Amsterdam design, day one

It was another full day of design goodness as we spent our first day in Amsterdam getting a crash course in Dutch design with an emphasis on book design. After a good walk, we met with Mathieu Lommen at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. He is currently in the midst of curating an exhibition of books designed by Irma Boom. The exhibit opens next week, but Lommens was kind enough to spend a couple of hours with our group. He showed us a sample of the amazing collection of type and design from the university’s collection. Highlight included beautiful 17th century book, original ink drawings from Dutch design legend Jan van Krimpen, and the sketch book of contemporary type designer Peter Verheul.

Next up, we met with designer Joost Grootens who is quietly making himself a design hero in the Netherlands. Schooled as an architect, Grootens works mostly on book design, often for architecture firms. He is best known for his stunning and highly fictional atlases. Beyond a typical book of maps, his atlases tell a narrative with clean design, painstakingly crafted color palettes and adept utilization of printing inks. And he’s a hell of a nice guy. Grootens told the students that one should not be afraid to make a book page that is not “pretty”. “Book design is not poster design” he said. To this end, he establishes systems that determine his layouts. Although he has worked on over a hundred books in the past ten years, his at atlases are log-term projects, often taking two or three years.

After meeting with Grootens, we had one of those experience that just went to show us that the Amsterdam design world is very concentrated. As we had a mid-afternoon snack, we stumbled upon the gallery and studio of Ewald Spieker who creates incredible two- and three-D works based on letterform. Although we caught him on his way out, he was gracious enough to invite us in and show us his studio and discussed his working process. He die cut and stamped Individual cards for us. We’d found a other nice and generous Dutch designer.

We ended our class day with a walk up to the central library, the OBA. Dutch design studio Thonik created the visual identity system and had an exhibit of the studio’s work in the library. This was a great opportunity to see up close some of the best in Dutch marketing design.

Top, original ink drawings by van Krimpen.
Middle, Joost Grootens discusses his work with the MFA student.
Bottom, Eward Spieker shows how his cutting machine works by making letter-shaped business cards on the spot.

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