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Dutch Type

2004 (260, 296) 010 Publishers

The Hague, the new generation

Exuberance at Cranbrook: As a graphic student at the Royal Academy (KABK) in The Hague, Catelijne van Middelkoop (1975) envied her colleagues in the fine arts department, who were allowed to create things that were allowed to create things that were simply beautiful. She was bothered by the constant demand that graphic design be justified in terms of functionality and efficiency. Although she diligently took the lessons of Frank E. Blokland, Matthias Noordzij and Peter Verheul, she ultimately felt that her own approach to typography – her desire to explore ornament and decoration – was not very welcome in The Hague or, for that matter, the Dutch scene. On the advice of Jan Willem Stas, the head of the KABK’s Type and Media course, she went to the States and enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art after graduating in The Hague in 2000. When she and her partner Ryan Pescatore Frisk were invited to teach ‘Graphic Language’ at a Detroit technical school, Van Middelkoop decided to do as she had been taught: ‘to begin at the beginning and enter the high-tech computer room armed with broad-nibbed and pointed pens.’ teaching became a way to rediscover the roots of graphic design, exploring ancient sources such as ‘The Universal Penman’ by George Bickham and John Baskerville’s gravestone designs. Her new-found joy in writing and drawing letterforms led to the exuberant design of Cranbrook’s ‘Graduate Studies Catalogue’ as well as a picturesque graduation project: hand-drawn, machine-produced gravestones for Cinderella and other fairytale heroines. Catelijne van Middelkoop discovered that historical consciousness is embedded much more profoundly in American arts education than in the Dutch schools, where teachers and students seldom look beyond the 1920s avant-garde. At the same time she felt that she, too, had something to offer – the craftsmanship of writing and drawing by hand is more developed in The Hague than in most American schools. The fonts and lettering that Van Middelkoop created during the past few years are proof of this successful transatlantic cross-fertilization. Having returned to The Netherlands, Van Middelkoop and Pescatore Frisk created Dialog Nouveau, an initiative aimed at ‘the investigation of typographic subculture, graphic pluralism and subsequent typographic development’ or, in other words, ‘active typographic anthropology’. Central to these activities will be a website due to be released in spring 2004; the site will also be a point of sale for new typefaces.

(Jan Middendorp)

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Dutch Type

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Jan Middendorp