In the new publication Modernist, Dutch author Frederike Huygen revisits Wim Crouwel's work, going into greater depth to understand the methodology and philosophy behind one of the greatest minds in modern graphic design.

It is a sequel to the first monograph, Wim Crouwel: mode en module, which she co-authored in 1997. Intended to open up a discussion on a global scale. This book, unlike the first, will be published in English.

In summing up the importance of her compatriot's work and his contribution to the modernism movement in the 20th century, Huygen says: ‘Crouwel has been a strong advocate of [Swiss] modernism since the 1960s, to such an extent that the movement has become synonymous with Dutch design.’

‘Indirectly,' she adds, 'Crouwel is also responsible for the reactions to modernism and the lively design climate in the 80s. His seminal works such as the 'New Alphabet' (1967) have became an icon and received a lot of renewed attention in the digital era.’ 

The book has been arranged thematically rather than chronologically. It begins with an in-depth introduction of Crouwel’s approach to modernity and modernism, illustrated by a photographic biography, which leads into his inception as a designer during the post-war period of recovery and reconstruction. His interest in Swiss typography led to the setting up of Total Design in the early 1960s, and heralded an important era in the designer’s life, when he began his three-decade-long collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum. This is an important section of the book, exploring Crouwel’s influence in the public sector and looking into the designer’s personal interpretation of art. ‘This period testifies to his incredible versatility, inventiveness and sensitivity,’ says Huygen.

Crouwel demanded a critical book rather than something that was little more than a catalogue of his work, and Huygen has not disappointed. Taking the reader through the second decade of Total Design, she analyses the criticism and challenges that Crouwel encountered at a time of changing opinions in both the industry and the public. Assessing the reasons for Crouwel’s international popularity since the 1990s, the author also addresses the problems associated with the term ‘modernism’.

‘I hope that we can look again with fresh eyes at Crouwel and at modernism,' she concludes, 'which has for so long suffered from cliches.’