Jan van Toorn, Critical Practice

Third in the series examining graphic design in the Netherlands is Rick Poynor’s assessment of designer Jan van Toorn’s vast creative output

As Poynor writes, “instead of smooth­ness, wholeness, good taste and perfection, he offers discontinuity and disruption”. To many, these are the very qualities that make his work so appealing and, as it transpired, so unpalatable to Wim Crouwel, who had a series of heated critical exchanges with van Toorn in the 1970s over their largely antithetical value systems and approaches to design. As a new critical monograph of van Toorn’s work, the book (designed by Simon Davies) includes a wealth of projects from the prolific Dutchman, including his posters and catalogues for the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, a range of his frequently challenging stamp commissions, and many of the infamous calendars that he regularly produced for printing firm, Mart.Spruijt (cover and pages from the 1969/70 calendar shown above). At the age of 76, van Toorn remains a controversial practitioner and this year marks his 51st as a producer of great – if at times uncomfortable – graphic design.

Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice, 010 Publishers; €37.50 

 

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