Dutch designer Koos Breen graduated from the Royal Academy of Art The Hague in 2014 and this year he was called upon to make a brochure, a survival guide and a calendar for the school. “The Academy often gives assignments and briefs to its alumni,” explains Koos. “They’re an absolute dream client as the briefs are very free and open.”
The brochure, created with fellow designer Suzanne Bakkum, needed to contain information about the different departments for high school students interested in attending the institution. “The Academy is prestigious but we wanted the book to be playful and not too serious,” Koos says. “This idea has been translated through the typography, we used a serious serif (Warnock) and very playful typeface (ATF Brush). We also used a classic Swiss binding and a linen-pressed cover to contrast with high gloss paper. We had contrast in mind for every design decision in the brochure.”
The survival guide Koos has also created follows a similar approach in that the tone of the publication was intended to be a lighthearted introduction for new international students. “Again contrast was an important part of the concept,” Koos says. A cheerful typeface was used, this time SignPainter-HouseScript, and is juxtaposed against a more elegant one, Akzidenz Grotesk. Koos tried to make it stand out in the plethora of materials students would be given and used black ink on yellow paper. For the pamphlet he worked with Dutch illustrator Viktor Hachmang. “He graduated from the Academy a few years before me and we decided to make a cover that plays with the cliches of struggling, hardworking musicians and artists,” Koos explains.
The final part of the three-piece project was the Academy Calendar, which provides students with important dates for the year. “It’s usually quite a serious publication and there didn’t seem to be a lot of space for creativity. But I always feel the need to make serious things a bit lighter,” says Koos. “After receiving the Excel file I noticed that there were a lot of empty boxes – I immediately wanted to fill them somehow. The rigid grid of the calendar was in desperate need of something more ‘joyful’. That made me think of Bob Ross, so I created a Bob Ross-inspired calendar.”
Flicking through the calendar Koos’ design only becomes apparent at the end of the book. “Every empty space is filled with a bitmapped ‘pattern’. At the end, you discover the index page with the overview of the previous pages and you see what you’re been looking at – a huge seascape Bob Ross painting.” To enhance the grandeur of the painting, Koos chose a dramatic typeface (Ogg Italic) and printed the calendar on grey paper. For a final flourish, the cover is printed with silver ink on green paper. “To be honest, I never thought they would accept this concept, but I had no Plan B. Luckily I share the same kind of humour with the head of communication at the Academy, so we went for it!”
Koos has just been awarded first prize at this year’s Graphic Design Festival Scotland’s international poster competition, which received 3,443 entries from more than 70 countries. Both his winning poster and extensive work for the Royal Academy of Art demonstrate Koos’ ability to execute a strong concept through functional, yet beautiful, design.