• Is there a special style or approach to design type recipe to create (bilingual) typography in Belgium?
Yes. The Dutch-speaking designers in the Flemish part of the country use typography as imagery, or a way of creative expression, whereas in the South, Wallonia, typography is mainly used for printing text. Dutch-speaking designers lean more towards the new and trendy designs. That’s why in larger cities such as Ghent or Antwerp, graphic designers are able to sell more designs than their Wallonian counterparts.
• How would you compare the impression of Belgian design to that of the Netherlands or France?
I’d put Belgium in between the Netherlands and France. The Dutch are ‘’sticking their heads and shoulders’’ above the Belgians and the French when it comes to new and innovative tendencies in the world of graphic design, and also concerning type design.
• Are there any stronger connections (concerning design) to your direct neighbours?
Belgium has good contact with The Netherlands regarding graphic design and type design. Even though printing was invented in Belgium, it is now the Dutch who are mastering the art of type design. It’s pretty clear that the Dutch have a big influence in Belgium. For example, at the Plantin Institute for Typography in Antwerp, a majority of the lectors are Dutch. Moreover, while the PIT is the only institute in Belgium where you can actually study the art of type design, the Netherlands has several. When it comes to my own work, I don’t often work for clients from the Netherlands or other neighbouring countries, apart from Germany. My fonts, for example, have the most success in the USA, Germany, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
• Does the specific sociocultural situation in your country (Rivalry between Flemings and Walloons, role of European capital) have any effect on design, typography or type design?
To be honest, that’s not really the case for my job or my clients. It does exist, but it’s mostly created by the political parties’ propaganda, which portray or even magnify the rivalry between Flanders and Wallony. It is all used for their own benefit and to deceive people. We, graphic designers, tell a different story so that’s not our objective.
• Belgium is well-known for spectacular fashion design, traditional craftwork and delicious foodstuffs (pommes frites, chocolate, wafers, beer). Does that mean anything for you and your work?
Absolutely. I’m pleased and proud that as a Belgian myself, I am able to work with such clientele. For example, I’ve created multiple food labels, and also gin and beer labels. It’s the icing on the cake for someone who’s been passionately studying this craft for many years. It isn’t a chance every graphic designer gets offered. It’s like a reward for years of hard work and the pursuit of perfection and respect within the industry. If I get an opportunity like this, I grab it with both hands and try to implement my own style. On top of that, I even incorporate my own fonts, which has been successful every time.
• In general: What are the main themes of Belgium’s design today? Does the educational system fit to the typographic needs?
Advertisements and events are definitely still the most popular themes, concerning the amount of designs and prints. There isn’t such thing as a typical Belgian style. Each designer uses the resources he prefers and is used to working with. This enables the designer to create a unique result.
• How does Belgium look at the world?
Us Belgians are always looking at the world around us since we are only a tiny little country. Therefore we take our inspiration and influences from all over the world. When it comes to music and films we look at the USA or the UK. Not to mention the importance of the old-school vintage branding from the forties and on.
• How should the world see Belgium and its designers beyond any popular clichés?
In my humble opinion, I think that Belgian designers are highly respected within the wider audience. This is because we are known for our craftsmanship, know-how, patience and precision on how designs are made. This applies for the most part to Belgians. We’re known as hard-working people, and we do enjoy an exquisite Belgian beer from time to time of course. Speaking of which, Belgian beers are known all over the world, and so are its labels. From Berlin to Seattle to Bangkok, one can notice the logo of a Duvel or Leffe from miles away. Once again, that is why I’m so proud to be able to design beer labels for Belgian breweries.
• How did the bomb attacks in Brussels influence your life – and maybe even your work?
The attacks in Brussels haven’t had any influence on my (or my friends’ or family’s) life or work. Yet, like everyone, I was staring at the news with my eyes wide open and full of disbelief from what had happened. What happened in Paris months before wasn’t so far from our bed anymore but I would’ve never thought that it would actually happen in our country. Actually, one of my Kustomtype fonts was used for a campaign against the terror attacks in Paris.
• Do you think designers have to react on those occasions?
I honestly don’t think it’s our duty or job to react to this. I would rather let cartoonists do that.
• In case you did, could you hand over a sample of how you did?
I haven’t designed anything that deals with this topic and I think I’ll stick to this plan.
Courses & Colleges
- Foundations of Typography (docent Antoon De Vylder)
- Script As the Basis for Fonts (docent Frank E. Blokland)
- History of the Font (docent John A. Lane)
- Topical Fonts (docent Jan Middendorp)
- Digital Type Design (docent Frank E. Blokland)
- Research project on Mongolian typography (docent Jo De Baerdemaeker)
- Trajan in Movie Posters (by Yves Peters)
- About Typography (by René Knip)
- Disharmony Is the Basis (by Peter Verheul)
- Fonts for the Dutch Government (Studio Dunbar)
- A Loud-Mouthed Belgian With Two Blogs (Yves Peters)
- Open Type and Multilingual Typography (Jo De Baerdemaeker)
- Brill Type (by Pim Rietbroek)
- Looking, Understanding, And Getting Convinced (Jos van den Broek)
- Graphic novels (Geert De Weyer)