IT - EN

The more uninteresting
the letter, the more useful
it is to a typographer.

Piet Zwart

PIET
ZWART

Zaandijk, 1885 – Wassenaar, 1977

A prolific person in all the fields of design, Zwart is one of Holland’s most acclaimed masters. From 1902 to 1907 he studies at the School voor Toegepaste Kunsten in Amsterdam. In 1919 he starts working for the architect Jan Wils, a member of De Stijl, and then moves to the studio of another architect, Hendrik Berlage in 1921. He grows fond of graphic design and dedicates himself to it enthusiastically. During the same years he meets the members of De Stijl, but does not join the movement, rejecting their totalising approach to art. In 1923 he starts working for the cable manufacturer NKF (Nederlandsche Kabel Fabrik) in Delft, for whom he designs a great amount of posters, published on the monthly issues of “Tijdschrift voor electro techniek” and the bimonthly issues of “Sterkstroom”. In 1927 his work is displayed with other artists from the Ring group. In 1928 he holds some classes and lectures at the Bauhaus in Dessau. In 1930 he designs a leaflet for Dutch schools, The Book of PTT, to teach children about the postal service. In 1942 he is arrested by the Nazis and is imprisoned until the end of World War II. Subsequently he dedicates himself only to industrial design.

What distinguishes Zwart’s work is the astonishing combination of Constructivism, Dadaism and De Stijl. With a general tendency to simplify, enlivened by remarkable dynamism, he develops what he defines “fields of tension”. This can be seen in the advertisements produced in 1928 for the NKF catalogue; here typography and geometric shapes mix in a dynamic spatial relationship. Furthermore, everything is rigorously arranged: lines are positioned at ninety or forty-five degrees and bold text is used to highlight the more important parts of the text, with sans-serif typefaces. Zwart positions graphic elements in such a way that the main message is immediately clear, while the secondary information, though visible, seems almost to blend into the background. Also his use of photomontage techniques is astonishing, thanks to the addition of accurately chosen colours (usually red and blue) which give movement to the composition. The geometric figures and the text stand out and are emphasised thanks to their relationship with the white spaces, which are brilliantly distributed throughout the composition. Amongst Zwart’s most concise yet effective projects is the logotoype of his own name: an upper case “P” followed by a black square, which in Dutch is pronounced “zwart”.

Projects

  • Dutch Post, Poster, 1933
  • Film, Cover series, 1931
  • NFK catalogue, Page, 1928
  • PCH Broadcast, Brochure Cover, 1929
  • Trio den Haag catalogue, Cover, 1931
  • Personal logo, 1927
  • Trio den Haag catalogue, Page, 1931
  • NFK catalogue, Page, 1928
  • NFK catalogue, Page, 1927
  • Brochure, 1931
  • NFK catalogue, Page, 1928
  • NFK, Adv, 1927 ca.
  • NFK, Adv, 1925
  • NFK, Adv, 1926

Bibliography

  1. Aa. Vv., Art & Publicité, 1890-1990 (catalogue), Centre George Pompidou, Paris 1990, pp. 292, 294, 296, 300, 311.

  2. Baroni, D., Vitta, M., Storia del design grafico, Longanesi, Milan 2003, pp. 104-108, 110, 140, 266, 296.

  3. Baroni, D., Zwart architetto della grafica, “Linea grafica”, 3, May 1988, pp. 8-17.

  4. Blackwell, L., 20-Century Types, Laurence King, London 2000 (1998).

  5. Brentjes, Yvonne, Piet Zwart Vormingenieur, Uitgevers, Zwolle 2008.

  6. Broos, K., Helfting, Paul, Dutch Graphic Design, Phaidon 1993, pp. 10, 13, 58, 66, 67, 76, 78, 79, 82-87, 89, 92, 94, 96, 97, 106, 107, 119, 120, 125, 133, 138, 152, 167, 172, 192.

  7. Broos, K., Piet Zwart (catalogue), Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague 1973.

  8. Ex libris, Herbert Bayer, Piet Zwart. Master of Design, Ex Libris, New York 1993.

  9. Ex libris, Lissitzky, Schwitters, Tschichold, Werkman, Zwart, Ex Libris, New York 1985.

  10. Grazioli, E., Arte e pubblicità, Mondadori, Milan 2001, pp. 71, 82, 108, fig. XV.

  11. Heller, S., Ilić, M., Icons of Graphic Design, Thames & Hudson, London 2001, pp. 38, 39, 56, 57, 84, 85, 108, 109, 186, 187.

  12. Heller, S., Ilić, M., The Anathomy of Design. Uncovering the Influences and Inspirations in Modern Graphic Design, Rockport, Gloucester (MA) 2007, pp. 37, 40, 43.

  13. Hollis, R., Graphic Design. A Concise History, Thames & Hudson, London 1994, pp. 57, 68, 70, 71, 74, 75, 127, 156, 175, 176, 178, 194, 214, 215.

  14. Hollis, R., Swiss Graphic Design. The Origins and Growth o fan International Style. 1920-1965, Laurence King, London 2006, pp. 30, 74, 182, 183, 236, 244, 256.

  15. Jubert, R., Typography and Graphic Design. From Antiquity to the Present, Flammarion, Paris 2006 (2005), pp. 8, 10, 191, 193, 198, 358, 385.

  16. Meggs, P. B., A History of Graphic Design, Wiley, New York 1998 (1992), pp. 292-295, 423.

  17. Monguzzi, Bruno, Piet Zwart: L’opera tipografica 1923-1933, “Rassegna”, 30, June 1987, pp. 4-88.

  18. Muller, Fridolin (edited by), Piet Zwart, Niggi, Teufen 1966.

  19. Raimes, J., Bhaskaran, L., Retro Graphics Cookbook. Recreate 100 Years of Graphic Design, Ilex, Lewes 2007, pp. 66, 67.

  20. Rauch, A., Graphic Design. La storia, i protagonisti e i temi dall’Ottocento ai giorni nostri, Electa, Milan 2006, pp. 60, 68, 69, 111, 131, 138.

  21. Spencer, H., Pioneers of Modern Typography, Lund Humphries, London 1982 (1969), pp. 9, 21, 42, 52, 60, 116-127.

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