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• • • • • • on letters, words, books and graphic design • • • • • •

One more muse… Jan Bons




Another poetry collection from the Muze-series, this one was designed and illustrated by Jan Bons in 1958. Bons is a Dutch graphic designer, famous for the posters he made for the IDFA film festival or theatre de Appel, both in Amsterdam. He uses paper cut and collage technique a lot. Watching the excellent documentary by Lex Reitsma on his life and method of designing can only make today’s designers jealous of the freedom this man worked in, both practical and mental. Google him on images and you will become a happier person, guaranteed.



De Muze vertelt
Poetry collected by J.C. Brandt Corstius and Han G. Hoekstra
CPNB – 1958
Illustrations and typography by Jan Bons
Book format: 135 x 215 mm


Filed under: book design, , ,

Painting Art books


Two books on painting. The one above dates from 1936 but was passed on to me by my good friend and colleague PD last year. The title would translate as Beauty in the Art of Painting. It is part of a series of small common interest booklets published by Bosch & Keuning in Baar, Holland between 1934 and 1940. A well documented catalogue of the Libellen Serie can be consulted here.
Black and one spot colour on a yellow leather embossed paper. I like the narrow slab serif letter a lot, despite – or probably due to – its irregularities. The E closes too much, the lower right serif of the R is a bit out of center and the upper left one on the N feels almost assymetric. The serifs on the S and C are a bit clumsy. But the recent Helvetica jubilee made us all remember how boring a too polished or even design can become.

Below is a French title which – contrary to what the front cover suggests – dates from 1964. The dictionary entry, edition 1973, is a mock-up that helps to legitimize the neologism the author proposes in the title of the book. Tableauistes are not only painters but all players dealing with paintings (tableaux in French): art collectors, gallery keepers, art sellers (and maybe art frauds?). The book is set in metal Bodoni, sizes 30, 11 and 8, the hors textes (the picture inserts on the yellow paper) are printed in offset. Funny that the newspaper cuts that document the text are referred to as ‘collages’. That is French allure for you…
I am particularly charmed by the use of colour on this cover: in contrast with the classic choice of type, this yellow, orange and pink are definitely a wink.





De Schoonheid in de Schilderkunst, Herman Hana
Libellen-Serie Nr. 139
Bosch & Keuning, Baarn, 1936
Book format  170 x 190 mm (w x h)

L’Envers de la Peinture –
1. mœrs & coutumes des tableauistes
, Robert Lebel
Editions du Rocher, Monaco, 1964
Book format  185 x 225 mm (w x h)
Design: Jean Latour

Filed under: book design, ,

Blink! partridge lemon label


Filed under: Blink!, ,

Boxed treasure 78rpm sleeves


I have a weakness for old paper. I like the surface it has and the life it had. So I collect stuff that other people would throw away. It is rare to come across plain old useless paper on markets but it happens. I will show some examples later. Just to tell you I might have taken this box home even if it had been empty. But it wasn’t. Let us not rush. Turn it around first.


Nice lettering on the remains of the paper tape that held it closed. And a pretty illustration that says ‘handle with care’ without words. Let’s open it.


The box contains  a collection of bakelite 78 rpm records, all in great company sleeves. I will show these treasures in the next days. For now enjoy the packaging.


Filed under: graphic design, , , , ,

School Journal 1962 Almanach Pestalozzi


School started again, so I thought it appropriate to dig up this small pocket diary. Cloth-bound with 2 colour stamping: a handsome piece of work.


I guess some people find this blog often nostalgic. It might look that way, but what I show is not about nostalgia but about roots. My visual roots, the begining of my imagination, of my relationship with the world around me and the origins of my professional life.

I was born in 1963 in a middle class family. Try to imagine  a world with no screens except for a black and white television with 4 channels on: one flemmish and one french speaking Belgian and – with some luck – two Dutch broadcasts. On school days we had one hour of childrens tv. For movies one had to go to the cinema. All other visual information we got came through printed material. Books and magazines were the main source of information about the world beyond our physical reach. Not too bad: they were fairly affordable, portable and durable.



The great thing about this particular school journal is that it is full of entertaining stuff: science, geography, history, but also games, puzzles and riddles. It has morning exercises. It shows art, from prehistoric cave paintings to modern sculpture. For a pupil in 1962 this was a treasure room. I would have killed for it. Can you imagine a school journal today to be the coolest thing around?





Most surprising are the colour pages: those are used to show state of the art design. Plastics! Ceramic tiles! Le Corbusier wallpaper! This is a book for for kids from 12 to 18 in the year 1962. That is emancipation for you.




Almanach Pestalozzi 1962
Agenda de poche des écoliers Belges
Office de Publicité SA Bruxelles
Licence Pro Juventute Zurich
Book format: 100 x 150 mm

Filed under: book design, , ,

De Muze en het Meisje Dutch gift


This beautiful little book cost me a few euros in a bookstore in the Hague, but to the first owner it was completely free. A gift, presented during the dutch book week in 1957.

Each year the CPNB (Stichting Collectieve Propaganda voor het Nederlandse Boek or foundation for the Collective Promotion of Dutch Books) publishes a book (or books) around a varying theme, that booksellers then can present to their customers as a gift. They do this since 1930. From the late fourties to the early sixties a side series was produced four young readers, carrying de Muzethe Muse – in its title.

This one, the Muse and the Girl, was designed and illustrated by Jan van Keulen, who designed de Groene Amsterdammer as early as 1945 and taught graphic design and typography at the Academy of the Hague in the sixties. Take some time to look at the archive the NAGO website dedicated to his work.




The details below might help to explain what I meant when talking about spot colour printing and manual colour separation on the spinsels page of this blog. The density of the yellow and red and their overlaps with the greyish blue-green can not be achieved in CMYK printing. The power of solid colour on paper amazes me every time. On top of that, the black plate was first slightly embossed in the paper, which gives it an extra tactile dimension. This little book is very precious to me.



De Muze en het Meisje – 1957
Poetry collected by Ad den Besten and Bert Voeten
Design and illustrations Jan van Keulen
Book format: 135 x 215 mm

Filed under: book design, ,

Blink! Super Tailor’s Tape


I feel that if things stay on your table for a long time, they must mean something to you. This being decided, I just have to figure out what. Hm.

Filed under: Blink!, ,

idle hands…

… do the devil’s work. A quote from a Waylon Jennings song, proposed by Brendan Croker as a theme for the annual diary we co-design with Marc Vandepitte from Sintjoris printers. No lettering, this job, but my old love: printmaking, transposed to the desktop. Front and back cover are built of two spot colour plates in offset to be covered by a red thermo-sensitive layer in screenprinting. Just the warmth of your hands will make that last one become transparent and reveal what’s underneath. Hide and seek, touch and see…


idle5 idle1 idle2 idle8

Some unfinished states of the two illustrations. I knew what I started from, not what the final image would look like. Curious how the printed result will work. A calculated risk?


work1 work5

Filed under: graphic design, work, , ,