Friday, 8 April 2011

Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey, talk and Exhibition

From right Mels & Wim Crouwel & Rick Poyner, Tony Brook (Spin) on front row.
I took a trip to London to visit the the Design Museum's retrospective of Dutch Typefather, Wim Crouwel. A Graphic Odyssey was accompanied by a talk from the man himself and his architect son, Mels Crouwel. The whole discussion mediated by renowned design critic Rick Poyner.
Curated by Tony brook of Spin, the exhibition is aptly gridded out with long white tables. A huge collection of Crouwel's work adorns the walls. Crouwel's lesser known early exhibition design resides alongside his iconic posters, detailed sketchbook extracts and logo roughs as well as Crouwel's lower case re-design of the phonebook. The exhibition also showed work from contemporary designers who have since been inspired by Crouwel, proving that the Total Design aesthetic remains undated even by todays standards.
After seeing the exhibition I walked upstairs to the intimate lecture space, to watch the talk, which was sold out. There were a limited number of seats, which created a good atmosphere as the talk felt much more like an informal discussion rather than a hard nosed design debate.
On seeing Crouwel I noticed that he had such a presence amongst his many admirers and it was clear that I was in the company of an icon. Mels also white haired an bespectacled, didn't wilt in his fathers presence, but rather embraced it, as he explained he had done all his life. For Mels, a career within design was inevitable, growing up in a converted house boat, surruounded by the designs and creations of his father from furniture to the house structure itself.
I found the discussion lively and upbeat, Poyner certainly knows how to curate a discussion and it was interesting to see that although Mels had been saturated by his fathers design influence and shared his modernist values, when applied to architecture, Mels is certainly a designer in his own right. The idea that graphic design can be applied to the way a space works is not a new idea, but it is certainly one that makes sense, highlighting the ever blurring boundaries between creative disciplines.
I bought the beautifully designed catalogue at the end of the show and if it wasn't for my need to catch an early train I would have definitely hung around to meet the man himself and perhaps get an autograph. Overall an great insight into Modernist Dutch design as well as the influence of Britain (Fletcher Forbes Gill) on the Dutch design scene. A great addition to my ever increasing interest in typography.
I have recorded the talk and it can be listened to here

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