toolbar icons


Once I got started on the toolbar icons for Edge, I couldn’t stop anymore. After I made the little Rocket ice, I figured things had gotten a bit out of hand … This is the kind of work that I enjoy hugely. I learned a lot of it as well. These icons are optimized for 35 x 35 pixels, which would be okay for the iPad but not for the iPhone. Since some of them have thin strokes they need adjustments for smaller sizes. Once you give it a try, you realize how little detail is possible and just how challenging it is.

Some of the basic shapes are based on the font Magnola, a lovely letter with high contrast and lots of substance. I used it before for this project, so the icons might come in handy there as well. But working with high contrast sure has its limits when it comes to basic icons in small sizes. It was fun to figure out what worked and what not.

welcome to The Edge

One of the most interesting reads on the web is Edge, where scientists talk not only about their science but also about society, culture and philosophy. Just smart people talking about smart topics. Lovely. But their webdesign is really not so lovely. I don’t mind that it’s boring, even so that doesn’t seem appropriate for such excellent content. It is also not particularly user-friendly. I find their annual question the most interesting section - and it really is a pain to read online. I guess they do it on purpose so you go and buy the book.


After spending some time on I found it to be an equivalent of a modern salon, a melting pot for ideas from all sorts of intellectuals. I really wanted it to look elegant and appealing, it should tempt people to read on, it deserves some glamour. What, for example, if you publish it on the iPad and take in some influence from fashion magazines? They sure know how to seduce their readers. Well, here is what I came up with.


This is just a series of screens and not a working application. It demonstrates the way from the starting page to a text, in this case Richard Dawkins answer to the 2011 annual question. The colours link the content in the sense that every level has its own assigned colour, with hot pink as the anchor. No more bad photos and random clipart, just colours and gradients to lead the eye.


Some of the texts on are quite long, so legibility comes first. I used the elegant and lively Adobe Caslon for the typography and made my own icons. I wanted at least some of the toolbar icons to have some contrast and couldn’t find anything nice. Some of the basic shapes are based on the font Magnola. Under each text is a comment section that invites you to make personal notes, which you also can share with your network if you want to.


A whole new set of questions

Here is something that I never ever thought I would say: I am tired of aesthetics. Well, our obsession with aesthetics to be precise. Seriously, if I see one more pretty photo I am going to collapse. I stopped reading design blogs, stopped buying design magazines and I ignore Pinterest as good as I can. There has been way too much design input in my life. Now I am on cold turkey. The crazy thing is: I think this will make me a much better designer. Let me explain: The more I find myself surrounded by pretty graphic design and styled images, the harder it is to concentrate on what really matters to me and to be happy with what I can achieve myself. I want to focus on output not input.

I love food and I’m a pretty enthusiastic cook and baker. Naturally I like cook books and blogs. Over the last years the level of styling in the culinary world has exploded. I tried lots and lots of recipes that looked amazing but were disappointing when served. The influence goes further: looking at all this beauty on a plate makes my own food suddenly look very rustic (but not in the shabby-chic-way). The nasty thing about this inflation of styling is, that it is set up to look nonchalant and achievable. It is not. It distracts from the thing cooks should care about: taste.

This would be easy to tolerate if it only effects my food, fashion and interiors. But it doesn’t stop there. My work as a graphic designer is also effected by the tight grip stylists have on our visual culture. So I took action and stopped the madness.


Only now did I learn to truly appreciate what Stefan Sagmeister stated years ago: trying to look good limits my life. I am about to drown in a sea of prettiness. It numbs my senses, it makes me sleepy. The sad result is a growing distance to the real world, the busy, chaotic, urban, mostly ugly world. Don’t get me wrong, luckily beauty does exist on so many levels in my life. I recognize it if I encounter it. But the quest for it shouldn’t dominate us. And we shouldn’t trivialize it by making superficial imitations of it. Natural beauty goes a lot deeper than styling. So does goed graphic design. Excellent content and sincere human engagement should be our priority, not styling. Not fully appreciating the complexity of the here and now is not helping designers at all. Everyone needs real communication solutions for the real world.

Finally, I know that many designers have come to this conclusion before me. I’m late for the show and I’m not claiming this to be an original idea. Just my personal status quo, nothing else.

Enough of my ramblings! So, what did I do with all the time that I didn’t spend looking at pretty images? Well, trying to get a deeper understanding of what it means to live in the 21 century. Serious stuff, he? To quote Carl Sagan: We live in a society exquisitely depending on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. I am currently doing my best to learn more about information, computers and the internet. Because it matters. And I try to worry less about Photoshop and more about html, css and javascript. Because expanding my toolspace gives me more control over my work.

I wonder, how I can use this space to share my learning curve? But that’s a new story …



sometimes my neighbourhood freaks me out. why would anyone put something so hideous in the front garden of a small detached house? these are two particularly impressive examples of the bad taste around here. what makes this so funny is, that these two hopelessly oversized creatures live only 100 meters apart from each other. I imagine that they have a secret life at night, running around and fighting with each other. I guess I watch too many cartoons …


Identity for a Tango DJ

If you want to evaluate the quality of a project it is quite helpful to write about it and to put it online. I tend to look at things differently when they are about to be published. Sharper. More critical. So here is my little write up on a recent project that I want to share.


El Capitan is a Tango DJ, based in Frankfurt/Germany, who plays at festivals all over Europe. After listening to him and his passionate stories about Tango Argentino, I identified the essentials of his small personal brand in three moodboards. These are the things that make him stand out from the rest. The coherent themes were called Maritime Nostalgia, Beach Milonga and Hafenbar. With the help of the visuals we quickly figured out that the more formal maritime theme was not the way he wanted to go. When I went deeper into the two options left, I realized that they have a few things in common: movement, light and a certain looseness.


And since my client had the hardest time to decide between these two options - I found a clever way to combine the two. I created a visual and typographic identity with a day and night alternative. The specific typography and the use of photography are the fixed elements, while the colours, motives and the degree of blurriness can vary. Thanks to this little trick El Capitan can promote his day events in the summer in exactly the same style as his night events.


As for the typography I really wanted to work with a high-contrast font as it seems fitting for such an elegant and controlled dance as Tango. After testing dozens of fonts, I ended up using Magnola, as it is sturdy enough for a typographic logo. To make it work for this purpose I created a different ‘a’ and ‘l’. The varying lengths of the descenders refers to Tango moves and to the swashes that are so common in South American handlettering. As a stylistic element the varying descenders can not only be applied to the name itself but also to other text. I didn’t use uppercase letters because this would limit my options to apply rhythm to words myself, plus lowercase looks more casual.


I tried to manipulate this typography in Photoshop in all sorts of ways too make it look like it moves or shines. The results were very disappointing. So disappointing in fact that I won’t show them here. My Eureka-moment came when I held a sheet of red plastic in front of a printout and held it up against the light. I was intrigued and worked this out further.


I ended up printing text and image on two transparent sheets and taking the photos on a light box. By moving the upper sheet around or lifting it I can vary the degree of distortion in a very natural way. So, here are some of the final visuals, combining name and tag line. El Capitan is a keen photographer and this flexible identity system allows us to incorporate his images into his promotion material. The Tango world is flooded with, more or less tacky, illustrative logos of dancing couples; this design will help him stand out as a modern DJ that happens to love a traditional dance. Currently I am working on an animated variation of this to use as a trailer. But this proves to be a bit trickier than I thought it would be and is a whole new story …


colour notes


colours that made me happy last week. the first rhubarb of the season. jumm! and our naturally colored eggs. made with turmeric and red cabbage.

tropical surprise


It has been a while …

started my after-dinner-walk-routine again and look what I spotted the very first day: a colourful beauty. a little out of place, but they seemed perfectly happy. made my day.



gosh, I’m cold.

Ten years


German-Dutch, Dutch-German. Dictionaries are my friends. This month it will be ten years since I moved to Holland. A quarter of my life. Who would have guessed that I end up here? Certainly not me. Life is full of surprises!

Luckily I now fully mastered Dutch and don’t live in constant language confusion any more.

lost and found


Since I’m working on my portfolio, I come across all sorts of material that I’ve created not even that long ago. But in the frenzy of it all I tend to forget quickly. That’s a shame really because there are some jewels hiding in the depth of my hard drive. Like those 3D collages I made for a moodboard. Unusually neutral colour scheme for me. It’s amazing how many shades of a colour you can collect in your house within a matter of minutes.