Design Museum: London - design, architecture and fashion.

Wim Crouwel at the Andaz Liverpool Street, 2011.
Image © [Luke Hayes](

Wim Crouwel at the Andaz Liverpool Street, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at Design Museum, 2011.
Image © Luke Hayes

[CrouwelClock App](
Commissioned by the Design Museum
App developed by [Spin]( and [Large Blue](

CrouwelClock App
Commissioned by the Design Museum
App developed by Spin and Large Blue

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2011.
Image © Stedelijk Museum

Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2011.
Image © Stedelijk Museum

Wim Crouwel

Graphic Designer (1928 - )
A graphic odyssey - Design Museum exhibition
30 March 2011 - 3 July 2011

The career of Dutch designer Wim Crouwel spans six decades and covers an extraordinary journey from designer, teacher, curator to museum director.

Based on modernist principles, Crouwel's lucid and systematic approach to design is underpinned by a grid-based methodology. His process, logical yet experimental, distils a subject down to its absolute essence and in doing so he achieves great impact and purpose in both his exhibition and print design. Through his long and productive career he has produced exemplary work in exhibition design, and designed posters, calendars, typefaces, trademarks and stamps.

Born 1928 in Groningen, a small but culturally vibrant city in the north of Holland, Wim Crouwel was the son of a block-maker, within the printing trade. As a child Crouwel was captivated by the austere beauty of electricity pylons, railway yards and overhead cables. A visit to the circus would be spent examining the construction of the big-top rather than the lions, at one stage, behind his futuristic silver painted bedroom door, he built a scaled down circus tent. His education began at the Minerva Academy, Groningen where he studied fine art. The Academy was still focussed on arts and crafts-based techniques at this point, Crouwel however found inspiration in the concrete, glass and steel of what was one the first modernist buildings in the Netherlands. This was the beginning of a life-long passion for architecture.

In 1951, after two years of military service, Crouwel moved to Amsterdam, it was at this point he chose to pursue a career in applied art as it offered more security than fine art. Crouwel began his career in design as an exhibition designer. Through collaborating with designers with different disciplines he diversified his practice, giving him a platform to work on a larger scale. He began working for an exhibition company Enderberg, learning from the designer Dick Ellfers. He then set up his own studio with the interior designer Kho Liang Ie. Through attending evening classes at the Academy for Applied Arts he learnt the principles of typography through his tutor, Charles Jongejans, who also exposed him to modernist graphic design for the first time. As a graphic designer, Crouwel established a consistent and distinctive visual language creating striking design solutions for a range of clients.

The formal nature of Swiss design deeply affected Crouwel - clarity, structure and the employment of grids became key aspects in his visual language. Strong relationships were formed with like minded Swiss designers early in his career and he became good friends with Gerard Ifert, Karl Gerstner and Josef Müller-Brockmann.

One of the most significant and long-lasting working relationships of Wim Crouwel’s life began in 1954 when he met the then director of the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Edy de Wilde. The two formed an amicable connection, sharing an interest in abstract art and appreciation for the value of good design. De Wilde appointed Crouwel as the sole designer for the museum, giving him complete creative autonomy and fully supporting his approach to design.
The posters and catalogues designed for the Van Abbemuseum saw a significant conceptual development in Crouwel’s approach. He created bespoke, hand-drawn, typographic images to evoke the subject matter or work of the artist.

Crouwel was one of the five founders of Total Design, a multidisciplinary design studio set up to work on major design commissions. The name Total acknowledges the mixed skill-set of the partners. Together their diverse experience enables them to execute both complex and wide-ranging projects for a variety of clients, from industry, trade, government and cultural sectors.

Crouwel established a grid-based methodology for the Stedelijk, a system which he applied rigorously from 1963 to 1985. This approach gave the Museum’s publicity material huge flexibility, while retaining a recognisable visual language.

Crouwel is recognised for the creation of radical, modular letterforms. Pushing the boundaries of legibility, Crouwel’s innovative type was often supported by easily read sans serif typefaces within a carefully structured framework. His typefaces were digitised by the Foundry in the late nineties and are available for designers to use digitially from the type library.

In 1985 Crouwel’s career took a new direction following appointment as a director at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. In this role he commissioned the British studio 8vo to fulfil the design requirements of the museum. He retired from this position in 1993. Crouwel continues to design intermittently on a diverse range of projects
for both graphic and exhibition design commissions.

© Design Museum


Born 1928 Groningen, The Netherlands
1946 - 1949 Art Academy Minerva, Groningen
1949 - 1952 Military Service
1952 - 1953 Further education, evening classes - Amsterdam Art Academy IVKNO (later Rietveld Academy)
1952 - 1954 Designer for Enderberg, an exhibition company, Amsterdam
1954 - 1956 Freelance designer; Teacher at the Royal Art Academy, ‘s-Hertogenbosch
1956 - 1960 Formed a design studio with interior designer Kho Liang Ie, Amsterdam
1960 - 1963 Freelance designer, Amsterdam
1963 - 1980 Co-founder and partner Total Design, Amsterdam
1965 - 1972 Lecturer, Industrial Design, Delft Technical University
1972 - 1978 Professor Delft Technical University
1980 - 1982 Lecturer Delft Technical University
1980 - 1985 Consultant for Total Design
1982 - 1985 Full professor Delft Technical University, and Dean of the faculty of Industrial Design
1985 - 1993 Director of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam
1987 - 1993 Chair Erasmus University, Rotterdam (Art & Cultural Sciences)
From 1994 Freelance designer and consultant, Amsterdam


1958 - Werkman Prize
1965 - Duwaer Prize
1991 - Piet Zwart Prize
1991 - German Stankowski Prize
2004 - Dutch Oeuvre Prize

1957 - Knight of the Order of Leopold II, Belgium
1980 - Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau, Netherlands
1989 - Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
1993 - Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion
1980 - 1983 Doctor Honoris Causa, Delft Technical University
Member of Alliance Graphique Internationale, 1957 (AGI), International President
Honorary Royal Designer for Industry, UK
Honorary Fellow of the Society of Typographic Designers, UK
Honorary member and honorary chairman of the Dutch Design Organisation (BNO)
Honorary member of the Dutch Art Directors Club (ADCN)

Solo exhibitions

1979 - Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands
1991 - Museum Wiesbaden, Germany
1992 - Design Centre Stuttgart, Germany
2007 - Galerie Anatome, Paris, France
2009 - The Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, United States
2011 - Design Museum - Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey
2011 - Touring exhibition, Stedlijk Museum - Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey

Pioneer of Industrial Culture Podcast
Wim Crouwel's Twitter Takeover (PDF)
Exhibition Catalogue By Unit Editions, 2011
Download the CrouwelClock App


Wim Crouwel interview with at the Design Museum, 29 March 2011.

A short film by KentLyons to promote the launch of the A4 sketchbooks they designed for the Design Museum Shop. The film documents ‘Enter the Grid’, a drawing workshop hosted by The Design Museum at Clerkenwell Design Week 2011.

Design at the Design Museum

Basso & Brooke Coca-Cola BarberOsgerby &made Oscar Medley Whitfield + Harry Trimble Alvar Aalto Tomás Alonso Aluminium Anglepoise Pascal Anson Ron Arad Archigram Art and Craft Movement Assa Ashuach Solange Azagury - Partridge Shin + Tomoko Azumi Maarten Baas Georg Baldele Jonathan Barnbrook Luis Barragán Saul Bass Mathias Bengtsson Sebastian Bergne Tim Berners-Lee Flaminio Bertoni Jurgen Bey Biba Derek Birdsall Manolo Blahnik Leopold + Rudolf Blaschka Andrew Blauvelt Penguin Books Irma Boom Tord Boontje Ronan + Erwan Bouroullec Marcel Breuer Daniel Brown Robert Brownjohn Isambard Kingdom Brunel R. Buckminster Fuller Sam Buxton Fernando + Humberto Campana Matthew Carter Achille Castiglioni Hussein Chalayan David Chipperfield Wells Coates Paul Cocksedge Luigi Colani Joe Colombo Committee Concorde Terence Conran Hilary Cottam matali crasset Michael Cross + Julie Mathias Wim Crouwel Joshua Davis Robin + Lucienne Day Christian Dior Tom Dixon Doshi Levien Christopher Dresser Droog Charles + Ray Eames Ergonomics Luis Eslava Established and Sons Industrial Facility Alan Fletcher Norman Foster FUEL Future Systems John Galliano Abram Games Giles Gilbert Scott Ernö Goldfinger Kenneth Grange Graphic Thought Facility Eileen Gray Konstantin Grcic The Guardian Martí Guixé Zaha Hadid Stuart Haygarth Ambrose Heal Thomas Heatherwick Simon Heijdens Jamie Hewlett James Irvine Alec Issigonis Jonathan Ive Arne Jacobsen Jaguar James Jarvis Nadine Jarvis Experimental Jetset Craig Johnston Hella Jongerius Louis Kahn Kerr Noble Jock Kinneir + Margaret Calvert Onkar Singh Kular Max Lamb Lawrence Lek Julia Lohmann Christian Louboutin Ross Lovegrove Berthold Lubetkin M/M Finn Magee Enzo Mari Peter Marigold Michael Marriott The MARS Group Aston Martin J. Mays Müller+Hess Edward McKnight Kauffer Alexander McQueen Matthias Megyeri David Mellor Memphis Mevis en Van Deursen Reginald Mitchell Maureen Mooren + Daniel van der Velden Eelko Moorer Jasper Morrison Jean Muir Khashayar Naimanan Yugo Nakamura Marc Newson Isamu Noguchi norm Chris O'Shea Foreign Office Architects Verner Panton James Paterson Phyllis Pearsall Charlotte Perriand Frank Pick Amit Pitaru Plywood Gio Ponti Cedric Price Jean Prouvé Ernest Race Dieter Rams Charles Rennie Mackintosh Rockstar Games Richard Rogers Stefan Sagmeister Peter Saville Freyja Sewell Jerszy Seymour Percy Shaw Hiroko Shiratori Tim Simpson Cameron Sinclair Paul Smith Alison + Peter Smithson Ettore Sottsass Constance Spry Superstudio Yuri Suzuki Ed Swan Richard Sweeney Timorous Beasties London Transport Philip Treacy Jop van Bennekom Sarah van Gameren Viable Vivienne Westwood Matthew Williamson Robert Wilson Ben Wilson Philip Worthington Frank Lloyd Wright Michael Young
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