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Bram de Does 65
bookdesigns and typefaces

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From 16 July till 26 August 1999

The University Library has dedicated an exhibition to the graphic designer Bram de Does. In connection with this exhibition a monograph on Bram de Does will be published next year by De Buitenkant. In July 1999, Bram de Does will celebrate his 65th birthday. Moreover, the University Library has recently acquired 38 working drawings of the Lexicon, a typefont designed by De Does. These drawings are a natural addition to the collection of example types and books on typefonts owned by the library.

Bram de Does in
zijn - als liefhebberij gedreven - boekdrukkerij. Bram de Does is the son of an Amsterdam printer, who founded the firm Systema, a small printing shop in a working-class neighbourhood, in 1917. His decision to go to the Amsterdamse Grafische School (Amsterdam School for Printers) was not surprising. In 1958 he was engaged by the printer and type-foundry Joh. Enschedé and Sons in Haarlem. This old firm was internationally renowned, not least because of the elegant fonts and typography of Jan van Krimpen. Except for a short period, De Does stayed with Enschedé until his retirement.
His first designs were still inpsired by Jan van Krimpen, whose work he greatly admires, but he soon developed a more contemporary approach to the classical typography of books. He began to allow lower case letters on title pages and in headings, and introduced asymmetry. Sanserifs, however, he hardly ever used. Characteristic of De Does is his attention to so-called micro-typography: has the right letter been chosen, are the spacings between words and lines right? He analyses the typesetting in meticulous detail, and is hard to satisfy. It was not for nothing that the compositors at Enschedé called him 'one point in, one point out'.

Trinité and Lexicon

He has designed a large number of books for Enschedé - several of which won prizes for best designed book - as well as small printed matter, such as menus, leaflets, posters, etc. However, Bram de Does is best known as the designer of two type fonts which are very much present in the Dutch typographical landscape: Trinité and Lexicon.
Een opvallende
toepassing van de drukletter Trinité. Bram de Does designed the Trinité when he was asked by Enschedé - much to his surprise - to make a new letter for texts with three different lengths for ascenders and descenders, in various sizes and widths. In February 1992 the design had its great break through when it became available as a PostScriptFont in the The Enschedé Font Foundry by Peter Matthias Noordzij. De Does received the important H.N. Werkman prize of the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts for the Trinité in 1991. The popularity of the letter is immense: from book covers, stamps, itineraries, photo captions and poetry to milk cartons and a cd by Marco Borsato!
The Lexicon originated in a cooperation between De Does and Van Dale Lexicografie, a large publisher of dictionaries. Since 1992 the Lexicon has been used by 'De Dikke Van Dale', the most famous Dutch dictionary. Since 1995 the letter has been available as a letter for general use, but is not as universally present as the Trinité. Conspicuous applications are the annual free book gift in the National Week of the Book and the colour magazine 'M' of the daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Print shop

De Does is not only a designer of type fonts, he has also designed a great number of bibliophile editions, which he composes in his own print shop in original type. They are the books of a typographer with a great respect for the culture of reading. Both for their technical perfection and for their impeccable sense of style, they are highly respected internationally. In 1993 he received the prestigious Premio internazionale biennale Felice Feliciano in Verona for a publication written by Ernst Braches (former UvA librarian) printed by his own Spectator Press.

More than just a picture book

So far no serious study had yet been devoted to the work of De Does, but he had been interviewed several times. The monograph intends to be more than just a picture book. The American type historian John A. Lane treats the Trinité and the Lexicon in great detail, and places both letters in their historical context. Some well-known graphic designers, both from the Netherlands and abroad, discuss the function of these letters in their own designs.
The book historian Mathieu Lommen, of the University Library Amsterdam, places De Does's typography in a Dutch and Anglo-Saxon tradition of unobtrusive design, used particularly for texts.
Although in a way De Does can be called a 'traditional' designer, his starting-point is always different and always quite original. These theoretical premises are discussed at length in the contributions on his typefonts and typography. The book has an introduction by Gerard Unger and the typograhy is by CÚcile Noordzij, who also designed the exhibition poster.

What can be seen in the exhibition?

At the exhibition in the University Library books designed by De Does will be on view, including publications by his Spectator Press, working drawings for the Trinité and Lexicon, as well as applications of these letters by other graphic designers.

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Last modified: 15 July 1999
Editor: Monique Kooijmans