Taiwanese edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ published

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.

Two weeks ago the Taiwanese edition of my book ‘A Clear Dream’ (Droom van Helderheid) was published as part of the ‘Source series’. It is surprising to see such an interest in Taiwan in the history of Dutch visual identity, modernism and design agencies.

The ‘Source series” is an imprint of Taiwanese designer Wang Zhi-Hong facilitated by Faces Publications. Luckely the print quality of the book seems better then the Chinese edition published last year. It is fascinating to see how Zhi-Hong uses social media to generate interest: the book has already been seen by over 11.000 people on Behance (featured graphic design), and by many more on Tumbler, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The book features a nice cover and a carefully composed layout that to a large degree is based upon the Dutch edition, that was designed by Piet Gerards Ontwerpers. It is not clear whether Zhi-Hong takes note of this.

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New York & Fort Myers Beach > DOT-Symbol Research

Sketch for the DOT symbols by Cook & Shanosky (Smithsonian Design Museum). Ca. 1974.

Sketches for the DOT symbols by Cook & Shanosky (Smithsonian Design Museum). Ca. 1974.

New York was the starting place for 4 interviews and some crucial archive research into the DOT symbols. Perhaps the best interview I had was with Tom Geismar, one of the founding partners of Chermayeff & Geismar, a known US design agency of the 1960. They designed among others the Mobile, Chase, Xerox and National Geographic identity. Interestingly they have a connection with the Netherlands: In the 1960s Total Design, Chermayeff & Geismar and Pentagram co published a book with their logo’s. Continue reading

Students marching by

Students wearing uniforms near XJTLU-campus

Students wearing uniforms near XJTLU-campus

It still is the start of the academic year! That means that first year students will get military training to instil some nationally cherished virtues in them, like discipline and national pride. At the end of their training they have to fire some bullets too. I had heard about the training. But nevertheless I was surprised when I saw four platoons of female students marching by.

Design wise their uniforms look fresh and colourful. Not the drab greens and rusty reds usually associated with China. After training it is time for relaxation and old habits creep in again: students grap their handbags, mobiles and tea cups. It seems that some of them also wear army issued sneakers.

Now it is just playtime. But what about the future? Will this training make them support the military more when China does get involved in a conflict? For now my only worry is that this training does not prepare them well for the courses creative thinking at our Industrial Design Department. Of course the training could also work counter productive. I will ask my students.


‘Self Unself’ exhibition of Design Academy in Suzhou is solely ‘Self’

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Last weekend the exhibition ‘Self Unself’ opened in Suzhou at the Suzhou Arts & Culture Center. On display was a collection of Dutch design works curated by the Design Academy (Eindhoven, the Netherlands). The exhibition was not about the tension between the self & unself, as proposed by director Thomas Widdershoven of the Design Academy, but solely about the self of the designers of the objects on show.

The exhibition Self Unself gave the impression of a self centred ‘Dutch Design’ scene that has lost touch with design as a professional activity, my assumption being that design somehow is related to mass production and providing also practical value to society. It seemed to me that there was a large disconnect between what the makers wanted their objects to convey, and what visitors saw. Continue reading

Chinese version of ‘A Clear Dream’ published

ChineseDroomBoekBakker-005Yes! Finally the Chinese edition of my book Droom van helderheid : Huisstijlen, ontwerpbureaus en modernisme in Nederland : 1960-1975 (A Clear Dream : Visual Identity, Design Agencies and Modernism in The Netherlands : 1960-1975) is for sale! A large colourful pocket with an interesting print quality to match. Some people asked me, how did that happen, a book in China? Well, with a combination of luck and hard work. Let me explain. Continue reading

KLM house style report by FHK Henrion, 1962


In November 1962 FHK Henrion presented an extensive proposal for a new house style to the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). It was approved of shortly and the house style was introduced from 1963 onwards. KLM’s airplanes, vehicles and publicity materials were given the now familiar blue crown with a plus, balls and a stripe.

Henrion’s presentation was accompanied by a thorough report that was written by him and his close associate Alan Parkin. It is reproduced in full underneath and serves as a striking testament to one of the most successfull British design agencies in the nineteen sixties. Also it builds a convincing case, even today, for the power of good rethorics, visually and textually. Continue reading

A mysterious lost building in Utrecht


Remarkable about this photograph is the tranquillity of the scene depicted, so characteristic for many photographs taken in this time. In otherwise empty surroundings three ladies look toward the photographer. Their wide victorian dresses almost serving as foundations that keep them grounded.
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A PTT lunchbox?


‘PTT’ set in a Univers 55 was the logo that the Dutch State Company for Post and Telecommunications used for over two decades. A tremor of recognition when I encountered this mailbox red lunchbox on the internet.

Initially the PTT-logo in Univers was meant as a temporary replacement for a the real logo proposals. Dutch design agencies Tel Design and Total Design had both been working on a visual identity for the Dutch PTT since 1971. Delays and management changes resulted in a hesitant acceptance of the proposals.

The most important issue was which of the two logo proposals to choose. In the mean time teh PTT already started producing printed matter in the new visual identity typeface, the Univers. When in 1977 the initiative was taken to conclude some of the contractual business between the PTT and the design agencies. It was decided to leave things as they were.

Redesigning UK train tickets?


In 2011 designer Daniel Gray and a friend made two return trips by train in the United Kingdom (UK)  from York to Ipswich. To their surprise they needed 25 seperate tickets to make this journey. Such an amount is not unusual in the UK as also Laura Barnard and Rachel Woodward (14 tickets) can testify too. Gray wrote on his blog: ‘somewhere along the way ticket designers forgot about humans […] one journey, one ticket, how difficult is that?’. Responding to his outcry fellow designers tried to improve UK railway tickets. Did they get ticket design on top of the agenda of British railway companies? Continue reading