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On Wednesday 6th April, I attended the Wim Crouwel Retrospect Exhibition – A Graphic Odyssey – @ the Design Museum, London.

The exhibition definitely lived up to my expectations and it so was so refreshing to witness a minimalist clarity and confidence with regard to the curation, ensuring an open plan, white walled space and functional glass tables allowed the work on display to do all the talking.

The chronologically organised content covered everything that Crouwel has worked on during his amazing career, from the early logo and print design days to the more recent contemporary collaborations and teaching positions. A particular highlight, aside from the numerous printed material archives and large poster designs, was a slide viewing section of the exhibition – two long strips built into the glass tables which housed small transparency slides of various design work, logo and type experiments, exhibition curation spaces and other photography taken by Wim Crouwel during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Two magnifying lenses were placed over the top, allowing visitors to slide along the different slides and view mini snapshots documenting landmarks within his past career. A similar sort of device would have been amazing for the viewing of my own ViewMaster slides aside from the individual hand held viewer!

The accompanying catalogue was too hard to resist (even though I think the pricing of £16.95 was a little steep) some images of this can be seen below, and is a nicely designed addition summarising the content of the exhibition as well as offering some exclusive interviews with the man himself alongside photography led pages.

I have also completed a little review summary, which goes into more detail about the various sections of the exhibition, the content of which can be seen below:

How is the exhibition packaged? What promotional material is available? What information is communicated?

Promotional posters, A5 postcards and A5 information booklets are available at the entrance to the Design Museum. The promotional material follows a minimal style, with gridded information and simplistic info graphics for the floor plan and navigation. Background information is displayed throughout the exhibition, with a mini biography and timeline of career placed on the inner walls at the start of the exhibition. The overall design aesthetic is sympathetic to Crouwels’ design style, and margining of innovation and traditional modernism.

What is the purpose of the exhibition? What type of artefacts are displayed?

The purpose of the exhibition is a retrospect for Dutch designer Wim Crouwel. The exhibition is staged to detail various eras within his life and working career, showcasing examples of his print work, logo design, typographic design, visual branding and identity and lesser known exhibition design work. Large white tables with sunken glass windows showcase an array of printed material that Crouwel has completed over the years for various design companies taken from his own archives, whilst large posters, logo designs, bio information and video projections of exhibition design spaces adorn the surrounding wall space.

If there is any merchandise available how does it compare to the artefacts on display? Is it an image printed on a t-shirt, mug or umbrella, for example? Or is it an artefact that could be included in the exhibition?

The merchandise available includes a catalogue book to accompany the exhibition content, providing the bio info, interviews with Crouwel himself and reproductions of all printed design material showcased inside. There are also A5 postcards available to purchase, larger posters, mugs and a special cover edition of Wallpaper Magazine who were the media partners to the exhibition.

How is the exhibition designed? How is the viewer guided around the exhibit? How well does the exhibition use the space?

The overall exhibition evokes a minimalist style, encompassing a very modernist approach, emphasized through white walls and slick glass tables, creating clarity, a degree of elegance and a neutral backdrop for the work on display. The layout of the tables, which dominated the majority of the inner exhibition space, was designed to enhance easy navigation for the visitors, and to work in chronological date order from early career through to later projects and teaching. The tables at various intervals were also raised, providing a subtle platform for the work on display to become united with the wall space in the background, a subtle yet effective touch to guide the eye. The addition of video projections, TV screens and small speakers build into the tables also provided an interactive element that helped to bring the remaining stationary elements to life, adding a greater interpretation of the character of the designer. The one slight downside to this was that the lighting was fairly dark, so that the projections could be easily seen, which although the reflective quality of the white glass tables helped to reflect the overhead spot lights, the overall atmosphere in the corners of the space were a little dull.

What risks might be encountered in exhibiting this work?

The only possible risks identified were that during busier viewing times, and especially those who need to use wheelchairs, the spacing between the tables could quickly become quite cramped and might be trickier to navigate around easily when more people are positioned at various points along the route. Some small TV screens were also located on some of the walls, which again if not secured efficiently, could fall and hurt someone nearby.

The no photography policy meant that I was unfortunately not able to capture the parts of the exhibition myself – the following images have therefore been sourced from the internet and from various magazine review’s from the likes of Creative Review and such.

I would highly recommend you all to visit this retrospect before it closes early July. The £5 – £10 entry fee is definitely money well spent, and the gift shop @ the Design Museum is an excuse to visit in itself.

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