Design Lecture Series

Karel Martens

May 06 2016 | with Doug Wadden

View Karel Martens's Work

When Karel Martens began studying art in Holland in the late 1950s, “graphic design” did not exist as its own course of study. Today, he is widely recognized as one of the most important practitioners of that very discipline, with an esteemed client list that includes major publishers, architects, and institutions.

Martens’ unwavering commitment to experimenting with printing processes, the graphic form, and construction of typographic meaning over the past half century has indelibly marked the visual and intellectual work of a younger generation of designers and artists. After studying fine arts at the Arnhem School of Art & Industrial Arts in Holland in the late 1950’s, Karel Martens began work as a book designer for small presses. Starting in 1977 he began teaching at ArtEZ College of Art in Arnhem where over the next three decades he designed coins, postage stamps and telephone cards for the Dutch government. Over the course of his career he has also worked three-dimensionally, creating signage and typographic building façades, like the Veenam Printers Ede building and the extension for the Philharmonie building in Haarlem.

In 1998, the Leipzig Book Fair named Karel Martens: Printed Matter, designed by Martens with Jaap van Triest, the best-designed book “in the whole world.” Over the years his books have been regularly featured in the annual Best-Designed Dutch Books competition.

In 1997 Martens co-founded Workplaats Typografie (WT) at the Arnhem College of Art, a fully functioning graphic design studio run by his graduate students. He invites his students to help him in the design of the renowned architectural journal OASE, that has been awarded the H.N. Werkman Prize. Since that time he has also acted as a visiting professor at Yale University, hosting an annual three-week intensive in the post-graduate design school. Martens is currently a mentor in the master’s program at the Design Academy Eindhoven department of Contextual Design.

Doug Wadden

Discussion with Karel Martens following the lecture

Doug Wadden is Professor Emeritus of Visual Communication Design at the University of Washington, Seattle. Born in New York, he joined the faculty in 1970 following graduate studies at Yale University. He began his career in experimental photography and printmaking at the Rochester Institute of Technology and following an internship at the Xerox Corporation, shifted his interests to graphic design. He has established an extensive professional record, principally in publications design for museums, corporations and public institutions.

While the principal design consultant for the University’s Henry Art Gallery, he established a broad interrelated design program for the museum that produced books, catalogues, posters, directional signage, promotional and installation design. As an educator, Mr. Wadden specialized in typography, corporate design programs and publications, visualization, information design, twentieth-century design history and fundamental visual theory.

In 1998 he was elected a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale in Zurich, Switzerland and has since participated in numerous congresses, publications and exhibitions including “Graphic Design Since 1950” published in 2007 by Thames and Hudson, London and in 2012 in “One by One” by Hesign Publishers, Berlin. In 2014 he was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

In 2015 he completed a monograph about his work titled “Practice What You Teach,” documenting a selection of projects spanning five decades.

Selected Work by Karel Martens

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