This newsletter is published in tandem with the launch of our new studio website. Both platforms allow Studio Joost Grootens (SJG) to show how the work we do is connected to larger themes we develop within the studio, and explore in graphic products, lectures, research activities and educational projects.
NOT FROM SCRATCH
Brick. An exacting material presents the outcome of extensive academic research into many different aspects of this building material. The book on contemporary Dutch brick architecture originated at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. Edited by Jan Peter Wingender it contains photographs, drawings and texts on the interface of education, theory and practice. For SJG it was important to acknowledge that any new book on such a subject is part of a legacy. There are shelves full of books on brick architecture that provided vital references to the authors. As designers we feel a similar obligation to the design history of architectural publishing: we do not work from scratch. The choice for a pre-modern typography exemplifies this awareness. The book’s physical characteristics express its contemporary position. As an object Brick is everything but a brick. Despite its substance it is a lightweight book, the spine is deliberately rounded whereas the corners are straight, and to help avoid any likeness with the real deal the colour red has not been used in the cover.
From the outset PARS dedicates its efforts to orchestrating a meeting of minds between scientists and artists. Its main vehicle is a series of publications: Findings on…, (Lars Müller Publishers). Each issue deals with a single core theme that bears relevance to a multitude of creative (research) practices. Recently Findings on Light was presented as the third volume in PARS’ Atlas of Creative Thinking. Because the contributions come from such different fields of expertise (from cognitive science and textile conservation to neurology and contemporary composing) it is important that each entry is designed to bring out its own specific graphic context. An article written by a theoretical physicist demands a graphic treatment that reflects the typology of scientific publishing, whereas the contribution of a poet should be immediately recognised and thus appreciated as a work of art. The confrontation of disciplines is clearly expressed in the way the contributions have been organised on the page. They literally meet halfway. Graphic formats engage in a similar kind of ‘relay run’ as the articles.
Recent commissions by several Dutch museums provided us with a chance to experiment with the visual representation of a collection. Our interest was triggered when we started work on the Collection book for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam (published in 2012). The book design demonstrates a work process in which the physical collection is perceived as a data set on which an almost infinite number of filters can be applied. Every filter reveals another reading of the collection. If a certain set of measurements is used as the filter, the outcome will be completely different from a search based on – for instance – dates of acquisition or gender of the artist.
The long-term collaboration with the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) that started in 2013 is centred round the Museum Index: a graphic system that allows visitors to oversee the collection and to keep track of possible changes (f.i. loans, new acquisitions). The Museum Index is printed on the wall in a central gallery. It is not meant as an artwork, but solely as a representation of data. Again, certain filters add meaning. The use of red in an otherwise black-an-white installation indicates the insurance value of the works, which marks the relation between value development and time of purchase. Such ‘political’ aspects play an important role because the politics of collecting is such a crucial topic for the Van Abbemuseum.
For the exhibition The 1980s that is currently on show in the Van Abbemuseum, SJG made a timeline showing artworks the museum acquired from 1980 until today. Only the works created in the 1980s are visible, works from other periods are left blank.
For the Municipal Museum in Schiedam SJG made earlier this year a series of spatial infographics in the museum galleries that show how the collection has expanded over the last fifteen years.
CHANGE OF SCALE
The recently opened group exhibition Dream Out Loud (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, until 1 January 2017) presents recent design projects that ‘figure out ways to solve today’s complex societal issues’. SJG has collaborated with Bart Guldemond who designed the spatial installation of Dream Out Loud. A shared point of departure for both the interior and the graphic design was the recognition that a presentation of so much design didn’t need another newly designed layer. Guldemond therefore worked with extrapolations of existing plinths, floors, ceilings and walls in the museum, and SJG based its graphic contributions on the existing identity of the museum, designed by Mevis & Van Deursen. A change of scale is the most important adjustment. Captions are printed in a larger typesize on 1 × 1,5 metre, light grey posters and distributed along the outer walls of the galleries. The larger typesize makes it possible for visitors to read the information without approaching the walls. Illustrations of the objects add visual references. Some of the posters are almost empty: they only show a horizontal black line on eye height. The line defines the boundaries of the exhibition.
SJG was awarded three times during this year’s Best Dutch Books Designs (exhibition in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam until 30 October) for the monograph on artist Jan Schoonhoven, the Van Dale Dictionary of the Dutch language, and Brick. An exacting material (see above). The latter won a silver medal at the Best Book Design from all over the World competition (Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt) in Leipzig earlier this year. The Van Dale dictionary is nominated for the Designs of the Year award, organised by the Design Museum in London (UK) and for the Dutch Design Award, Eindhoven. Earlier this year the project won a Golden Laus Award in Barcelona (ES) and a Graphite Pencil at D&AD in London (UK).
Next to his regular teaching activities at Design Academy Eindhoven, where Joost Grootens heads the MA Information Design department, he lectured at several art and design institutions in the Netherlands and abroad, such as the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht and the National Design Center in Singapore. Especially the lectures at several schools and research institutes for architecture have again resulted in valuable exchanges with students, tutors and scholars at TU Munich, the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and the KADK in Copenhagen.
Today our new website will be launched: www.joostgrootens.nl
Seven important domains – from monographs and atlases to the design of tools – are presented by means of a photo essay and a short introduction text. The website also contains an archive of 176 projects. It was designed in-house and built in collaboration with Systemantics.