14 Graphic Designers from the Netherlands Who Are Putting Dutch Design Back on the Map
Throughout recent history, the Dutch graphic design scene has been one of the most influential in the world. With the winning philosophy that design should be “simple and powerful”, Dutch graphic designers made a huge splash in the global art world up until the 1980s, and their legacy stretched well into the decades beyond. The very term “Dutch design” became a well versed way to describe the groundbreaking, highly-recognisable visual style that had emanated from the Netherlands.
However, to the casual observer, it would seem as if the appeal of Dutch design has slipped somewhat and given way to the current trends set by their Scandinavian neighbours.
So is there a dilemma in the graphic design scene in the Netherlands? It would seem not. We recently spoke to a few of the best graphic designers from the Netherlands who can confirm that Dutch graphic design is very much alive and well…
“We have to be honest here – we never liked the notion of ‘Dutch Design’ as some sort of label or genre. The whole concept, of turning a national identity into some sort of commodity or brand, completely creeps us out.
“Having said that, it’s only logical that our design language is a result of our combined influences, so in that sense we certainly have been shaped by the graphic landscape in which we were brought up – a landscape that happens to be the social-democratic, late-modernist Netherlands of the 1970s.
“But even more than the Netherlands as a whole, it might be Amsterdam as a city that has really influenced our practice as graphic designers. The Provo movement, the squatting subculture etc. – these are all groups that continue to inspire us.”
“The Netherlands is a small country. Tiny even, on a global scale. But Dutch Design goes a long way. It is known everywhere, and not just for graphics but also furniture, fashion and architecture. With RauwCC, we have just returned from a design trip to China.
“It makes me proud that we have such a name in this field. Even more to be working in Holland’s most creative city: Rotterdam.”
“The design scene in the Netherlands is multi-disciplinary, diverse and worldly. I think typical Dutch design is straight to the point, characterized by simplicity and clarity. If you look back, Wim Crouwel was one of the biggest influencers of the Dutch graphic design scene.
“Dutch design is timeless, it’s very similar to Swiss design, based on grids, typography and asymmetrical layouts but with more ‘guts’. When you think of Swiss design you immediately think of Helvetica, Dutch design is more experimental.
“I think it always will be a good and highly creative place for designers to develop themselves. A good thing is that the design sector in the Netherlands maintains a highly-respected status within Dutch culture.”
“Working as a graphic designer in the Netherlands gets more and more exciting these days. Dutch graphic design has always been recognised for its boldness and visual power. We’re very much aware of that and are keen on finding our own visual style, keeping the Dutch tradition in mind.
“We’re a small studio and because of that, we collaborate with talented people in other (design) fields. Each new project demands a different approach. As graphic designers, we’re often at the forefront of hand-picking our team of copywriters, photographers, animators, etc. And it’s such a great thing to keep inspiring each other and learning new stuff every day!”
5. JOSÉ BERNABÉ
“The Dutch design scene is in a sensitive balance between hand made and digital made. This is something closely related with Dutch culture and a way of living that keeps its roots in tradition but takes the best of latest scientific and technological improvements.
“Dutch design (and Dutch communication in general) has a strong focus on creativity and details, but overall it is very concerned about the veracity of the message delivered. The message needs to be simple, direct and honest. This is a must to catch the attention of Dutch people.”
“Graphic design in the Netherlands really stands out, in my opinion, as a clean, crisp and yet playful tone in the world of design. In shapes and colours. Personally, I am very attracted to the clean imagery combined with playful elements with typography. That is also what I tend to do with my own work. A mixture between hand drawn elements, straight vectored lines and a combination of a screen-printed edgy vibe.
“I think Holland has a series of great graphic design studios/designers, illustrators and artists that make this a very pleasant place to be working in. Glad to be a part of this particular scene.”
“The Dutch are always measuring themselves against the great powers of the world; being bold and extravagant or, on the other hand, being Calvinistic; modest and minimal. As a nation we’re always on the search for the right balance.
“Dutch graphic design is a reflection of this mentality. It can go both ways. Mostly, however, I think we design like our northern Scandinavian neighbours: well-considered, natural, aesthetic, detailed.
“However, we also use witticism. We bring fun into a design, not just with a functional intention but also as a gimmick. We like to add an extra “smile” layer.
“Undergoing the rapidly technological developments and political and (inter)cultural developments, I feel we as Dutch designers are not afraid to evolve, reinvent ourselves on the go, and be more and more abandoning of the Dutch motto “If you just behave normally, you are already weird enough.”
“The Netherlands always has been a very tolerant country with a diverse culture and graphic design scene. I think we are very open-minded people and that we tend to focus more on the individual process when growing up. As a result we build a lot of personality. This character eventually ends up in the work we create.
“In my eyes Dutch graphic design is bold, personal, dynamic and usable.”
“The Dutch are often regarded as direct and straightforward, sometimes even seen as blunt. I think these are essential qualities that can also be found in our design culture, and help to get to the core of the design challenge at hand.
“While this might be especially true in the glory days of Dutch design till the late 80s, I think this still applies to Dutch design culture at present day and I try to apply this in my daily design practice.”
10. Vincent Wielders
“I think the Dutch design scene is the most no-nonsense scene in the world. You’ll see a lot of functional design, in which beauty is found in simplicity. The bright colours, simple shapes and in your face communication really appeals to me. I’m trying to base most of my work on these principles. Sadly, it’s not the standard yet. But I just love experimenting with how much (or actually less) I can get away with.
“Most of my Dutch clients are open to anything. I tell them that it’s all about getting your message clear; the rest is just distraction. It’s another story for my personal work. In my free-time, I love designing distractions. It’s the best of both worlds and I love being able to swap between them.”
11. Martin Vlas
“It has driven me from the beginning to get design right. This compulsion to create something beautiful from the ground up.
“My ‘professional designing life’ didn’t start nationally. I jumped right in the international scene after creating a redesign of the most popular MOBA game League of Legends.
“Dutch design is not about thinking outside boxes, borders or boundaries. Dutch design is all about developing something with an incredible amount of passion and care.”
12. RICO VERBATEN
“One of the great things in the Netherlands is that you get the opportunity to develop yourself as a designer. The art schools in the Netherlands are tough because they try to get you out of your comfort zone and to be experimental. Discover the real and pure you. The diversity of people from all around the world who come to the Netherlands will increase your gaze to keep pushing yourself to be different in making the things you love.
“The artistic influence from the Netherlands all over the world is huge. In every country you visit, you’ll find something that has come from a Dutch designer. The Netherlands has an inspiring culture for young and old.”
13. COEN POHL
“Though the Dutch design scene can feel small, it is in fact quite powerful and influential. I noticed this in particular the last few years when I decided to expand my mind by living abroad and travelling around. The Dutch design scene is well known even in the Far East where it has a reputation of being incredibly free and open minded. This is something people, including me, tend to forget sometimes.
“I think we often take the freedom we have to be able to create what we want for granted. While I love travelling and getting inspired by other people and their cultures, I will always be happy to have my roots in the Netherlands because of the freedom and possibilities.”
14. Dani Montesinos
“Since the first time I came to Amsterdam I felt attracted by Dutch graphic design. I think the combination of its arts education, diversity and amount of creative people around the world makes Holland a small country with a great graphic design scene.
“To me, Dutch graphic design looks like the perfect balance between tradition and innovation.”
With these 13 fantastic Dutch graphic designers alone, it looks as though the future of the Dutch design is in good hands. Who do you agree with? Have your say in the comments below…