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The Playground of the In-Between

Source collection of The Playground of the In-between

Ootje Oxenaar

From 1966 until 1985, Ootje Oxenaar worked for the Nederlandsche Bank on a series of banknotes. It was here that he designed what came to be his most famous project and, in terms of currency design, what many consider to be the most beautiful money in the world. Later designs by Oxenaar step away from the traditional idea of using historical figures on currency and instead use illustrations of references of The Netherlands such as the lighthouse referencing the coast, or sunflowers indirectly referencing Vincent van Gogh.


Central to the series BANKNOTES from Jaap Drupsteen he made between 1994 and 1999 is that he expresses the technology that comes with the manufacture of them. It was the first time that the bank did not prescribe a particular iconography. Drupsteen wanted the banknote to communicate in its entirety and not just the ‘picture’ on it. “The number of blocks on the front and back of each banknote is just as much as its value in guilders. The public can already recognize the value of the banknote on a small part of the surface, on the structure and size of the blocks.”

Dutch coins

In 1980 Bruno Ninaber designed the new set of Dutch coins with the image of queen Beatrix; the coins were taken into production in 1982. The portrait side shows Beatrix in her official capacity as Queen of the Netherlands: proud and clear.
The reverse side expresses the historical development of the Dutch currency with its respect for tradition. The graphical representation of the decimal system reflects the orderliness of the Dutch polder landscape and also shows the structure of the currency system.

Jean François van Royen

Starting at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dutch Postal Services strove for fine designs for all their activities; it was the first state-owned enterprise to pursue such a policy. Stamps played an important role in this respect, together with advertisements, mailboxes and furniture. Jean François van Royen, a man of many talents, is credited with initiating this policy. He was of the opinion that the state ought to play an active, educating role in society, particularly with regard to design.

Het boek van PTT

The booklet Het boek van PTT was commissioned by and in collaboration with the Main Board of Post Telegraphs and Telephony by Piet Zwart. In the early 1930s, Piet Zwart started this book, which would not be published until 1938. It turned out to be a festive booklet with 49 pages in which typography, illustration and photography were combined in perfect balance.

De Verbinding

On the occasion of the completion of the automation in the telephone network in the Netherlands on 22 May 1962. the PTT published De Verbinding. It is one of the most famous Dutch corporate photo books from the 1960s, with the collaboration of top photographers and graphic designers (Pieter Brattinga, Violette Cornelius, Eddy Posthuma de Boer, Jan Bons, Jan G. Elburg, Paul Huf, Hein de Bouter, Simon den Hartog, Herman van Eelen and Corinne Rottschäfer) led by Christiaan de Moor and Jurriaan Schrofer.

Wild Plakken

Wild Plakken is a design studio that expressly took the form of a collective; the core was formed in 1977 by Lies Ros, Rob Schröder and Frank Beekers. In 1985, Wild Plakken designs the series of children’s stamps with the theme ‘Child and Traffic’. On the postage stamp of 50 + 25 cents we see an image of a key switch with a key in it. Behind the key is a framed photograph of a child with the inscription “Think of me”. On this and 3 other stamps Wild Plakken expresses the theme in words and images in a triangle shape that refers to road signs.

Telephone book

From 1972 Jolijn van de Wouw got her own team at the design office Total Design. In 1975 she worked with Wim Crouwel on the design for the first electronically typed telephone book of the PTT. They opted for a completely new design: four instead of three columns on one page, no capital letters and the telephone numbers before the name and address. However, this design provoked fierce reactions. The PTT was overloaded with complaints and various criticisms were also voiced in the media. Although Jolijn van de Wouw fully supported the design, she continued to devote herself until 1984 to the adaptations for the subsequent telephone directories.

Susanne Heynemann

In 1956 Susanne Heynemann joined the publisher J.B. Wolters for graphic assignments. The publisher wanted to pay more attention to the appearance of school books. The school books looked dull and dry and that needed to change. Her starting point was readability and “nuance”. The calm, unobtrusive choice of typography is typical of the work of Heynemann. The appearance of Wolters-Noordhoff’s books has undergone enormous development largely due to her actions. After 1956 she took care of dozens of publications from pre-primary to university education.

Kerstnummer Grafisch Nederland

The “business card of graphic Netherlands” that the sector collectively promoted between 1911 and 2006 is an annual publication. Kerstnummer Grafisch Nederland was organized by Graphic Culture Foundation and produced by a range of graphic companies. In the course of the new century, this ‘Kerstnummer’ increasingly changed into an exurbitant work of art, culminating in Kleur/Color issue from 2005, which was printed in full color plus no fewer than 80 PMS colors to a design by Irma Boom (an exploration of colour by means of examining eighty famous works of art). It is, because of Boom’s status, the ‘Kerstnummer’ that is sold in large numbers around the world, but was not nearly as appreciated in its own circle.


During the period of reconstruction after WWII, following the Dutch publishing industry that was internationally known for its progressive ideas, more industries became open to new dynamism. In the 1950’s Alexander Verberne and Ton Raateland gave Philips house magazine, Range, and open layout with classic type and a sparing use of illustrations and diagrams. There was a continuing desire to experiment with shapes, colours and materials.

Marten Jongema

Marten Jongema (1951-2011) established himself as a graphic designer with the posters for ‘The Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ (1984-1987). He designed book covers for various authors like Connie Palmen and posters for Theatergroep Carrousel. Jongema occupied a special position among his colleagues: while many seized the computer in the 1980s, he continued to paint and draw. Often in combination with photographs associating with the subject of the poster, this method resulted in his characteristic poetical images.

Dick Elffers

Over the years the Holland Festival has attracted designers who make cutting edge posters. From 1954-1965 and 1969-1972, the Holland Festival posters were designed by Dick Elffers. His contributions grew into a poster culture which some colleagues saw as an example and others as an obstacle, because Elffers set the tone high. The Holland Festival poster became renowned in the designer world of The Netherlands.

Jan Bons

Jan Bons (1918-2012) has been responsible for the posters of De Appel for almost 30 years. Typical of Bons is the symbiosis of commitment and fantasy. Bons invented new images, creating images behind reality. “The only way to rise above mediocre work, talentless clients and uninspiredness is: social engagement”. Jan Bons is an example of freedom and independence. Fighting for this freedom to create your own image he stood at the basis of Dutch design culture, its freedom being one of the main reasons why graphic design here has a quality that people are jealous of far beyond our borders.

Gert Dumbar

“I chose that form at the time to protest against the exaggerated, almost religious respect with which Mondrian was treated on posters and in publications.” Gert Dumbar’s complex and staged images appealed to the feeling, caused confusion or caused irritation. They were seldom unambiguous, explored the limits of legibility and took “time” from the viewer.

Jan van Toorn

Jan van Toorn is one of the arch-fathers of the debate in the Netherlands and abroad on the social and cultural responsibility of designers. Since the late 1960s, he has consistently advocated a design culture which takes into account that information cannot be neutral: a design should show where it comes from, the designer should reveal who’s talking, and which interests guide the message. Van Toorn focused on meaning rather than smooth stylistic expression and developed critical alternatives to the usual design world conventions. Van Toorn aligned himself with the reflexive tradition of art and communication exemplified by Brecht and Godard.

Lex Reitsma

In 2014, Dutch National Ballet and De Nederlandse Opera began operating under the name Dutch National Opera & Ballet, from the company’s home base at National Opera & Ballet, the former Amsterdam Music Theatre. The merger of these Amsterdam cultural institutions also meant that after 23 years, Lex Reitsma’s celebrated series of posters and program designs for Dutch National Opera, came to an end.

Anthon Beeke

“I wanted to design, I wanted to make things”, Anthon Beeke says about growing up in the sixties, “no one can take that away from you. I wanted to be a free person”. As the son of an Amsterdam plasterer, he was not destined to it, but he secretly opted for an evening class in arts and crafts. He developed himself into the most controversial poster maker in the Netherlands. “Provocate? No. I was not out to provoke. I wanted people to think when they saw that image in the street: Hey? Hey!? Did I see that well? And then walk back five steps. Take another look and another look. And again. “Jesus, what is that?”

Mevis & van Deursen

In 1996 Mevis & van Deursen were asked to designed the yearly diary for KPN, the Dutch telecommunications company. They used informal photographs of ordinary environments — images intended to show “how casually the company’s services were integrated into people’s daily lives”. The diary, regarded as a prestigious design commission in The Netherlands, was created for KPN’s 60,000 employees. Mevis and Van Deursen wanted it to represent everyone from the mailman to the director. But in the end the once he company hated its inelegance and destroyed many copies.

Holland Festival

During the tenure of artistic director Pierre Audi from 2005-2014, Maureen Mooren designed the identity of the Holland Festival. In 2005 and 2006 Maureen Mooren collaborated with Daniël van der Velden. The theme of festival in 2006 was ‘Melancholia & Hysteria’, and the designers created a series of 5 posters, spread over a number of weeks as a very delayed animated film. The series tries to raise the standard of the poster as a medium.


The designs of Daniel van der Velden & Maureen Mooren were aimed at users, readers, viewers, and not ‘customers’. This meant that the user did not have to be convinced immediately, but rather was invited to talk to the work. Being aware that there is no design which can be seen independent from ‘information overload’ (from which design is in part profiting, in part suffering), singular, simple solutions were seen as reactionary responses to a compexity that is too difficult for design alone to overcome. In that sense Archis was not a solution from the client’s self-defined inside, but one based on their outside, a relentlessly full magazine store from which different typologies were quoted and stolen.

Studio Machine

Michel Majerus (1967 – 2002) was a Luxembourg artist whose work combined painting with digital media. Painting was Majerus’s preferred medium of expression, but his creative horizon extended to many aspects of popular culture, from computer games, digital imagery, film, television, and pop music to trademarks, corporate logos and other pop-culture sources. The casting of Studio Machine (Mark Klaverstijn & Paul du Bois-Reymond) for the design of the poster for his exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (‘WHAT LOOKS Good TODAY MAY NOT LOOK GOOD TOMORROW’ in 2005) was perfect: the expressive typography communicates in exactly the right tone of voice.

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Rudy Guedj designed the publicity material for I see I see what you don’t see, an exhibition organised by Het Nieuwe Insituut. Historically, large corporations and cultural institutions have contributed to a rich and experimental graphic-design culture in the Netherlands. This culture is under threat since even this category of clients opts for the standardisation of communications with the result that the public’s preferences are reinforced rather than challenged. To counter this stagnation the plans for a new graphic identity quickly turned to thinking about providing a new platform for graphic designers that would simultaneously form the identity and communications for Het Nieuwe Instituut.

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