Karel Martens on design: Not like fries and mayo, pleasing you instantly but then causing stomach-aches

6 July 2012
Reading Time
1 minutes


“Evoking meaning rather than boldly presenting truth is the essence of typographer Karel Martens work” says the disembodied voice of this eight-and-a-half minute profile film following the Dutch pedagogic graphic designer, created by the Submarine Channel. What Martens has achieved in his extraordinary career would not fit into a film 100 times as long but what this short does do is shed a renewing light on the importance of play as a mode for thought.

As a stalwart of Dutch modernism, this is not an established idea of “playful” but more looking at regular systems for irregular, unexpected elisions in form, information and meaning. Which is in some way explained by his constant experimentation with colour – “I have always marvelled at the fact that with the three primary colours, you can make all the colours in the world” – and with subjects like maths and science which are introduced to inform his work, rather than merely displaying the information of that particular subject.

Martens does not disappoint in the personality scale either, he’s a joy to watch and I for one will be quoting him the next time I drink a mug of red: “I think it’s important that like good wine, a design has a lingering flavour.” (Exit scene.)

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About the Author

Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

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