The form, in fact, is quite modest: a thickish little paperback of manageable proportions – not a monolithic monograph, this – that has gone picking stuff out of the agency’s personal archives, adding essays and photographic excerpts from studio work. There are both print material and site-specific installations to be admired. ‘It’s both propaganda and self-reflection – and yet much more than just a gimmick.’
The spectator is propelled forward by the fragments from the designs. It’s as if we’ve stepped into ‘a real picture machine’. Note the blank gutters between bled-off pages and in the double spreads. The trio at Experimental Jetset prove themselves followers of the clear sans serif typography of Wim Crouwel. In short, this is the kind of thing many other agencies ought to bring out every now and then, to remind us of what they do. There’s too little good writing about the history of graphic design in Holland, the panel observed with a degree of melancholy. At least Experimental Jetset can afford it – and it is much appreciated.