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Work / Graphic Design

How aimless walks and observations inform Jan van der Kleijn’s design practice

It was a poster for Gerrit Rietvield Academy’s study days – consisting of a black and white image of a dog, tiled – which first introduced us to the portfolio of Dutch designer, Jan van der Kleijn. Having moved to The Hague aged 20 to study at the Royal Academy of Art for three years, Jan completed his studies in graphic design at Gerrit Rietveld last year and now boasts a skilful, tonally consistent portfolio which a healthy dose of playfulness thrown in there too.

Currently, Jan is working as a designer at Irma Boom office while also freelancing on identities and projects with musicians and contemporary artists. “I can’t really say that I have a signature visual language,” Jan tells It’s Nice That, “but people say it all the time, it’s hard to figure out what that means.” Instead of crafting a visual language based solely on aesthetics, Jan’s portfolio features a similar tone thanks to his mixture of monochromatic and natural elements combined with a distinctive voice.

It was during his studies that he developed a unique process and point of inspiration. “When I started art school, I developed an interest in walking, space and the landscape that came back into my own work as well,” he explains. Diving into art and literature, he noticed similarities between several creatives. “Looking at Richard Long, Robert Smithson, WG Sebald, Robert Walser, Robert MacFarlane, what they all have in common is, they walked,” Jan outlines, “I recall MacFarlane saying that the American tradition of walking is discovery, while the British tradition of walking is recovery, for me it is a mixture of these things, and from these walks, I gather most inspiration.”

This process influenced Jan so far as to direct his graduation project, You are anywhere. Over the period of a few months, Jan recorded his own movement while on a series of aimless walks. These recordings then formed the basis of a research project into the visual language of navigation across several editions, each rearranged into a different order: “much like an aimless walk, it has no definite beginning or end, you can start anywhere,” he explains.

While often leading projects with research, Jan shows versatility and his humorous side in projects like I know someone that also did something like this. Self-initiated while studying, the project was born from an observation. “Whenever people showed work at the Art Academy, someone always used to say: ‘I know someone that also did something like this’,” Jan tells us, “out of that sentence grew this project.” Printing the words on a poster, the work became a tongue-in-cheek loop where the more it’s seen, the truer its statement becomes.

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