Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Square Pegs

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Square Pegs

Article excerpt

The postwar reconstruction era of 1950s in the Netherlands is usually viewed as a dreary time of hard work and obedience to state, church and nation, particularly when compared to the 1960s. However, if you consider the dynamic cultural production of the time, a lively scene of artists and designers was in fact contributing to the development of an open, prosperous society. There was an atmosphere of co-operation in which Dutch designers and the print industry shared an interest in the development of professional communication.

One of the most inventive printing firms of the time was Steendrukkerij de Jong & Co., whose manager, Pieter Brattinga Jr, came up with the idea of commissioning leading designers to make promotional items, such as business giftcards, to raise the firm's profile as 'a quality printer in the cultural field'. Eventually this led to monthly exhibitions of artists' and designers' work being held in the company canteen. The idea that designers should work closely with printers to help 'develop accuracy and the best quality of printing the designer could have wished for' was new. Brattinga and his team had a good feel for quality printing and invited the most challenging designers of the time to take part.

To share their work with the public, Brattinga developed one of the most impressive formats in Dutch postwar printing: the Kwadraat-Bladen ('Square Magazines'), which were to play a vital role in what has become known as Dutch graphic design. …

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