In memoriam Ben Bos (1930–2017). [BNO]
The outstanding Dutch designer was employee number 1 of Total Design, the cutting-edge design company founded in 1963 by Wim Crouwel, Friso Kramer, and Benno Wissing, which shaped a good deal of the Netherlands’ modern visual culture.
Until 1991, he stood for the continuity within the agency. His merits lay in his broad orientation and work discipline as well as the long relationships he maintained with major clients. The work of Ben Bos is bright, colorful and strongly graphic in form and typography. His background as a copywriter is noticeably present. The most important clients are Ahrend and Randstad […] but other commissions such as New Vredenburgh, Hulp voor Onbehuisden [“Help for the Homeless”], Furness, and Capelle a/d IJssel can not go unmentioned.
NAGO (Nederlands Archief Grafisch Ontwerpers, “Dutch National Archive of Graphic Designers”) was co-founded by Bos in 1992, with the aim to acquire the archives of Dutch graphic designers or such residing in the Netherlands, in order to maintain them and make them accessible. On the NAGO website, hundreds of works by Ben Bos can be explored.
The image above shows two versions of a poster for De Bijenkorf (“The Beehive”), a chain of high-end department stores, probably made in the late 1960s. The hexagonal arrangement of the lines in six languages echoes Josef Müller-Brockmann’s honeycomb logo.
See also the Unit Editions website, where Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy have shared personal memories of Ben Bos.
Cliché has it that the corporate identities of the 1960s as introduced by modernists like Total Design only allowed for sans serifs like Helvetica and Univers, preferably in one bold weight, all lowercase. Even when true, this doesn’t have to be dull or unimaginative, as the example above demonstrates. Ben Bos didn’t limit his typographic palette to a few “neutral” fonts, though. His work for De Bijenkorf alone testifies to his open-mindedness: There is Compacta (Campingrediënten ’66), Prisma (C. ’68), Eckmann (Buffetdinner), Cooper Black (Hula Drups), French stencil letters (Camping) and more — whatever suits the purpose. “Down with dogma”, to quote Alan Fletcher, another great designer from Bos’ generation.
In lieu of an obituary, Jan Middendorp has published an article he had written about Ben Bos in 2007.
Contributed by Chris Purcell
Contributed by Stephen Coles