By Lizza Gutierrez
In any profession, it’s fundamental to keep abreast of trends in the industry if one is to remain in the forefront — the field of visual communication is not exempt from this practice.
Bearing this in mind, I searched for design festivals that would feed my yearning for new insights and inspirations. I wanted to see what people from other cultures were creating and to learn from their visions. So last October, I visited design festivals in the Dutch cities of Breda and Eindhoven that left my creative wanderlust in awe.
Breda is a quaint city in the southern part of the Netherlands and every two years, the city celebrates Graphic Matters for a month. While there, I immersed myself in the exhibitions, guided tours, film presentations and other activities that harnessed the influential essence of visual communication.
Design of Dissent curated by Milton Glaser, Mirko Ilic, Civilization, and Dennis Elbers
I would consider Design of Dissent one of the most significant exhibitions of the festival. Curated by Milton Glaser, Mirko Ilic, Civilization and Dennis Elbers, the collection is a testament to the persuasive effect of visual communication that empowers people to take action. This was the very first time that the exhibition was held in Europe since it premiered in New York back in 2005. The body of work dates back to the 1960s and the festival exhibition was updated to include more recent social movements that gave birth to the iconic visuals created by the likes of Jean Jullien and Shepard Fairey.
Another compelling exhibition was aptly called Speak Up. From thousands of entries from 91 countries, 57 posters were chosen to be part of the festival’s initiative to visualize the many issues that have fractured our world. The posters invited one to pause and to be provoked. Through image and type, the posters were unapologetic and critical. Themes included climate change, human rights and polarizing world leaders. Designers from Germany, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey expressed viewpoints regarding Donald Trump and his policies. Other memorable posters were Poland’s entries that spoke about non-violence and the plight of immigrants and Ukraine’s graphic representation of fake news.
At the other end of the spectrum, the festival yielded hope and joy through the works of other creatives.
A sample of New York-based graphic designer Jeremyville’s work
Jeremyville is a graphic designer from New York. His Community Service Announcement project featured his illustrations and words that invite one to be introspective and to reach out to others amidst our busy lives. To reach a wider audience, Jeremyville’s works took shape as printed announcements in a parking garage and a public billboard.
More Hugs by Ken Lo
Ken Lo is a Hong Kong-based designer. His More Hugs project touched one’s heart through his signature iconography. The city’s Valkenberg Park became home for 40 flags adorned with Lo’s creations that are drawn from present-day pop culture that spread the message of “more hugs and less hate”.
The plethora of concepts offered by Graphic Matters reminded me that there is enormous value in telling our stories and sharing our opinions through the visual language we speak. As Dennis Elbers, the founder of the festival shared, Graphic Matters is about impact and making a difference — visual communication is about being critical, conscious and active — especially today.
Dutch Design Week
From Breda, I took the train further south of the Netherlands and headed to Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week. Eindhoven is energetic and cosmopolitan. More than 125 years ago, the lighting company Philips found its roots in the city which most likely started the growth of Eindhoven into a hub of innovation, creativity, technology, design and education.
Dutch Design Week was exceptional. The entire city center was bursting with creative inspiration. Presented by the Dutch Design Foundation, the event was a feast for one’s senses. Countless talks and expositions of varied design disciplines simultaneously happened in different venues. Any preconceived separation between these disciplines blurred as ideas, materials and technical expertise seamlessly produced compelling outputs. Innovation, technology and user experience were universal threads in visual communication, product, service and craft projects.
Colback textiles by the Amhems Collective
Low & Bonar, a manufacturing company, commissioned the Arnhems Collective to experiment with their technical textile called Colback that is normally fabricated for carpets and flooring. Dana Dijkgraaf, a graphic designer, explored with the said material through printing techniques.
Socialorlost benches by Jonas Voigt and Robin Weidner
Jonas Voigt and Robin Weidner created the Socialorlost bench. The bench is for human interaction as it solicits reciprocal interplay and critical discourse among its users. One’s empathy for others is tested by the object and questions presented.
Various projects incorporated virtual and augmented reality tools. A beverage product used augmented reality in its packaging design thereby creating an enhanced experience for the end user.
The different Dutch city governments collaborated with designers to help solve the needs of local communities. Stack Je Money, an app presented in the festival, is meant to teach young people how to manage their money better.
Inside the Box by Lisanne Koning
Students of the Design Academy of Eindhoven executed inspiring work that are anchored to social issues. Lisanne Koning’s Inside the Box thesis project provides toys and games for children in refugee camps by printing designs and illustrations on the interior surfaces of boxes that are meant to transport relief goods.
These are only a handful of design projects and trends that I discovered in Dutch Design Week. Each of them ignited imagination, practicality and critical thinking in order to reshape the way we relate and communicate with each other.
About the author
Lizza is an art director and principal graphic designer of Lizza’s Room, a graphic design studio she established in the Philippines.