Wim Crouwel, the renowned Dutch graphic designer who sought clarity and functionality in communications, passed away at the age of 90 in his hometown of Amsterdam. Throughout his influential career, the graphic designer worked in a variety of mediums, letting his simplistic and straightforward design style shape typefaces to posters, telephone books to stamps. Responsible for the identity of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum for more than two decades, he was also the co-founder of Total Design.
With Total Design, Crouwel pioneered a rigorously functional approach to posters, logos and corporate identities, changing the face of design in the Netherlands. Alongside his famed creation of Gridnik and the New Alphabet – an extraordinary cipher script of vertical and horizontal lines – the designer was also defined by his remarkable ability as a ‘spatial organizer’ for exhibitions, spaces and fair stands.
Throughout his career, Crouwel was a proponent of using grids, visibly and invisibly directing the compositions of his designs. Known to rarely make even the smallest sketch without using gridded paper, Crouwel mastered the ability to construct engaging and rhythmic compositions within the confines of his gridded foundations. This tendency earned him nicknames “Mr. Gridnik” or “The King of Systems.”
Though always working in an analytical manner, his mastery of composition, proportion, and scale resulted in work that was far from boring. In the 400 posters and 300 exhibition catalogs he created for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam over the course of 22 years, he manifested a poetic sense of design that was dynamic and exciting, pulsating with energy.
Crouwel continued to design well into his eighties, producing new typefaces for The Foundry in his distinct style, and in 2014, he designed the typeface for Holland’s FIFA world cup football kit. His work has been paid homage to by various retrospectives, notably at London’s Design Museum in 2011, and then at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam later that year. Crouwel was highly influential to graphic design far beyond the Netherlands and will be remembered for decades to come.