Wim Crouwel at the Design Museum

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To a whole phalanx of British and European designers Wim Crouwel is a living legend of Dutch Modernism – a life dedicated to typographic form, to grids, to layout, to alphabets. A fantastic body of work and an undeniable influence on generations of designers from the sixties onwards.
 
I’ll admit though, to a committed pluralist like myself, the thought of an entire room dedicated to the study of the grid filled me with more than a little dread. I wasn’t sure if I could handle several walls dedicated to kerning pairs.

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But, happily, I was completely and utterly wrong. The new show which opened last night at the Design Museum is great. Sure, it’s an exhibition about graphic design, for graphic designers, but it pulls it off brilliantly. Yes, you can gridnik away to your heart’s content but equally just browse, graze and take it all in.

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Curated by Spin’s Tony Brook, the first masterstroke is to pull down the traditional walls of the Design Museum’s shows and replace them with wide, white tables into and onto which the work is carefully arranged. A bit like the best D&AD judging you’ve ever done, where everything is perfectly curated (and everything gets in).

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It’s essentially chronological, beginning with his influences (here’s some nice Müller-Brockmanns)…

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…and ending with those influenced (here’s some Philippe Apeloig).

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In between, there’s a vast array of Crouwel’s work, or examples of his many collaborations. Some, of course, very familiar, but still great to see in real life…

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…some less familiar but equally revealing.

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Here’s a great ‘poster as manifesto’ from the Total design period…

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…not far away from an equally revealing but nicely human ‘Total design job log book’.

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A few views of a very nice ‘logo wall’, featuring Crouwel’s work and some of his contemporaries such as Ben Bos.

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Above, the Randstad logo by Ben Bos. And below, as a running theme, Crouwel the style icon, from Mad Men to 70's bowties.

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Probably the best graphic design show at the Design Museum since the Alan Fletcher. A must-see, even if you’re grid-o-phobic.

By Michael Johnson.

Apologies for the shaky camera phone pics

Opening today at London’s Design Museum, until the 3rd of July.