I was overjoyed to see that Hyphen Press have recently published a third edition of Karel Martens’s graphic design masterpiece “Printed Matter / Drukwerk”. Karel Martens is without a doubt, one of the most significantly influential graphic designers working today and this book is a testament to his joyful pursuit in visual experimentation and his willingness to push the boundaries of the printed page. Copiously illustrated, the book documents a wide range of commissioned and non commissioned work by the Dutch designer and educator, ranging from his early designs for small left wing publications to his later non commercial and experimental colour saturated print work. This book is a visual treat, with page after page of inventive formal Swiss asceticism colliding with rough misprint and craft sensibility. What’s particularly striking about much of Martens's work is his unusual capacity to harness the economy of Modernism with a humanist spirit by carefully balancing a playful inventiveness with intellectual rigour and precision. This rare ability to satisfy the needs of the client while still retain a unique and personal voice invests an almost Cagian levity into his work, with error and chance being intellectually harnessed in the service of a truly democratic form of graphic communication. There is a clarity and vision at work here most designers would be envious of as form and function has rarely been so keenly nor adroitly combined. A welcome addition to any design library.
“Printed Matter / Drukwerk” is published this month by Hyphen Press.