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Graphic Design through the city

Created as a platform to explore and push the boundaries of design, the Graphic Design Festival Breda (GDFB) engages the locals and visitors alike in a series of installations, exhibitions, happenings and workshops throughout the city centre.

By Katie Dominy / 25-04-2014

On our walkable route around the events, we came across the festival’s signature Poster Project on Kasteelplein, with a dramatic backdrop of the Dutch Royal Military Academy’s castle HQ. This year the Poster project is entitled Reflect and GDFB asked designers, in an open call out, to visualise changes on a micro or mega scale on current political or social issues.

Displayed on large frames attached to stylish black and white beixo bikes – a new Dutch brand that boasts shaft-driven as opposed to using the traditional bike chain – the 50 winning posters dealt with many issues, from GMO and childhood obesity to sustainability and political freedom. 

There was a surge of thought-provoking posters on the subject of the Internet and its perceived increasing dominance in our lives, such as Lin Xiaolang, a student from China, whose poster features a giant cursor morphed into a pine tree. “Turn off your computer and go outside” is Lin Xiaolang’s caption. Max Senden, a graphic designer from the Netherlands, came up with a poster heaped full of red Google map markers spelling out GET LOST. Senden’s reasoning behind the poster: “We navigate to unknown places by staring down at a screen instead of using our eyes, minds and hearts. What are we so afraid of? Is it the idea of being lost, or having to interact with an unknown human being and ask for directions?”

Moving on we came to an unprepossessing car park behind Ginnekenstraat, one of Breda’s pedestrianised shopping streets, and discovered the Remark Urban Sign Painting project. Four teams of artists are systematically transforming each wall of the car park into hand-painted murals that are based on the history of this exact spot. 

As this was Day 2 of the festival, we could see the almost completed first design, created by the Dutch team of Rutger TermohlenCollin van der Sluijs and Super A. The trio told us how their mural referenced the former use of the car park as a graveyard to bury plague victims. The mural depicts a large rat surrounded by a circle of dancing children, visualising the Black Death that swept the Europe in the Middle Ages, spread by rat fleas. The dancing children come from the nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o' Roses and the black circles on their clothes, sinister black plague ‘roses.’

Onwards to Reframe, a DIY print shop run by the Antwerp design collective Indianen (The Indians) at Reigerstraat 16, the location of the former pressroom of the De Stem newspaper, now turned into a ‘Graphic Design-machine’ that allows the public to come in and create their own booklet. Start at the section ‘WORK’ and use the retro-style machinery to create your own pages, then along to ‘PRINT’ where the continuous page, albeit slowly, inks your designs. The paper is then cut off for you to assemble your booklet. Magic!

We loved the illustrated tower created by Paul Paetzel. Titled Review, the tower is encircled with the Berlin-based designer’s trademark  comic book style. Paetzel also has an exhibition running until May 25 2014 at the city’s SBK Gallery, alongside the Rotterdam art collective ROTGANZEN.

And finally, the pop-up movie theatre had some interesting screenings -  we enjoyed Everyday Rebellion on Thursday night and Linotype: the film on Saturday. In short, a lot to see and do and you have until April 27 to see them all. 

The Graphic Design Festival Breda runs April 17-27 2014.


1 & 2 -  Rutger Termohlen, Collin van der Sluijs and Super A , Remark Urban Sign Painting

3 - Max Senden, Reflect Poster project

4  - Lin Xiaolang, Reflect Poster project

5 & 6 – Reframe, Indianen

7 – Review, Paul Paetzel