Why We Design explores the lasting urgency of graphic design
New book, film and exhibition by design studio thonik

AMSTERDAM – Thonik's founders Nikki Gonnissen and Thomas Widdershoven decided to celebrate 25 years of existence with a book. But in stead of making a fairly obvious retrospect they aimed for something more substantial – true to form. Why We Design is an exploration of the eleven personal reasons why Nikki and Thomas do what they do, set against a quarter of a decade in which not only the world but also the field of graphic design changed dramatically.

Why We Design will have a festive book launch on November the 29th.
"It is all there," Nikki explains. "We wanted the book to contain not just a standard chronology but also to really research our work in an altering world while our profession has been changing significantly because of new technologies." By using eleven personal themes (radical, impact, us & them, empower a.o.) thonik created a red thread connecting their body of work to the outside world, providing context for the central notion of why it is that we design.

The book is quite unique in its creation and objective. Thomas: "Designers don't normally reflect on the 'why' question of their work – it is something we leave to artists. We explain ourselves to clients but not in a general way and not looking for an overall motivation. We were quite surprised while making this book that no one else had tempted something similar." The urgency is there, since design is seen by some as the magic wand to fix all world problems. Why We Design sheds a more nuanced light. "We hope to encourage the dialogue about our profession and give air and fuel to the greater discussion of why it is that we design."
Photo credits: Sonia Mangiapane
Why We Design is as much a time capsule (packed full with visual citations and highlights from thonik's oeuvre) where the reader can see the impact of a changing world on the work of a studio but it also underlines the remaining relevance of graphic design. It is a testimony of how the design practice works, to see it in action and what underlying reasons form a common denominator between thonik's iconic work for the Dutch Socialist Party and tampon brand Yoni.

British writer and designer Adrian Shaughnessy formulates it as following: "All thonik’s work is characterised by vibrant execution – they don’t do dull – and as with all the best Dutch graphic design, stretching back to the great 20th century masters (Theo van Doesburg, Piet Zwart, HN Werkman, Wim Crouwel, Anthon Beeke, Jan van Toorn, Gert Dumbar) there is a surefooted fusion of visual aesthetics and intellectual reflection."
Why We Design, published
by Lars Müller Publishers
With contributions by Aaron Betsky,
Adrian Shaughnessy and Gert Staal

The book has a special pre sale
during Dutch Design Week
20 - 28 October 2018

Veem | Floor 2
Torenallee 80
5617 BE Eindhoven

Why We Design is for sale

through Lars Müller Publishers

isbn: 2019, 978-3-03778-556-0

EMPOWER | Differences in culture, gender, talent or generation should not divide us. Instead, these differences are the main source of human potential. Design can empower  people to realise their potential [page 271, Why We Design]
Weaving Stories: thonik's journey to connect east and west over brocade
Weaving Stories is a story within a story and one of thonik's latest international projects presented this month during Dutch Design Week (20 – 28 October 2018). Making brocade fabrics is feared to be a lost art in China. Once only fit for an emperor the brocade industry has all but vanished. Brocade has been declared a UNESCO heritage and the city of Nanjing is trying to save the knowledge by encouraging collaborations between western designers and the traditional industry of brocade making. Amsterdam design studio thonik decided to pair up with two of the last women with insider knowledge of the very complex art of making brocade.
Photo credits: Alex Sun
Comprised of a short film, a piece of Yunjin brocade and a dress, Weaving Stories envisages the lives of the two Yunjin brocade weavers, Qiao-yun and Xiao-fang, untangling their journeys to become craftswomen in a disappearing heritage. The film is woven with different themes concerning their encounters with weaving as well as their life stories. While traditional craft is extremely hierarchical in China, thonik hopes to shed light upon the anonymous makers who dedicate their lives to the grand narrative of craft. The two women portrayed in this film negotiate life with grace and dignity.
Weaving Stories by thonik
in collaboration with Fang Ye (dress design)

Alice Wong and Alexandre Humbert (film)

More information

Dutch Design Week
20 - 28 October 2018
Veem | Floor 2
Torenallee 80
5617 BE Eindhoven

EXPOSE | Our work is out there. It reveals our ideas and values. We make a big splash. [page 181, Why We Design]
NAKED an exhibition exploring nudity and nakedness at Museum Kranenburgh
With the exhibition NAKED – The Vulnerable Body, Museum Kranenburgh considers the changing meaning of the naked in the visual culture of the past decades: from shock to familiarity, from taboo to openness – and sometimes back again.
Photo credits: Insane
John Berger, the well-known British writer and artist said: "To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others "(Ways of Seeing, 1972). Thonik's Thomas Widdershoven uses Berger’s quote as this exhibition’s leitmotif, addressing the challenge of "finding a grey area where classifying in terms of good or bad, sexual or non-sexual, or shocking or not, becomes almost impossible."

By choosing this theme Thomas was forced to bare himself as well. "This exhibition was made against the backdrop of #metoo and a new wave of prudishness. I for one was very much aware of being a man and having feelings, desires and fears." NAKED has a very wide range of work by others and thonik itself. "Apparently nakedness is a theme in our work. We exhibit our campaign where we asked an incredible elderly lady to undress herself for a tv commercial to draw attention to the lowering standards in healthcare in nursing homes." But there is less literal nakedness as well. "I wanted to show Wim Crouwel's phonebook in lowercase which caused a riot in Holland, people feeling exposed because of it. And what would this exhibition be without the work from the late Anthon Beeke – who we lost just quite recently. There is no artist who has worked with nakedness and nudity more vigorously or fearless than Anthon. I'm sad he is no longer with us but grateful for all he has left behind."

NAKED curated by Thomas Widdershoven
assisted by Marie Stel

Museum Kranenburgh
Hoflaan 26, Bergen NH
14 October 2018 – 3 February 2019
Note to the editor (not for publication):

about thonik
thonik was founded in 1993 and specialises in visual communication, graphic identity, interaction, and motion design. To the studio it is important to create work that sets apart and differentiates, work that sparks discussions and initiates change – one design at a time. thonik has developed numerous advertising campaigns, visual identities, and moving graphics for Museum Kranenburgh, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the VPRO, the Holland Festival and the Power Station of Art in Shanghai.


More information and high-resolution images are available via the online press page. Please address any press or media inquiries to Carlijn Bosch: | +31 302716311 | +31 648517367

Stadhouderskade 85
1073 AT Amsterdam
The Netherlands

+31 (0)20 4683525

thonik press release

Copyright © 2018
authors, thonik, Amsterdam

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