The new book

Roosje Klap

Essay for the Dutch Design Awards 2019

In 1923 El Lissitzky stated that ‘the new book demands the new writer’[1]. As old boundaries disappear and we are fading out rules of craft, speed and technologies the way we know it, it would mean that, in theory, the field of design is open to anyone who can create in a verbal and visual dimension. This conjures up an exciting field of newborn designers that do not no longer identify with ‘problems’ to solve, but as ‘questions’ to answer as their discursive possibilities. They carefully connect content with a social, cultural and digital context – and broaden this every day, adding research domains that can be political, technical, scientific or economical, not being hindered by any final frontier. They work with (digital) systems, which are the tangible representatives of our network. They generously offer their creations open source, share their research as pamphlets for reflection and position and help us to belong. 

The earliest networked computer systems were originally designed for academics, scientists and the military, mostly to share information. They rapidly evolved into spaces in which human relationships could flourish through informal, emotional, and playful conversations and thus became a space for digital (creative) exchange. However, the networked-self has become increasingly self-contradictory: it promotes a sense of connection but often really does the opposite. Let’s face it: one of the most terrifying issues with this new found territory is a certain ‘artificial stupidity’[2], which manifests in invisible bot armies that are able to produce fake news or even sway elections. This is what really impacts how people think and do. It is important to use our technologies intelligent and responsible. We have to think about what artificial monsters are capable of creating.
“I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’” [3] 

I believe these are promising times to design a revolution for our trade, with endless possibilities for creating work, that can cross over our disciplines and care for the world and the people. And it is the designer-community that has to set clear and smart examples –so we use the tools and techniques at hand in the most responsible way. We have to work together. We can play an active and directive role for our future to connect culture and society together and contribute to a social resilience[4]. This is why it is so important that the three nominees in the category ‘Communication’ offer several positions for alliance through their work. 

The Rodina created a playful and crafty developed identity for the Sonic Acts Festival, in which they also participated themselves, with fun performances in colourful costumes executing this very identity.
With the project OPENRNDR by RNDR, we discover an altruistic open source system, which allows us to participate in a digital kick-ass platform in which we can create versatile new creations and connections: a wonderful example of a platform in which we can share knowledge and skills within a carefully developed high-tech framework.

Sometimes there are career-spanning endeavours initiatives without clients: like Richard Niessen and his non-stop devotion to build a poetical imaginative ‘house’, the Typographic Masonry, where a treasure of research about our own tools for communication and the history of typography and graphic design are to be discovered, displayed and shared. This richness offers a generous view into our past in order to position ourselves today, when we are looking for ways to use the tools of tomorrow. 

The designer is redesigning itself, ready for a journey to find new commons for their expanding territories. We are writing a new book.


Roosje Klap

Chair category ‘Communication’ 


[1] El Lissitzky in Electro-Library dreams, Merz No. 4, juli 1923

[2] Papacharissi, Zizi, A Networked Self, New York: Routledge Press, 2010

[3] Steyerl, Hito and Crawford, Kate. Data Streams. The New Inquiry, 2017

[4] Giovannitti, Len. The Decision to Drop the Bomb. Coward-McCann, 1965

[5] George Brugmans & Marleen Stikker. Zonder creativiteit geen toekomst. NRC, 14 juni 2019