Cover page 2-3 (front endpapers). The background is a sheet of wrapping paper of the V&D department store. It’s a 1970s design by Gertjan Leuvelink (Tel Design) – one of those designers who often had a reason to exclaim: “Hey, there goes one of mine!”.

‘Ha, daar gaat er een van mij!’

(‘Hey, there goes one of mine!’)

From the back cover:

‘Hey, there goes one of mine!’ is a chronicle of graphic design in The Hague in the period 1945–2000. One aspect of design produced in The Hague is that many people make work designed for high circulation — from banknotes and stamps to government publications and projects in public spaces. The explains the title of the book, a quote from R.D.E. Oxenaar, a long-time consultant to the Dutch Mail and designer of Dutch banknotes, who was referring to the agreeable sensation of seeing one’s work come by in daily life.

The book’s approach is to give a broad overview over graphic design in one city, The Hague. This allowed for featuring designers who may otherwise be ignored and whose work might otherwise have disappeared into the black hole of history.

• • •

In 1999, Stroom, the visual arts think tank of the City of The Hague, commissioned me and three other authors to each write a publication about an aspect of visual culture in the city since 1945. I was asked to write an overview of graphic design in The Hague, where I was born and went to school, and where the Dutch government has it seat. It was one of the most exciting assignments of my career, and they offered us a fee that seemed huge to me. So instead of writing a concise essay, as some of the others did, I went on a quest together with my then partner, Catherine Dal — a trip through the past that took us the best part of two years.

I called the book a ‘chronicle’ because I wanted to avoid writing a dry history full of descriptions of design pieces. I wanted stories. And I got them, thanks to the many designers and specialist who gave us access to their studios, homes and libraries.

We spent almost my entire fee on travelling back and forth between Ghent, Belgium, where we lived, on renting an apartment in The Hague for eight months, on international phonecalls, and on travelling across Holland. We also browsed bookshops and book markets, buying a couple of hundred books — it was the best way to find unique information and collect the book cover designs that The Hague designers had produced by the hundreds and that no library had preserved. We interviewed dozens of designers, the eldest of whom was 99 at the time: poster artist Jan Lavies, who had designed some of his best work before World War II. Some of the specialists I met provided us with a wealth of information, as well as imagery from their rich collections — most importantly Dick Maan, Françoise Berserik, Flip Bool, Wout de Vringer and Ben Faydherbe.

While doing the rounds of design agencies, I found my other partner in this crazy project — Huug Schipper of Studio Tint, a teacher at the KABK Royal Academy, who became the designer and a kind of co-editor of the book. He managed to get sponsoring from his favorite printing company, van Deventer in ’s-Gravenzande. As they are in the Westland, a horticultural area south of the city, they specialize in flower catalogues and therefore in high-end colour reproduction. They did a splendid job, and even sponsored the photography of hundreds of posters we’d selected in The Hague City Archive.

After two years and a lot of sweat, laughs and tears, we ended up with a book that had about 80,000 words, and 1000 pictures. It was probably the latter that got Chinese buyers interested. We were told that a couple of hundred copies were sold there. But my most valuable compliment came from Dutch readers. Some of them told me that this was the first design book they’d actually read from cover to cover. Which had been my main hope right from the start.