January 6, 2011

Designer Wim Crouwel retrospective. London Design Museum celebrates the prolific career of the Dutch graphic designer

Exhibition: Wim Crouwel
A Graphic Odyssey
Design Museum, London
30 March - 3 July 2011

The DESIGN MUSEUM in London celebrates the prolific career of the Dutch graphic designer WIM CROUWEL in this his FIRST UK RETROSPECTIVE.

New Alphabet, 1967
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London 
Regarded as one of the leading designers of the twentieth century, WIM CROUWEL embraced a new modernity to produce TYPOGRAPHIC DESIGNS that captured the essence of the emerging computer and space age of the early 1960s.

Exhibition Poster Architect Gerrit Rietvel,

Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam 
Museum Boymans Beuningen, 1959
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London  
This exhibition, spanning over 60 years, will cover Crouwel’s rigorous design approach and key moments in his career including his work for design practice ‘Total Design’, the identity for the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, as well as his iconic poster, print, typography and lesser known exhibition design. The exhibition will also highlight Crouwel’s rigorous design approach exploring his innovative use of grid-based layouts and typographic systems to produce consistently striking asymmetric visuals.


Leger Exhibition Poster, Van Abbe Museum,

Quadrat-Print, Dejong & Co, 1957
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London
Born in 1928, Wim Crouwel studied fine art in Groningen before moving to Amsterdam in the early 1950s where he initially worked for an exhibition design company. Heavily influenced by architecture, Crouwel’s sense of spatial awareness and identity led to commissions for cultural institutions, most notably in 1956 for the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. Commissions for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam followed leading to Crouwel taking sole responsibility for the museum’s identity, posters and catalogues.

Beelden in het heden (Sculptures Today),

Exhibition Poster, 1959
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London
Whilst at the Stedelijk, Crouwel developed his unique grid system which acted as a museum template for its graphic identity, an approach which realised a visual consistency for the museum and in doing so defined a turning point for the world of graphic design.

The dawn of the space age and computer technology throughout the 60s encouraged new approaches and possibilities for typeface design. Embracing the mood of modernity, Crouwel designed a radical ‘NEW ALPHABET’ TYPEFACE, especially for the use in emerging computer systems. The ‘New Alphabet’ designed in 1967 appeared almost alien, a cipher script of vertical and horizontal lines. This Illegible font challenged the design establishment and provoked debate, a debate which Crouwel was happy to engage and openly admitted to placing visual aesthetics above function.

Exhibition Catalogue, Jackson Polock, 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1980
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London 
The ‘New Alphabet’ was redrawn by Brett Wickens and Peter Saville for the Joy Division album, ‘Substance’ in the late 80s and then digitized and made available for use in 1997 by The Foundry. Crouwel designed a number of other fonts including Gridnik, an appropriate reference to his use of grid systems and Mr. Gridnik became Crouwel’s endearing nickname.



Exhibition Poster, De Stijl,
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1983
© Wim Crouwel - Courtesy Design Museum, London  
In 1963 Crouwel founded the multi-disciplinary design agency TOTAL DESIGN creating the identity for numerous Dutch companies. Together with the founding partners, Crouwel shaped the visual landscape of the Netherlands throughout the 60’s and 70’s, working for clients such as IBM, and typeface commissions for Olivetti. In the 1970s Crouwel was part of a team of four designers who designed the Dutch Pavilion for the Osaka World Fair. Crouwel also designed numerous postal stamps for the Dutch post office and a controversial redesign of the telephone book using only lowercase letters.
Original sketches, posters, catalogues and archive photography will be on display alongside films and audio commentary. In addition to celebrating Crouwel’s career this exhibition will also explore his legacy and influence on contemporary graphic design with commentary from leading industry figures including PETER SAVILLE and STEFAN SAGMEISTER. In addition six designers will take inspiration from Crouwel’s career to produce a series of limited edition prints, a unique Wim Crouwel inspired wallpaper will also be sold exclusively in the Design Museum Shop.

Exhibition guest curated by TONY BROOK, Creative Director, Spin.

This exhibition at the Design Museum is upported by The Mondriaan Foundation

Shad Thames

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