TYPO speeches that moved us: Wim Crouwel – After the Alphabet

At TYPO 1996 “Idea vs. Ideology”, typography had reached the climax of breaking free from conventions. It was the time of Ray Gun, Fuse and Dirty Faces.


So what now in 2011? What happened to the wild fonts and layouts? Is balance back? An exhibition on Crouwel and his work has just commenced at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Showing 30 years history of finest Dutch typography, Crouwel suggested a compromise between classical training and experimentation (first seconds are in German movie in .mov-Format).

Wim Crouwel: After the Alphabet 1967 – 1996

Pointing to the pioneers of Europe’s Industrial Culture and with over 30 years experience in type design, Crouwel’s insight and knowledge of the type industry proved to make an entertaining final presentation of TYPO 1996. Taking us through a retrospective of his work he explained his early interest in grids, architecture and Bauhaus design. As with many peers of his time, his primary concern was for legibility, whilst still pushing the boundaries of type design. Crouwel noted that in recent years ‘readability’ has got lost. “The production of type faces and print is ever growing, each copying/mimicking the former the result is like eating airline food in the rain”.

Speaker Pic

Wim Crouwel

Wim (Wilm Hendrik) Crouwel 21-11-1928 born in Groningen, The Netherlands 1946-1949 Art Academy Minerva, Groeningen 1949-1951 Military service 1951-1952 Amsterdam Artschool IVKNO 1952-1954 Designer with an exhibtion company, Amsterdam 1954-1956 Free-lance designer, Amsterdam 1954-1957 Teacher at the Royal Art Academy, s´Hertogenbosch 1955-1963 Teacher at the Amsterdam Artschool IVKNO 1957-1960 Designstudio together with interior designer Kho Liang le, Amsterdam 1960-1963 Free-lance designer, Amsterdam 1963-1980 Co-founder and partner Total Design, Amsterdam 1965-1972 Lecturer Technical University, Delft (industrial design) 1972-1978 Professor extraordinary Technical University, Delft 1980-1982 Lecturer Technical University, Delft 1980-1985 Consultant Total Design, Amsterdam 1982-1985 Full Professor Technical University, Delft 1981-1985 Visiting professor Royal College of Art, London 1985-1993 Director of the Boymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam 1987-1993 Private chair Erasmus University, Rotterdam (art and cultural sciences) from 1994 Free-lance designer and consultant, Amsterdam One man exhibitions: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1979, Museum Wiesbaden 1991, Design Center, Stuttgart 1992 Took part in many groupexhibitions in the Netherlands, and abroad. Speaker at many congresses, symposia, and workshops. Published in newspapers, magazines, and books about design. Received many awards among others: the Werkman prize 1958, the Duwaer prize 1965, the Piet Zwart prize 1991, and the Stankowsky prize 1991. 1957 Knight of the Order of Leopold II, Belgium 1980 Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau 1989 Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire 1993 Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion 1994 Doctor Honoris Causa, Technical University, Delft

He continued to explain that nowadays it seems we have broken away from the grid as a structure. Text is not to be read, it is to be experienced.The image of many different pages seems to make the whole, (example; Ray Gun). Although admitting to being impressed with what he sees, he felt a balance is needed. Blaming art college curriculums for the drop in legality within design, he concluded that a compromise was need between experimentation and classical training.

(summerized by Lewis Berman, documentation Typo 1996)