ONE WEEK ABOUT Design from Arnhem by Ontwerp Platform Arnhem
Wigger Bierma graduated thirty years ago from the Department of Graphic Design at the then Art Academy in Arnhem. In 1998 he founded together with colleague Karel Martens in Arnhem the Werkplaats Typografie. Since 2006, Wigger Bierma has been a professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg.
Bierma’s life was dedicated to the book. The book, or rather the citizen who reads books, is in Wigger Bierma‘s opinion the basis of democracy. The typographer, so says Bierma, should do his utmost to make the contents of the book as accessible as possible. His own work and principles as a typographer are closely linked to a long tradition: that of his teachers Martens, Verberne and Vermeulen, who in turn passed on what they had learned from predecessors such as Jan van Krimpen, Eric Gill and Otto Treuman, all three of them true rationalists.
Everything in their designs had to be accounted for rationally. According to Wigger Bierma, this is partly due to the times we live in. The computer makes everything possible. Designing has turned into selecting and the pace of the digital world is so high, that there is no time for rational considerations. The digital designer relies on his or her intuition, the backbone. Along with the prevailing market-oriented thinking, this leads to the kind of book design in which the content is a side issue and rational decisions have been exchanged for superficiality. Bierma: “What designers such as Irma Boom, Experimental Jetset and kindred spirits nowadays call concept, is in my view more akin to the sales pitches that we know from the world of advertising.”
Isn’t he a bit of an old grump? Wigger Bierma notices that the times have changed: “It’s foolish to do nothing but grumble in a period that is so eager to be young and positive.” Nevertheless, while grumbling, Bierma has a great deal to comment on, for example on the reason why Dutch designers are so highly regarded abroad and are teaching all over the world, while artists, by contrast, are almost invisible.
Read the interview with Wigger Bierma on the blog of design Platform Arnhem: Ontwerp Platform Arnhem
Text: Peter Nijenhuis