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The Debate by Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn
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The Debate

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The Debate by Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn
Hardcover $24.95
Feb 24, 2015 | ISBN 9781580934121

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  • Feb 24, 2015 | ISBN 9781580934121

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A PRINT magazine Best Book of the Year
A Design Observer Best Book of the Year

“Designed by Chris Vermaes, who has shown that Wim Crouwel’s systematic method and Jan Van Toorn’s more intense idiosyncratic approach can be integrated, the book’s compact size makes it a pleasure to hold. It should be of considerable interest to design historians as it treats in depth a significant event in Dutch graphic design history, while it ought also to engage graphic designers who can experience the intensity and nuances of a debate about design practice that have rarely existed elsewhere. Most of all, the book is a testament to the way that graphic design, thought by some to be a minor art, can support the weight of a thick and incisive discourse.” 
Victor Margolin, Journal of Design History

“The civil yet impassioned discussion would be one of few within the world of graphic design that would make the books—though not literally. For years, the talk had lived on among select enthusiasts, chiefly through hearsay and memory, surfacing only as fragments or asides in scant publications. It has now been translated in English, in full, for the first time. Accompanying texts by design critic Rick Poynor, design historian Frederike Huygen, and curator Dingenus Van De Vrie provide additional context to the event’s proceedings, and a generous section of side-by-side plate pairings of Crouwel and Van Toorn’s works—often produced for the same clients—reveal telling contrasts.” 

“This newly translated transcription of an intellectual joust between Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn takes the fertile ground of art versus commerce. The sparring happened back in 1972, but this first English translation highlights Crouwel’s studious independence up against van Toorn’s insistence on the importance of the designer’s own politics and place in society. Backed up with context and portfolios from the two participants, this is a small book about big ideas that continue to resonate.” 

“The graphic design book of the year.”
Michael Bierut

“Although significant, The Debate is a piece of history that was little-known to English speakers until now. Indeed it’s only in recent years that the discussion has been published at all, and until the recovery of the recording by curator Dingenus van de Vrie in the early 2000s, the debate existed only in people’s memories, and as a few fragments published as part of a monograph on Total Design—the studio co-founded by Crouwel in the early 60s. There’s something tantalising about seeing finally set in words something that, for decades, had remained a matter of ‘folklore.’”

“It’s not often that we can witness two giants in their field dispute the very grounds of their discipline. With the recent transcription of a 1972 public debate between notable Dutch graphic designers Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn, we can sense what is at stake in such an exchange. The influence of this discussion was far-reaching—the two poles establish a spectrum along which most designers can position their practice. Along with the complete transcription, the book includes a section placing the debate in its historical context and an appendix of the designers’ work. The latter, in particular, provides major insight. The two designers’ projects for similar—and often the same—clients are placed side by side, and the visual impact of their philosophies becomes readily apparent.” 
Metropolis magazine 

“The first full English translation of this key debate, along with captions, images, glossy examples of the work of each and some fascinating context, in a wonderfully comprehensive publication.” 
It’s Nice That


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