Wim Crouwel – A graphic odyssey

Wim Crouwel - exhibition

Over the weekend I finally went along to the Design Museum in Shad Thames to have a look around the retrospective exhibition for Dutch typographer and graphic design icon Wim Crouwel.

Spanning a career over 60 years, the exhibition highlights Crouwel’s functional and rigorously modernist principles towards design across posters, corporate identities, typeface and exhibition design.

Stedelijk Museum work

(Sample of Stedelijk Museum work – Photo by Luke Hayes)

His consistent use of typographic grid systems within his designs led him to be given the nickname ‘Mr. Gridnik’.  No other body of work opitimises his use of grids than through his work for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. From 1963 to 1985, Wim created a vast amount of posters and catalogues for the museum. The use of a grid-based approach allowed for an instantly recognisable visual language throughout this body of work, providing a flexible system for him to work within. Reading the background text on the panel for this portion of work, one section jumped out at me:

Page layouts sketched out by Crouwel were executed by his assistants and finalized under his supervision

Where were these sketches?

Personally I would have loved to have seen some of this sketch development work from Crouwel. Even to see some examples of marked up drawings ready for printers to typeset and produce (remember these were the days before the computer) would’ve been an eye opener for me, having no first hand experience of this design process. Alas the only evidence of this kind of thinking on show was from the development of his experimental geometric typefaces Gridnik and New Alphabet.

New Alphabet - sketch

(Sketches for typeface New Alphabet – Photo by Creative Review)

Maybe it’s from having recently joined the many  that I have more of a thirst for seeing this kind of development / sketch work, as we adopt a refreshingly transparent view of our approach to sketching and the processes of how our work takes shape.

Perhaps too much of this kind of sketch work would have felt out of place within the exhibition, as what is on show is an immaculate body of modernist, typographically led work that showcases a series of beautifully printed executions.  

Wim Crouwel - exhibition

(Sample of Van Abbemuseum work – Photo by Luke Hayes)

There isn’t too much longer to catch this exhibition before it closes on the 3rd of July, so I would get in there quick.
 
 
UPDATE
 
I meant to add this review by Michael Johnson about a recent Erik Spiekermann retrospective at the Bauhaus that includes a variety of sketch development and in progress work that, as Michael says "added a human touch" (thanks to Simon for the heads up)

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