Julie Gaathaug




London . 2018

Design Beyond Design. Modular typeface and poster celebrating the work of designer Jan van Toorn.

Jan van Toorn, born in the Netherlands in 1932, is one of the most significant and influential Dutch graphic designers to have emerged since the early 1960s. Van Toorn’s designs stem from his interest in investigating visual meaning, he focuses on substance rather than smooth stylistic expression. He wanted to challenge the receiver, in order for him/her to use their own experiences and personal qualities to interpret the message. His own experiences coloured his work. And unlike the classic form of visual communication, his dialogic approach is a way of connecting with the receiver - it leaves open all options for interpretation and invites the receiver to reflect, to think along, to add, to complete.


As opposed to a specific piece of work, I decided to use one of his quotes as inspiration for my typeface. ‘The main focus should always be on the receiver, who should continuously be allowed to be the expert of his own experience, his own history.’ I wanted my typeface to challenge the receiver, to decipher a message. I wanted to make something that was not understandable at first sight, but that had to be conveyed and understood in order for it to have an actual meaning. At first glimpse, it might be hard to understand the actual letters, but if you understand the pattern, you get to think along and the letterforms become clear. The specific type of manipulation, cutting the letterforms, is inspired by some of his former work.