Alex J. Todd
A Typographic Transgression: Finding the Dutch Sixties in the Nude Alphabet
Designed in 1969, and published a year later in the ‘Kwadraat-Bladen’ journal, Anthon Beeke’s ‘Nude Alphabet’ is a spectacle rarely given due space in the history of Dutch graphic design. Publicised as a riposte to the technocratic modernism of Wim Crouwel’s ‘New Alphabet’, Beeke’s design has often remained on the periphery of the discourses surrounding Dutch visual culture of the 1960s and early 1970s. Despite such marginalization, this dissertation argues that the ‘Nude Alphabet’ is, in fact, one of the most symbolic objects of its period, and provides crucial insight to the divergent cultural upheavals that defined the Netherlands in the ‘sixties’.
This dissertation traces the alphabet’s significance through three interconnected narratives. It begins with the emergence in the post-war period of new perspectives on the field of graphic design, in which a greater importance was placed upon graphic design's role in cultural reflection and stimulation, engendering non-commercial platforms for experimental works to exist outside of the customary design-client paradigm. Secondly, it frames the rebellion against the dominant ‘International Style’ as an evocation of national tensions between individual and institutional authority, and considers the methods of Beeke’s alphabet alongside those of subversive counter-cultural movements. Finally, it examines the widespread exposure of the sexual image in Dutch popular culture, probing the alphabet’s use of the nude as a corollary to the burgeoning sexual revolution.
Focusing on the ‘Nude Alphabet’ as an object in which multiple concurrent histories collide, this dissertation proposes the value of Beeke’s design as a lens through which we may further understand the networks of meaning and experience that define this tempestuous period.
School of Arts & Humanities
MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, 2018
Alex J. Todd is a freelance writer and critic in the field of graphic design and visual culture.
- BA Visual Communication, University for the Creative Arts, 2016
- Freelance writer and critic, 2017–present; Technical Writer, Global Grad Show, Dubai, 2017; Curatorial Research Assistant, the Design Museum, London, 2016–2017; Book Curator, Hyundai Card Design Library, 2016