Wim Crouwel—Miami’s Graphic Designer du Jour

By Aaron Britt / Published by Dwell
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Though the Campana brothers carried the day at Design Miami, and Art Basel housed more Jean Dubuffet than you’d care to buy, or sell, the graphic designer holding court on Miami Beach this past weekend was the Dutch master Wim Crouwel.

Nicknamed the Gridnik for his tight geometry and wholesale embrace of the grid to create structure and order, this graphic designer who just celebrated his 80th birthday is in the midst of a vogue—click here to see his turn in the film Helvetica. The VIVID gallery, out of Rotterdam, used a handful of Crouwel’s posters to help set the scene at Design Miami, while blocks away the Wolfsonian Museum just opened a new exhibit to run through March 10th, 2009 entitled Girdnik: Wim Crouwel and Modern Typography.

Wolfsonian Curator Sarah Schleuning gave me a private tour of the exhibit, which went up only last week, and described how the small show draws on Crouwel’s work from the 1950s to the present. Beyond the two dozen or so Crouwel posters, the exhibit also shows work by Crouwel predecessors like Hendircus Theodorus Wijdeveld and Josef Hoffman, all of whom experimented with the grid and came to be formative for Crouwel’s full-throated ardor, and ultimate experimentation, with the thing. 

Though the show is small—culled from the collections of the Wolfsonian, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for whom Crouwel designed numerous exhibition posters, and private collectors—it still manages to have a loose feeling, not suggesting a one to one ratio between Crouwel’s work and that of his antecedents and contemporaries.  Instead, Schleuning’s subject is the grid itself, with Crouwel taking the leading role. I ran into the very handsome Wim walking around Design Miami, and with his shock of white hair and rather dapper khaki safari jacket, he looks every bit the star. Here’s hoping his vogue continues.

Click here to see a slideshow of his work.

Aaron Britt


Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.

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