Glasgow is set to welcome an exhibition from The Design Museum, London, “a graphic odyssey”, which celebrates the prolific career of the Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel in this, his first UK retrospective from 12 April to 30 June. It has been edited and produced for tour to The Lighthouse, Glasgow.
Regarded as one of the leading designers of the twentieth century, Crouwel embraced a new modernity to produce typographic designs that captured the essence of the emerging computer and space age of the early 1960s.
Margaret Cubbage, curator for The Design Museum added: “The presentation of Crouwel’s work as part of this exhibition highlights the significance and influence his career has had on the design profession. To showcase his work within a building of architectural importance, such as The Lighthouse, is particularly pertinent to Crouwel and his interest in architecture.”
This free exhibition features key moments in his career spanning over 60 years, demonstrating Crouwel’s rigorous design approach and exploring his innovative use of grid-based layouts and typographic systems to produce consistently striking asymmetric visuals. The exhibition will display some of his most well-known posters and typographic work, as well as some of his trademarks from the design practice ‘Total Design’.
Kenneth Fowler, Director of Communications at Creative Scotland said, “a graphic odyssey provides the Scottish audience with a rare opportunity to explore the typography and broader work of this highly influential designer.”
Posters, catalogues and print from his career will be on display, as well as an interview filmed especially for the exhibition. 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 Experimental Jetset and Stefan Sagmeister.
The exhibition was guest curated by Tony Brook, Creative Director at Spin, alongside Curator Margaret Cubbage from The Design Museum, London. It was first shown in London, March 2011.
Notes to editors:
• The Lighthouse is Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture
• For further information visit www.thelighthouse.co.uk
• Wim Crouwel background:
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 1955 for the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. Commissions for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam followed leading to Crouwel taking sole responsibility for the museum’s identity, posters and catalogues. 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.
The ‘New Alphabet’ was redrawn by Brett Wickens and Peter Saville for the Joy Division album, ‘Substance’ in the late 80s and then digitised 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.
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 corporations such as Rabobank, PAM & Randstaad. In the 1970’s 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.