Frederike Huygen – Wim Crouwel Modernist

Towards the end of 2015 the graphic designer and exhibition designer Wim Crouwel was honoured with the publication of a new and comprehensive monograph. With his agency Total Design he was instrumental in shaping the face of the post-war Netherlands – and that is definitely not an exaggeration. His modernism not only informed countless posters and catalogues for the Stedelijk Museum but also led to postage stamps and experimental work, including an extraordinary and controversial computer alphabet. In the seventies Crouwel found himself much criticized, but his fame as a cult figure and inspiration to many has more recently risen to new heights.

The abundantly illustrated Wim Crouwel Modernist has the stature of an informative overview and avoids the trap of becoming hagiography. ‘But does the modest format do the man justice?’ the panel wondered at first. The cover too aroused somewhat mixed feelings, with its glaring dayglow yellow-green and rather aggressive colouring. The dotted motif – is it a kind of noticeboard? – is taken over into the interior as a guide. The vast volume of archive material has been brilliantly squeezed into the book – ‘the whole thing is beautiful’ – as has the use of the typewriter face he designed for Olivetti that would much later be digitized as Gridnik (originally a nickname for Crouwel himself, as we read on the very first page). (The Vierkant face used for the cover is also a Crouwel design.) Not only are the illustrations and posters perfectly printed, but the text with its exaggerated contrast between black and white is also something of a typographical tour de force.

 

One comment from a panel member: ‘Why are his thoughts on design at the end of the book? Have Crouwel’s ambitions been woven into the main story properly?’ Nonetheless, this book offers the reader and spectator an almost encylopedic experience which designer Lex Reitsma has cast in well proportioned chapters.

Edition: 2015
Language: English, translated by Harry Lake
Final editor: Corinne McCarthy
Publisher / commissioner: Lecturis, Eindhoven
Designer: Lex Reitsma, Haarlem
Lithographer: Lex Reitsma, Haarlem
Printer: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort
Binder: Van Waarden, Zaandam
Dimensions: 170 x 240 x 3
Amount of pages: 464 p.
Number of copies: 3,500
Price: € 49.50
ISBN: 978 94 6226 147 1
Font and foundry: Foundry Gridnik Medium (The Foundry), Architype Crouwel Vierkant (The Foundry)
Binding style: sewn hardback with a flat spine, foil stamping on cover
Material: 135gsm Profibulk, 90gsm Fly Offset (interior), 170gsm Maxioffset (endpapers), 120gsm Wibalin Natural 500 White (binding)