The Debate: The Legendary Contest of Two Giants of Graphic Design

Monacelli Press has published the first English translation of an historic 1972 debate between Dutch graphic designers Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn, at Amsterdam’s Museum Fodor.

Held in response to an exhibition of Van Toorn’s work at Stedelijk Museum, including student posters protesting the Vietnam War—in an era of youth culture and increasing resistance to authority, capitalism, and the power of media—the stakes were aesthetic, ethical, and politically charged.

Crouwel defended his approach of neutrality and austere rationalism, attention to typography and worksmanship, and professionalism in service of the client’s message. Van Toorn argued for his use of chaos, collage, and photographs of everyday life; that a designer’s ideas, personality, and political commitments are integral to the work.

Order vs. Disorder. I vaguely remember reading about this debate, but I’ve never seen a transcripts of it. Definitely interested in checking this out.

The clothbound book also includes a foreword by Rick Poynor, and a gallery of work from Crouwel and Van Toorn.

And starting today, Design Observer will be publishing four excerpts from the book.

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