March 29, 2009

The Transparency of Graphic Design Studio Experimental Jetset

I first learned of Amsterdam-based Experimental Jetset from their Society of Lost Formats. Then I was reminded of them in the documentary film Helvetica. It’s great to see that, via the design educational site Thinking for a Living, their online presence has been refreshed with new content and, equally importantly, a new perspective.

From the time I became aware of the firm’s trio—Marieke Stolk, Danny van den Dungen and Erwin Brinkers—I was impressed by their emphasis on giving credit where credit is due, as they state in their About section:

“You’ll notice that (in the description of our designs) we often mention the names of printers or other parties that were involved in the production. This is not because of some shady sponsorship deals. We just want to give people the credits they deserve. We live in a society where there is already too much of a separation between manual work and intellectual/artistic work. It’s a separation we are strongly against. So, wherever possible, we tried to include the names of all parties involved. (Also, it is our opinion that including this kind of information adds some transparency to the object, and underlines its ‘thingness’).”

This practice of transparency doesn’t stop there. When it comes to describing their work, Experimental Jetset not only go into their “greatest hits” but also their “biggest failures.” Perhaps this is due to their “neurotic” drive at documentation, which is the source of their transparency. Yet, I believe that their identity is the key, coupled with their relentless desire to seek the words (see their Archive) to describe what they design and how they do it. To make this intensive search a meaningful one, Experimental Jetset’s transparency—acknowledgement of those involved in their process, their mistakes along with the successes—is a good lesson for good design which, I daresay, is good business.