metropolis m

They often find themselves in unconventional territory, at least for graphic designers. In their recently published book Uncorporate Identity, Vinca Kruk (b. 1980) and Daniel van der Velden (b. 1971), better known as Metahaven, the design studio they founded, take on such issues as geopolitics, the rising power of social networks, the standardization of culture as a result of globalization and the postmodern character of architecture under totalitarian regimes. The book, totalling 600 pages and compiled with the help of Marina Vishmidt, includes contributions by such renowned authors as Boris Groys, Dieter Lesage, Chantal Mouffe and Pier Vittorio Aureli.

Since 2004, when both designers were affiliated with the Jan van Eyck Academy, Kruk and Van der Velden have been opening their own field to investigative research in art, and since 2006 under the Metahaven name.[1] Recently, they have been doing this in museum settings. In 2008, for the CACP museum of contemporary art in Bordeaux, they created the poster exhibition Affiche Frontière; and in 2009, they completed their large-scale Stadtstaat project for the Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart and Casco, Utrecht. On invitation from Manifesta 8, which opens in October, they documented the network structures and enterprise of regional fruit growers near the Spanish city of Murcia. By operating ever more frequently in artistic contexts, it might seem that they are at least partly leaving the design discourse behind them, but that is not how they see it. They make it clear that they still see themselves as graphic designers.

Leen Bedaux

Daniel, in 2006, you wrote the article ‘Research and Destroy’ for METROPOLIS M (N°2–2006), in which you argued against the idea of designers as ‘the proletariat of the creative industry, silently executing what their clients dictate’. You felt that graphic designers must be capable of behaving politically in order to hold their own in the field of tension amongst communications managers, marketing experts and design managers, or they could better pull out of the world of logos and house styles, and therefore also out of the world of creative industry. Do you still feel the same way?

Daniel van der Velden

‘I have always considered the term ‘creative industry’ to be absolute nonsense. I do understand that cultural production is used as an economic engine, but I do not believe that designers should simply be at its beck and call. As a designer, you must be able to act politically, take decisive stances, but you also have to be able to work together with others. It is about finding the right balance.’

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Leen Bedaux

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