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Pioneers of Change

Experimental Jetset evoke Dutch sensibility using one of the most American typefaces of all time.

Contributed by Nick Sherman on Jan 12th, 2011. Artwork published in 2009.

Dutch design studio Experimental Jetset carried out the graphic design for Pioneers of Change – a festival of Dutch design, fashion, and architecture which took place on New York’s Governors Island in September 2009. The design system, which included a website, printed programs, and wayfinding elements, made prominent use of Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed.

The Pioneers of Change website

After their “John&Paul&Ringo&George” t-shirt became a global meme, and they were featured in Gary Hustwit’s documentary, Experimental Jetset have become strongly associated with Helvetica. The designers themselves describe the typeface as “a natural mother tongue”. The Pioneers of Change project, however, proves that they are capable of making effective use of typefaces other than Helvetica as well.

The choice of Franklin Gothic for a festival of Dutch design is almost the direct antithesis of other overtly American design projects. Indeed, a typeface with more direct connections to the Netherlands – like Kade, for instance – would have been the way to go for many designers, given the context. However, the manner in which Experimental Jetset use Franklin still maintains a flavor of modern Dutch design – with clean gridded compositions, stark typographic layouts, and ample amounts of active white space. As they say themselves: “You can put as much nationality in the spacing of a typeface as in the typeface itself”.

Experimental Jetset’s Danny van den Dungen discusses their connection to Helvetica and Dutch modernism in Gary Gustwit’s documentary, Helvetica.

A fictional rendering of Governors Island with a giant sign, set in Franklin Gothic, used to promote the Pioneers of Change festival.


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