In memory of Dick Bruna (1927-2017)
On 16 February 2017, Dick Bruna died at the age of 89 years. The whole world knows his creation Miffy. Nonetheless, he did not regard himself as a children’s author or illustrator but as a graphic designer.
Dick Bruna was born in 1927. Initially he was determined to become a painter, but to reassure his father-in-law he joined his father’s and uncles publishing house to be trained as a publisher. A few years later they said to Dick: “If you really need to draw, then try to make a book cover.”
For each title series of the Zwarte Beertjes series (Black Bears series) Bruna designed a small figure whose recognizable silhouette set the series apart from all others. Especially the Maigret books reached unprecedented high print runs. In 1969, the 25-millionth Zwarte Beertje was sold. “The Zwarte Beertjes sold so well that I got piles of work in my room at the publishing house. I had to make covers for the books and I had to have them ready within fourteen days.”
In the 1960s Bruna started to combine his cut forms with photos, in which he could also snip indiscriminately. The photos, often with a high contrast, were combined with a solid color and printed in duotone. It was his view that a book cover is only successful when it can speak with the same power as a successful poster. “If they told me that there should be room for ten lines of text, I used to reply: ‘You simply don’t have the time to read it if you’re cycling past it’.”
His commitment to the publishing house made him a father who was present especially during the holidays. During one of these, in 1955 on the beach of Egmond, he drew a rabbit to illustrate the stories which he made up for his son Sierk. With the help of printer/publisher Pieter Brattinga this little figure would grow into a world famous phenomenon.
In 1980, Bruna publishing house was taken over by Elsevier and two years later Dick Bruna retired from the company after having designed about two thousand covers, catalogs and many posters. From then on he would pay more attention to Miffy and her friends.
Is Miffy going to disappear after Dick Bruna’s death? “I have three children who all of them like drawing and making things. But we have all of us agreed that no one is going to take over Miffy.”
For the compilation of this message we have gratefully made use of Roots-part No. 24 about Dick Bruna, written by Chris Vermaas and published by [Z] OO productions. At the request of Dick Bruna the name of nijntje (Miffy) was written in normal lower cases; we fully respect this request here, too.