One Year Abroad

How to make the most of your internship away from home.

Written by Craig Berry
Designer & Writer

10th December 2016: Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The 27th of August 2017 marked 1 year that I have been living here in Amsterdam. Being offered an internship at VBAT in after graduating from Leeds Beckett University was an opportunity I simply couldn’t turn down. Also the chance to live in this great European city was irresistible. Since the start of my internship I’ve been regularly travelling and exploring cities across the Netherlands, writing about trips, exhibitions, museums, galleries, festivals, conventions, art, design, architecture and more. In total I’ve written over 20 Medium blog posts so far and taken thousands of photographs documenting all that I’ve been doing.

I’ve learnt and experienced so much in this year. Such as what it’s like to work in a professional agency environment, learning to live in a foreign country and becoming accustomed to the cultural differences compared to living at home. I’ve also become more self-dependent and independent. I’ve been fortunate that VBAT have allowed me to travel and document my experiences and giving me an audience via their ‘Inside VBAT’ blog page.

I want to reflect and share my experiences and what I’ve been up to for the last 12 months, with work, with friends and random things I’ve been doing at the weekends as well as projects I’ve done during my time here. We’ll go month by month starting with the couple of days in August.

To start, this is the first proper photo I took in Amsterdam, wandering around the canals on a warm and sunny as I was yet to buy a bike, stopping at the beautiful Herengracht for my take on the classic Amsterdam canal photograph.

27th August 2016: Herengracht

Also, I had planned prior to travelling that I was going to visit the Moco for their exhibition on Banksy and Warhol, a smart combination of these 2 iconic artists. It was a great exhibition covering quite a bit of their work and it was my first thing I wrote about after my introduction blog at VBAT.

327th August 2016: Banksy & Warhol at Moco

Monday the 29th August 2016 was my first day as an intern at VBAT, and almost immediately I was doing ‘stuff’ and experiencing ‘things’. It was only the second day in when I was invited to the Concertgebouw for a concert by the legendary Detroit techno DJ, Jeff Mills as part of their Robeco Summer Nights programme. A special event that was unlike anything I had been to before. A techno DJ conducting classical music instruments: a strange concept but the sound in the famous Concertgebouw musical hall was tremendous. It was also interesting cycling back from here to my accomodation in the dark for the first time – it took a while.

30th August 2016: Jeff Mills at Concertgebouw

That same first week we took a trip after work, a ‘creative excursion’ where we met up with the esteemed type designer David Quay who took us for a guided tour around the city; showing us interesting pieces of typographic signage. This was good as right away it taught me to look up whilst cycling through the city, in doing so you see all these amazing pieces of typography be it classic Krulletter scripts, solid chiseled stone sans-serifs, quirky Jugendstijl/Art Nouveau type or a wide range of weird, intricate and impressive type. Each piece has its own story and once you start looking, there’s so much to find, see, admire and learn about. Anthony, the coordinator, covered this in a blog post.

1st September 2016: David Quay Type Tour

Each evening after work I was cycling around the city, not straying too far but going far enough to explore what was around me, seeing things like the Olympisch Stadion and the Amsterdamse Bos. One evening after work I was invited on a boat ride with the accounts people which was fun and eventful, this evening was apparently the last day of Indian Summer which was a nice thing to say we did on this day. Being on a boat and on the water in Amsterdam is something special, especially when it’s something that you don’t get to do often, slowly floating through the canals in the evening sunshine, having a few drinks and taking it all in.

6th September: Canal Bridge / Olympic Stadion / 13th September: Amsterdamse Bos
15th September 2016: Evening Boat Ride

With my birthday being in September it’s always been awkward timing with things like college and university, it takes place when I’m in new surroundings and it’s somewhat difficult to want to arrange something with people you’ve not long met; although this year it wasn’t like this. The other interns at VBAT made sure that we organised something and a bunch of us went for something to eat and spent the evening playing pool which was really heartwarming that I could do this with my new colleagues and friends so soon after being at VBAT.

22nd September 2016: Birthday Pool

October was totally different than the couple of days in August and September, gone where the days of drinking in the evening sun, eating ice-creams at work and wearing shorts. October was when I first specifically left Amsterdam and travelled to another place in the Netherlands albeit a very different and non-convential place to first travel to: Vlieland.

Vlieland is one of the Frisian Islands in the North Sea and was the destination for a company trip. Here we took part in a cycling adventure exploring the island as well as other group activities and one wild night in the hotel bar. This was a cool place to visit as its the kind of place I would never of thought of going to and probably never will again but it was great to experience. It did remind me somewhat of the landscape that exists where I’m from originally in the UK what with the coastline and sand-dunes.

7th October 2016: Vlieland
7th October 2016: Vlieland

One afternoon me and VBAT CD Graham went to the Mijksenaar office for an interview with one of Graham’s ‘Dutch Design Heroes’ Paul Mijksenaar, the designer who created the Schipol airport wayfinding system as well as other numerous way-finding systems. For the 3 hour interview I was there to take photographs to document the interview as well as listen in to the conversation between Graham and Paul. This was interesting as I hadn’t heard about Paul Mijksenaar or really looked into wayfinding as a form of design. Ever since then I haven’t looked at Schiphol Airport in the same way.

17th October 2017: Graham Sturt & Paul Mijksenaar, Dutch Design Heroes Interview/Conversation

Jason Smith and his colleague from Fontsmith came to the VBAT office in October to give us a workshop on typography, it was interesting as they were able to give us some tips and tricks that type foundries do when creating custom typefaces.

21st October 2016: Fontsmith

Another excursion out of Amsterdam in October was to Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week, another first for me but something I had heard of before as it is a renowned name in design. Me and my mentor Anthony checked it out and tried to go to as many things as we could in the time we were there, as well as having great food and drinks whilst generally having a great time.

25th October 2016: Eindhoven, Dutch Design Week, De Strijp / Eindhoven Design Academy / De Burger
25th October 2016: Eindhoven, Dutch Design Week

October was the first time my girlfriend came to visit me in Amsterdam which was a really nice. I was able to get some days off work and explore the city with her and do different things such as go up the ADAM Toren in the Noord which offers a great view of the river IJ, the city and the rest of the Noord from the 360 degree platform.

31st October 2016: A’DAM Toren / Kirsten / Central Station Glass Type
31st October 2016: A’DAM Toren, IJ

A fun little project at work I got to do was making an internal display commemorating the life, career and charisma of the legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff/Cruijff. Using photography, colour, graphic shapes, quotes and symbols. The result covers his infamous quotes, football teams for which he played for, logos, colours, photographs and the number 14 which is synonymous with the player.

1st November 2016: Johan Cruyff Display

After working on this Ajax display at work I had to go and visit the Ajax stadium itself, the Amsterdam ArenA in all of its concrete glory. It was so cool to see such a famous stadium and important building, despite taking a while to cycle there, getting lost several times and getting soaked by the rain; it was worth it though.

5th November 2016: Amsterdam ArenA Ajax

November is when the Eindhoven Glow Festival takes place, an evening event and festival of light and it was the first time I travelled outside of Amsterdam by myself which was daunting but useful as it encouraged me to do this again and again. The festival was really cool, walking through the route in the city of Eindhoven and seeing what different artists and organisations had made for the festival, my highlight was this LED cube floating on water which was repeatedly creating these endless De Stjl-esque compositions.

14th November 2016: Eindhoven, Glow Festival
14th November 2016: Eindhoven, Glow Festival, Photonic Modulation of Light and Space – TU/e Students

I was asked by VBAT to go to the Packaging Innovations convention in Zaandam which isn’t that far away but a train ride at least. I chose to walk through Zandaam instead of taking a taxi from the train station to the venue and I’m glad I did as I was able to see this great piece of architecture as well as see what inspired it. The Packaging Innovations and also the Dieline Conference event were interesting as it is something that I don’t normally work with.

23rd November 2016: Zaandam, Inntel Hotel

When I first came to Amsterdam on holiday with my girlfriend in 2015 we didn’t go to the Stedelijk Museum so I knew I had to go at some point during my time here so I waited until something new was being exhibited and on the advice of David Quay I checked out the Willem Sandberg exhibition. This was really educational as it taught me about an important historical Dutch graphic designer. The Stedelijk also has great pieces in its permanent collection like paintings from Piet Mondriaan and collages by Piet Zwart but also pieces of graphic design identity history of the museum by Wim Crouwel. I remember being pleased and impressed with the appreciation of graphic design as an art form here.

26th November 2016: Stedeljk Museum, Piet Mondrian / Willem Sandberg / Piet Zwart
26th November 2016: Sandberg at the Stedelijk

December was a pretty hard month for me as I remember I got a horrible ear infection and had no hearing in one ear for a few weeks and I was missing home quite a bit, as well as the weather being horribly cold and dark although I still had fun doing lots of stuff. At the start of the month my parents came over to visit and spend time with me for a few days which was nice. We visited the Rijksmuseum as its something people had regularly recommended going to although I found it a bit too big but it still had great pieces by Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer. I did prefer the top section of the museum though, the smallest section, on 20th century art and design.

3rd December 2016: Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt Hall

Sometimes its also good to indulge in those tourist kind of things so we went to the Heineken Experience, possibly the most tourist-centric place in the city but it was actually quite interesting. I had a strange perspective on the place as VBAT does a lot of work for Heineken and there’s lots of stuff here that is also lying around in the office such as old bottles, labels, signage and new things like the award winning UV STR Bottle.

4th December 2016: Heineken Experience

Somewhere I knew I wanted to check out as an alternative city to Amsterdam was the other big city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam. The day I chose to go though ended up being one of the most foggy, misty and rainy day I’d ever experienced but that didn’t deter me and I spent all of the Saturday morning and afternoon wandering around the city and checking out museums and the diverse architecture.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was the main museum and it was pretty similar to the Stedelijk in Amsterdam with its special exhibitions and its collection of modern, contemporary and classic art. Other highlights were Piet Blom’s cube houses, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, the Nederlands Fotomuseum, the Markthal and the Erasmusbrug. I enjoyed Rotterdam for its modern architecture and generally steel and glass look compared to Amsterdam’s classical feeling.

10th December 2017: Rotterdam, De Rotterdam Building / Erasmusbrug / Cube Houses
10th December 2017: Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum / Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen / Rotterdam Buildings
10th December 2016: Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

In evenings after work, watching videos on YouTube, I became somewhat obsessed with time-lapses so I decided to make my own time-lapse of the city. It was something I did over a few weekends and evenings trying to find interesting places which would be effective when sped up. This was challenging experience but something I wanted to do for a while, it was also a great way to improve my video editing.

17th December 2016: Amsterdam Timelapse, Dam Square

I stayed in Amsterdam for Christmas with my girlfriend and her mum coming over to spend time with me where on Christmas Eve we travelled to Zaanse Schans for another somewhat tourist-like excursion to see the windmills. It was actually interesting to see these windmills as they are a classic image of the Netherlands. There was also an opportunity which I hadn’t foreseen to see some interesting and strange typography, all in all, another cold but fun day.

24th December: Zaanse Schans, Hut Type / De Zaan / Rooftop Type
24th December 2016: Zaanse Schans Windmills

New Year’s Eve was pretty exciting, I had heard that Amsterdam becomes almost a war-zone what with so many people letting off fireworks in the streets but I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We went to a house party in the city and waited for the eruption at midnight and it came, the streets filled with explosive fireworks, firecrackers, smoke and lights – pretty dangerous really but still a great place to see in the new year.

31st December 2016/1st January 2017: New Years Eve

In January I found myself travelling to numerous other cities in what was a busy month. Firstly Utrecht, where it happened to snow on the day of travelling, an incredibly cold day walking around the city especially since I walked to the near outskirts of the city just to see the Rietveld Schröder House but it was worth it, an iconic piece of architecture and a UNESCO world heritage site. Utrecht has an interesting canal design for the Oudegracht in that the water is way below the walkway with a platform on either side which you can walk on and there are numerous restaurants and cellars, I imagine it’s a lot nicer in the Summer. Utrecht is one of the cities that I do want to go back to, preferably when it is not snowing.

7th January 2017: Utrecht, Nijntje Museum / Wilhelmina Park / Rietveld Schröder House
7th January 2017: Utrecht Canal

The next day I then decided to get the train to Haarlem since it was cheap although there wasn’t really much here. However I find relaxing just to walk aimlessly around a new place. It did have some great old buildings with more modern structures, again with some canals. Apparently the statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster that sits in the Grote Markt is there to commemorate the man as the alleged inventor of printing as he was working with movable type as early as 1430 – allegedly.

8th January 2017: Haarlem, Laurens Janszoon Coster Statue / Canal Houses / Toneelschuur Theatre
8th January 2017: Haarlem, de Adriaan Windmill

Mid-month, two of my friends came over for a long weekend full of museums, galleries, typography, drinking and having a all round good time reminiscing with uni friends. We went to the Stedelijk, FOAM and Eye museums to check out some great art, photography and film as well as the NDSM shipyard for some street-art and typography. Other than having great company my highlight of this time was seeing this vast Piet Parra mural, one of my favourite artists who doesn’t have very many pieces like this.

13th January 2017: John & Joe / 14th January 2017: Stedlijk Museum – Jordan Wolfson / 16th January 2017: FOAM – Hiroshi Sugimoto
15th January 2017: Piet Parra Mural – “Ik speel in de stad, met alles wat er bestaat”

Me and Tijs at VBAT left it to the last few days to check out the 2016 Amsterdam Light Festival. I wanted to take the time to go and see what the big deal was about the Festival as everyone said it’s been great over previous years. It was super cold as it took place at night but cycling around the canals admiring the fantastic light displays was worth it in the end.

18th January 2017: Amsterdam Light Festival
18th January 2017: Amsterdam Light Festival, Peter Koros – Bunch of Tulips

One day at work, Alisa offered me a train ticket she wasn’t going to use which allows for return travel to anywhere in the Netherlands for that day. So with it I chose one of the furthest and what would be the most expensive place to travel to via train from Amsterdam: Groningen. I got some tips of places to visit here also from PJ, one of which was incredible, the Groninger Museum. It’s a difficult museum to summarise due to how much variety was there and the amazing post-modern building in which it was housed – designed by 3 entities: Philippe Starck, Alessandro Mendini, Coop Himmelb(l)au.

As well as this was the GRID Grafisch Museum which focused on the history of graphic design which I didn’t think would ever have its own museum space; although it was pretty small it was still interesting mostly for its vast amount of ephemera and original printing presses and metal type.

21st January: Groningen, Groninger Museum Interior – Mendini / GRID Grafisch Museum / FC Groningen Noordlease Stadion
21st January 2017: Groningen, Groninger Museum

During January, myself and my friend Joe who visited earlier in the month had taken many photographs of the NDSM building and the letters painted on either side and we decided to digitise the shipyard’s letters into a useable typeface. Seeing that each side had various letterforms we made alternative characters and included the iconic Dutch IJ ligature. I was able to take this into the Glyphs program to create a type-able typeface.

27th January 2017: NDSM Typeface
27th January 2017: NDSM Typeface

February was pretty much as action packed as January with new and old friends. I picked up a museumkaart in February meaning I was and still am able to visit hundreds of museums as many times as I want without paying anything except the initial cost of the museumkaart. Because of this I started going to the Stedelijk way more often, instead of waiting for a few new exhibitions to open I went whenever a single new exhibition was on. In February there was a new exhibition around the Russian Revolution with lots of constructivist art and design on display.

4th February 2017: Stedelijk Museum – 100 Years of Russian Revolution

Near the start of the month a new British intern, Ross, started at VBAT and we got on well together both being interested in similar things. I remember in his first week I convinced him to come with me to Rotterdam in the evening to visit the Studio Dumbar office to pick up one of their Amsterdam Sinfonietta posters, one of my favourite pieces of design with their really bold design and experimental typography. It was a great little visit speaking to them as well as chatting with Ross where we also got one of the best burgers I’ve ever had from the Hamburg restaurant in Rotterdam.

Studio Dumbar/Amsterdam Sinfoneitta Posters
9th February 2017: Studio Dumbar/Amsterdam Sinfoneitta Posters

I went on a night out back in November or sometime, not long after I came here and then again in February to De School. A nightclub in the west of the city in a former school – hence the name. It’s a great venue for house and techno dance music, really loud and really dark. This night it was the German techno duo – Zenker Brothers.

12th February 2017: De School

The third and most recent visit to the Netherlands from my girlfriend, this time we did more things together such as the Nemo museum. It is quite a childish place to go to but sometimes its good to release your inner child and just mess around for a few hours, as we did very much.

16th February: Nemo Museum
16th February 2017: Nemo Museum

Wanting to travel out of the city to somewhere new, she chose Leiden and I have no idea why but it was an alright choice I think. There wasn’t much there but again it was nice to walk around a new place, this time with company. The one main attraction was the windmill and the Museum De Valk with a somewhat terrifying climb up rickety old wooden stairs.

17th February 2017: Leiden
17th February 2017: Leiden, Museum de Valk

Another exhibition at the Stedelijk – the second part of a Jordan Wolfson series. This one was actually quite creepy but thrilling to see. ‘Female Figure’ is a female looking, animatronic robot which dances and gyrates into a mirror whilst its eyes stare directly at you and follow you around the room. It’s hard to describe how creepy this was, singing and dancing to Lady Gaga.

25th February 2017: Stedelijk Museum – Jordan Wolfson

With my relatively new Museumkaart I wanted to go see a bunch of new things so over a rainy weekend I visited 4 very different museums to broaden my mind. Museum Het Schip – social housing and architecture, Van Gogh Museum – obviously the paintings of the post-impressionist legend, Het Scheepvaarts Museum – nautical and marine history and Huis Marseille – contemporary photography. Each of these was interesting in its own sense, especially the Museum Het Schip.

4th March 2017: Het Scheepsvaart Museum

I loved what I saw at the Museum Het Schip, it focused on the Amsterdamse School architecture style and social housing that came with it. It opened my eyes to this unique style of brick expressionist architecture that I didn’t realise was so big in the city. I spent a few weekends and evenings cycling around the city capturing as many of these buildings as possible; it’s a truly beautiful building style with so much attention to detail.

5th March 2017: Cooperatiehof / Cornelis Krusemanstraat / Surinameplein
5th March 2017: Jeruzalemkerk

Whilst exploring and photographing as many as these Amsterdamse School style buildings as possible I was in new parts of the city and I began to notice the quirky door numbers on houses and apartments. A large amount of them were similar to the buildings of which they were on, so I set myself the audacious challenge to photograph 1–100 unique door numbers in this style. It took ages. Multiple weekends and evenings of searching for this style I wanted; although I managed it in the end and I put them all into one book. This project also allowed me to explore large amounts of the city I hadn’t been to before such as De Baarsjes, Oost, Bos en Lommer, Westerpark and Slotervaart.

11th March 2017: Leonardostraat – 10 / 9th March 2017: Generaal Vetterstraat – 20 / 8th March 2017: Alexander Boerstraat – 30
16th March 2017: Wijsmullerstraat – 40 / 8th March 2017: Banstraat — 50 / 12th March 2017: Roelof Hartstraat – 60
18th March 2017: Frans van Mieristraat – 70 / 7th March 2017: Stadionweg – 80 / 17th March 2017: Ruysdaelstraat – 90
9th March Olympiaplein – 100

It took me up until March to go to the IJ-Hallen flea market in at the NDSM-Werf, people had recommended it but I always didn’t want to go or forgot that it was on each month but I eventually went and it was alright, a wide range of stuff that was either interesting to absolute rubbish. One stand here was selling stamps, like 5 cents a stamp and it was here that I began to admire the graphic design of these little stamps. I hadn’t realise how nicely designed these European stamps were especially Swiss and Dutch ones.

11th March 2017: Swiss Postage Stamps

Looking for a new museum to visit, Graham suggested the Museum van Loon for an exhibition by the British artist Gavin Turk all about tulips – another Dutch icon. This was a well coordinated exhibition with multiple artists, the likes of Damien Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin and Sir Peter Blake all contributing pieces around the theme of tulips resulting in a wide range of styles.

19th March 2017: Museum van Loon Gavin Turk – Turkish Tulips
19th March 2017: Museum van Loon Gavin Turk — Turkish Tulips

Over the year there have been numerous ‘C-Word’ talks at VBAT where each time a professional comes into the office and gives a talk about their job/mission and creativity. Some of these have been, artist Filfury, designer Thijs Biersteker, WeTransfer CD Laszlito Kovacs and many more. As good as these all were, easily the biggest one of these was when Laurens van den Acker, Senior Vice President of Corporate Design at Renault came in. The office was packed with colleagues and friends, we got the biggest TV I’ve sever seen wheeled in and Laurens gave us a real insight into the world of car design at Renault and their aims and processes.

24th March 2017: Laurens van den Acker, C-Word Talk

Another place on my list of cities to check out was Den Haag, the city in the Netherlands where the Dutch government sits, its also a business centric city with a big financial district. I was meeting Sean here before going somewhere else but I had a couple of hours to kill in the city, which I did at the Maurithuis museum and then later the KABK as well as wandering around the city which had a feeling of London with its tall skyscrapers and busy shopping streets. It’s somewhere that I would like to go back to soon, I was only there for an hour or 2 and theres so much I didn’t get to go to the Escher Museum, the Gemeentemuseum and the Fotomuseum Den Haag.

7th April 2017: Den Haag, Maurithuis / KABK / Minstry of Finance
7th April 2017: Den Haag, Hofvijver

The ‘somewhere else’ I was meeting Sean to go to with was the Museum Voorlinden which I wanted to go after seeing so many photos of it on Instagram. But it was so difficult to get to, having to get a bus and walk the rest and also getting lost – multiple times. Once we eventually got there though it was so good, the exhibition on at the time was the work of the entertaining Martin Creed – one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had was being inside this room filled with giant balloons. Also, the permanent collection was a really well curated selection of standout pieces like this submerged swimming pool. I’d go back if it wasn’t so awkward to get to.

7th April 2017: Museum Voorlinden
7th April 2017: Museum Voorlinden, Leandro Erlich – Swimming Pool

It was April when I finally travelled back to the UK from the Netherlands for a few days; thats like 7 or 8 months of solid Dutch life. I visited London where my girlfriend lives for some really nice days spent with her. Together we went to a handful of galleries, museums, shops and restaurants. The newly built Design Museum was really good, I liked the old one but this one is way bigger, better and room for more stuff. I was stupidly hyped about the new £1 coin and the £5 note as well as all the British food and drinks and what-not I had missed . The most surreal thing was being in the city and the tube and being able to hear and understand everyone’s conversations; I was so used to hearing Dutch people talking Dutch and obviously not understanding it. It made me realise how much rubbish British people talk about though which I’m including myself in that generalising statement.

20th April 2017: Neals Yard / 15th April 2017: Design Museum / 16th April 2017: Somerset House
16th April 2017: Tate Modern / Switch House / Marcel Duchamp
16th April 2017: Tate Modern, Turbine Hall

Koningsdag or Kings Day in Amsterdam was something that I hadn’t heard of before, seemingly this national holiday where everyone spent the day partying, drinking and riding boats. And we did 2 of those things, plenty of drinking and plenty of partying in the city; I met up with Ross and his friends and had a great day, unfortunately without any boats.

27th April 2017: Kingsday via Ross’ Canal House Roof

Late night on Kingsday my parents came again to see me and spend some time together, and the next morning we arranged to go to the Keukenhof gardens which was interesting being somewhat hungover. Flower gardens aren’t normally my thing but the sheer scale of the displays here was impressive. I distinctly remember talking to my parents all day about so much stuff, probably mostly nonsense.

28th April 2017: Keukenhof Tulips

I was given the opportunity at VBAT to design an A2 poster for FONK magazine with the potential of it also being the cover if it was good enough; so of course I made it the best I could. The title for the issue was ‘the green issue’ focusing on climate change and also linking to what we had been planning with Hyper Island for our What Design Can Do breakout sessions. We had the idea of climate change being about rising sea levels and the knowledge that Amsterdam is below sea level; using the VBAT illustration style of which there are multiple fish illustrations we created 2 scenarios. 1 being if we ‘DO SOMETHING’ (about climate change) with Amsterdam still being as beautiful as it is with fresh trees and happy live animals etc. The other scenario being if we ‘DO NOTHING’ (about climate change) where sea levels rise as well as being polluted with plastic and waste – Amsterdam is flooded underwater with any form of life killed. The image split in 2, using VBAT colours. It was successful and it made the cover.

17 May 2017: FONK Magazine, Issue 207 — Insert Poster

In May I saw on several design blog websites I follow that this concrete, brutalist block of flats in the south of Amsterdam had won a prestigious European architecture award, the Mies van der Rohe award. Being interested in architectue I had to go see it for myself so I took the long bicycle ride there; and it was awe-inspiring. That might sounds weird as its just a high-rise block of flats and effectively people’s homes but I was really impressed with the design and how it felt in that area all together. I documented my findings and produced a publication on this.

21st May 2017: DeFlat Kleiburg Publication
21st May 2017: Kleiburg

The 24th May was one day with 2/3 great things. Firstly it was the What Design Can Do confrence at the Muziekgebouw where VBAT was running 2 breakout sessions around plastic waste and biomimicry; these were great to take part in and see the results that the participants came up with. It was also nice just to take part in such a great event in Amsterdam.

24th May 2017: What Design Can Do – Muziekgebouw

In the evening of the 24th there was a talk at the Pakhuis de Zwijger on Dutch graphic design: It’s All Graphic. The evening was split into 2 parts, firstly a conversation between several people who worked at the iconic design studio Total Design/Total Identity including Paul Mijksenaar; some great stories and gossip was shared here. Then 3 non-Dutch designers gave their experiences of living and working in the Netherlands, one being Graham Sturt, VBAT’s Creative Director. This was pretty cool to see, especially at the Pakhuis de Zwijger with its 9 screen hall. Epic.

24th May 2017: Graham Sturt speaking at It’s All Graphic – Pakhuis de Zwijger

That same evening was also the Europa Cup final between Ajax and Manchester United although unfortunately Ajax lost 2–0. I was debating going to watch the game at the Museumplein along with thousands of others but I didnt have time. I did swoop past though and check out the atmosphere which was incredibly loud and lively.

24th May 2017: Ajax Fans – Museumplein

I’m not really a film person but one film that I do love is Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. There’s also a few other films of his that I like: Wolf of Wall Street and Shutter Island. They’re all thrilling films and when the Eye Film Museum opened their Scorsese exhibition I had to go there, also to see the impressive building again. Vasco covered this much better than I could.

27th May 2017: Martin Scorsese – The Exhibition

At the end of my course at university in June 2016 we had our end of year degree show where we were able to present ourselves and our work – it was actually through this that I was offered my internship at VBAT. Therefore I arranged with my friends that we would go see the 2017 end of year degree show in Leeds. The work on show was decent and it was so good to hang out with my university friends, again.

3rd June 2017: Leeds, The Boys / Third Floor Studio / Beckett Degree Show
4th June 2017: Leeds Beckett University Broadcasting Place

Looking for a new and different city to visit, I saw that Amersfoort had a number of exhibitions on De Stijl and its artists. One place with an exhibition was the Mondriaanhuis – the birthplace of Piet Mondriaan in 1872. It was kinda interesting with a bunch of paintings and it showed the history of his career through his work but not that special. There was one room though where a cube had images and patterns projected onto it and then bled off onto the floor and the walls which was impressive. I also went to the Kunsthal Amersfoort where there was an exhibiton on the colours of De Stijl–showing multiple artists who used colour and colour theory prolifically in their work. The standout here was Josef Albers and his colour experiments, simple yet great colour blocks exploring the relationship between colours.

10th June 2017: Amersfoort Canal / Mondriaanhuis Nike SB / Mondriaanhuis Cube Projection
10th June 2017: Kunsthal Kade, Poul Gernes – Untitled

At the Bijzondere Collecties, there was an exhibition that I was stupidly excited for: Modernism in Print. Modernism is one of my favourite styles of art and design, in graphic design it makes me think of some of my favourite designers: Josef Muller Brockmann, Wim Crouwel, Emil Ruder etc. And this exhibition had it all, mainly Dutch designers but the odd other Europeans, there was so much ephemera and printed material it was a real walk through time of moderism. From the early days of Constructivist design from El Lissitzky and De Stijl from Theo Van Doesburg up to modern day from Experimental Jetset. There was also another part of the exhibition featuring the crazy and unique patterns by Hansje van Halem whom I learnt about whilst being in Amsterdam.

17th June 2017: Modernism in Print/Modernism in Patterns
17th June 2017: Bijzondere Collecties – Modernism In Print/Modernism in Patterns

Some time during the year I started going to the Rush Hour Records store in Amsterdam and started to buy records regulary. I’ve always bought and collected records, having over 150 at home in the UK, I love the idea of physical music and the record sleeve as a piece of physical design. I’ve always seen record sleeves as the quintassential format of graphic design, when anyone asks what graphic design is I always use this example before logos, identities, posters etc. The collection I have so far here is predominantly house, techno and hip-hop beats, it’s being so insightful to learn about and buy records from amazing European record labels like Dekmantel, 50Weapons, трип and many more.

24th June 2017: Rush Hour Record Store

The ADCN is the association for creativity in advertising and design (Advertising, Design, Creativity, Netherlands) in the Netherlands. Graham Sturt offered me his ticket to a talk one evening by Jacques Koweiden and Paul Postma, a reflection of their careers in graphic design and what the future holds for them. I hadn’t heard of Postma but very vaguely heard of Koweiden but the talk was highly educational and informative, thankfully they gave it in English not Dutch, despite me being the only non-Dutch speaker there; there was also a few nice stories from Dietwee’s Tirso Frances.

11th July 2017: ADCN Talk – Jacques Koweiden & Paul Postma

As a part of another writing thing I am doing, VBAT were able to allow me to travel to the Manchester in the UK, specifically for the exhibiton ‘True Faith’ focusing on the art and design and legacy of the two iconic Manchester bands: Joy Divison and New Order. These are two of my favourite bands who’s music is so diverse and great. I wanted to go and witness it for myself and make a comment on the record sleeve graphic design of these bands, done mostly by Northern graphic designer Peter Saville. My girlfriend also made the trip up from London to surprise me and spend the day with me.

12th July 2017: Manchester – True Faith Exhibition

Having been to exhibitions and reading a lot on Dutch graphic design I have amassed a wider knowledge in this field. Sadly, this year saw the passing of several prestigous Dutch graphic designers; noteably Total Design’s Ben Bos (January 3rd), illustrator and author Dick Bruna (February 16th), Ad Werner (17 June) and also Ootje Oxenaar (13th June) who inspired me to write about his work and more specifically the design of money in general. Having written about the design of stamps which are an everyday piece of design it felt right to say something about another commodity, a nice piece that allowed me to explore different European currency and have my say on the design of the Euro notes. Graham also conducted an interesting interview with Ben Bos before he passed away, which was shared this year.

Whilst in Manchester I contacted Stefan Sagmeister through Instagram and email as I saw he was offering his latest project, ‘The Happy Film’ for screenings around the world. I thought it would be good to have a screening at VBAT to which he agreed and gave us the code to show it. It was organised at work and a bunch of us watched it with the classic combination of piña colada and pizza.

19th July 2017: Stefan Sagmeister – The Happy Film

Purely through Instagram and the people who I follow I found out that the evening of the 24th July that there was a new indoor skatepark opening evening in Noord called NOORD – very imaginative name. Eitherway, the opening evening had a demo session by the Nike SB skate team, of which I used to love to watch and follow when I was a teenager – Eric Koston, Alex Olson, Sean Malto and friends. It felt pretty nostalgic watching these guys skating again but this time in person, so good. Supermaandag.

24th July 2017: Noord Skatepark – Nike SB Demo

By July I felt like I had visited a pretty substantial amount of cities and villages in the Netherlands, sure it’s not all of the big places but still enough to have seen a lot so far. With all this knowledge of these places, photos and references I created a series of animated icons. Using shapes, symbols, colours and logos to give a feeling of each of the cities; originally a series of static icons I chose to take it that step further and animate them into simple gifs. Simple yet effective.

The Netherlands Gifs (Various)
The Netherlands Gifs – Amsterdam

Through Facebook I kept seeing posts showing Kendrick Lamar’s newest music video at the time for his song ‘Element’. The posts where showing how he/the music video director had referenced the work of African-American photographer Gordon Parks which were interesting enough. I then randomly checked what was on at the FOAM museum and saw there was a big Gordon Parks exhibition so I had to go check it out after this. Although, it was alright, but just that, alright; nothing too special and way too busy – I prefer Kendrick’s interpretation.

12th August 2017: FOAM, Gordon Parks – I Am You

Back in September 2016 I went to the Moco for the Banksy and Warhol exhibition as I mentioned near the start of this write-up but I think this exhibition was way better. At the Beurs van Berlage, there was way more Warhol here and in a bigger space as well as a bunch of Warhol’s friend artists: Lichtenstein and Haring. I love these artists, so it was a real treat to see these here.

Beurs van Berlage, Andy Warhol / Keith Haring / Andy Warhol Record Sleeves
Beurs van Berlage, Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup Cans

Following the first FONK poster/cover, I was briefed on a second design; this time focusing on ‘tomorrow’s design’ specifically Dutch product designers and their furniture. Researching into designers like Maarten Baas and Hella Jongerius and seeing how playful and experimental they were with their product design – I wanted my poster to reflect this. It had to use imagery of their work but I chose to distort and abstract it through a heavy half-tone and bold colour to reflect this playfulness. The yellow swash in the background is to contrast against the organic yet somewhat geometric shapes of which the objects are held inside. Finally the type pulls it all together and balances out the page, referencing the notion of ‘tomorrow’s design’. This also made the cover.

23rd August 2017: FONK Magazine, Issue 214 – Insert Poster

So after all that, I end this piece on this image. On Saturday the 27th of August, 2017 I found where I took that initial first photo a year ago and I took the same photo to complete the circle. An incredibly eventful year with so many experiences, adventures and good times. Each day I find it amazing that I live here and still, my time in Amsterdam isn’t up just yet – so for now the adventure continues.

27th August 2017: Herengracht

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