Studio Joost Grootens

Dictionary in the Digital Age

After five years of intensive R&D the redesign of the leading Dutch language dictionary Dikke Van Dale was launched this fall. SJG worked on a new design concept both for the traditional printed edition – a set of three volumes with nearly 5,000 pages – as for the dictionary’s online publications: a desktop version that functions as a writing aid and a mobile one aimed at offering quick definitions.

Dikke Van Dale Spines
Dikke Van Dale Mobile App

The 15th edition of the dictionary required serious reinterpretation of the existing format. Several remnants of a long history had to disappear. To improve the dictionary’s functionality a primarily typographic design commission needed to be turned into a graphic design approach. This is reflected in the introduction of new navigational elements like colour and illustration and in the design of a special typeface that includes symbols. Knowing how search routines have changed in the digital age, it became a major challenge to strengthen the cultural significance of the printed book. Its pearly white book cover presents a major break with the familiar dark hues of red and grey traditionally used by Van Dale. This signals the current association between the pursuit of knowledge and our use of white and silver digital devices as the portals to information. Less visible but just as important for an efficient production process of the dictionary was the design of a script that automatically typesets the pages from an xml-coded database in which the editors worked.

Dikke Van Dale Details
Dikke Van Dale Spine 2

Ceremony, a new typographic tool

Ceremony is a typeface drawn for use in small sizes, it combines a full extended latin character set with 178 pictograms, all encapsulated in 77 different positive and negative geometric shapes.The typeface resulted from a gradual process of development, starting around 2008. Work on an atlas required an indeling system of single and double digit numbers for which existing fonts did not provide a satisfactory answer. The studio started drawing its own solution. From there on Ceremony grew organically to include letters and in the final stage – while the studio was working on new projects – a library of pictograms was added. SJG investigated how a set of 21st century icons can represent contemporary concepts such as same-sex couples and smart devices. Since 2015 Ceremony is published by the Optimo Type Foundry in Switzerland and has now become a typographic tool for all.

Typeface Ceremony 1
Typeface Cermony 2

Researching the landscape of mapping

As part of the Doctoral Programme in Visual Art and Design (a collaboration between the Leiden University Academy of Creative and Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in The Hague, NL) Joost Grootens has started a 4-year PhDArts research project. Building on the pioneering work of SJG as designers of maps, the combination of academic and experimental research needs to develop a new understanding of the tools of mapmaking and the role of the map designer, now that Google Maps and all kinds of other digital navigation devices have redefined our sense of location and space.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung Spread
At the start of 2015 the Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) published a full-page information graphic showing the material damages caused by the US military intervention against IS in Syria and Iraq. The studio collected data from official US sources, covering military operations during the last five months of 2014.

The next generation of information designers

Since 2011 Joost Grootens heads the Design Academy Eindhoven at Design Academy Eindhoven, NL. The two-year course equips young professionals with an understanding of fast changing technologies and their impact on the production, representation and use of information. Designing news and designing knowledge are essential themes within the programme that stimulates students to experiment and find their own approach while they create their own tools, systems and work methods. In October 2015 the third batch of graduates presented their projects as part of the Dutch Design Week.

The Wandering Hole,Hannah Hiecke
The Wandering Hole, Hannah Hiecke
Amnesia State, Yaolan Luo
Amnesia State, Yaolan Luo
Exploative Public Library Interface, Erik VLemmix
Exploative Public Library Interface, Erik Vlemmix

Dam architectural book award

In his book Young–Old. Urban Utopias of an Aging Society architect and researcher Deane Simpson examines architectural and urban transformations that are related to aging populations in the US, Japan and Spain. The book features an array of specially designed graphs, maps and drawings that supplement Simpsons highly evocative essays and photographic material. This October Young–Old, published by Lars Müller Publishers, received the prestigious DAM Architectural Book Award, in which the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) collaborate. Two more titles designed by SJG were shortlisted: Infomal Market Worlds Atlas (by Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer; nai010 publishers) and Atlas of the Functional City (by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Pérez, Kees Somer, Daniel Weiss; THOTH Publishers & gta Verlag).

Young-Old
Young-Old, Deane Simpson, Lars Müller Publishers, 2014
Atlas of the Functional City
Atlas of the Functional City, Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Pérez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, THOTH Publishers and gta Verlag, 2014
Informal Markets Atlas
Infomal Market Worlds Atlas, Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer, nai010 Publishers, 2014

The studio on stage

The entire studio (except Dimitri Jeannottat who had teaching obligations in Switzerland) came to the stage at the 15th Integrated conference in Antwerp, BE this November. Joost Grootens lectured about the work process in the studio and he demonstrated how all recent projects have necessarily been collective creations. The strength of the team allows SJG to shape its own language and tools and to integrate in-house research in its commissioned projects. Other lectures in 2015 took Joost Grootens to AGI Open, Biel/Bienne, CH; KADK, Copenhagen, DK; ETH Zürich, CH, HEAD, Geneva, CH and Weissraum, Innsbruck, AT.

The studio on stage
Photograph by Paulien De Graaff

Fresh arrival

For the new book on Zero artist Jan Schoonhoven Jan Schoonhoven (nai010 Publishers) SJG decided to print all texts in PMS Cool Gray 5, as not to interfere with the monochrome whites of the art pieces. The design approach reflects the urgency of Schoonhovens minimalist work, made during the second half of the 20th century.

Jan Schoonhoven Cover
Jan Schoonhoven Spread
Jan Schoonhoven, Antoon Melissen, nai010 Publishers, 2015

Most of the time we design books


  • Joost Grootens
  • Dimitri Jeannottat
  • Silke Koeck
  • Hanae Shimizu
  • Linda Ursem
  • Mateo Broillet
  • Julie da Silva

Groenhoedenveem 24
1019 BL Amsterdam – NL
+31 20 688 61 17
contact@joostgrootens.nl


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