About Jan's graduation project 'No Signs of Weakness'
‘No Signs of Weakness’ argues that the signifiers that we associate with masculinity act as an armour against outside threats: "In the publication, I explore different ways in which this ‘armour-tendency’ manifests in image. I used archival material from books and magazines, but original images too: portraits of myself, shot by photographer Melissa Schriek, that re-enact or sometimes counteract the found footage. In this way I try to question my own relationship to masculinity."
Hi Jan, congrats with your graduation! For starters, where does your love for graphic design come from?
I think it’s impossible to say where it came from initially! But growing up in a small provincial town, music, art and design definitely felt like this other, better world. When I started learning about the legacy of graphic design in this country, people like Zwart and Schuitema, and the idea they had of a discipline of printing that could radically change the world and our thinking, I found that hugely inspiring.
Why did you choose Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK)?
Throughout my final years of high school I was very convinced I wanted to study Graphic Design. I chose KABK specifically because the balance between the technical and intellectual aspects of the profession is so good. It seems to me that many schools focus on one at the expense of the other while at KABK it is always 100% of both—I learned programming and type design, but also was able to develop writing and critical thinking.
How did you experience your graduation period?
In many ways it was very frustrating! I knew from the start that I wanted to approach the topic of gender for my final project, but it took a long time of researching, doubting and discarding work until I finally figured out what it was that I wanted to say exactly. Once I was past that point however, it was still very stressful but also very rewarding.
What's your best memory about your study?
One of my best memories is of the exchange semester I did at Écal in Switzerland. That school is amazing in its own right and a complete change of pace from KABK. Also, Lausanne is just beautiful.
What's the most valuable lesson you learnt during your study?
Something I learned from theory teacher Els Kuijpers in the first year: that material production is necessarily also symbolic production. If we as designers don’t question the way things are right now, we end up reinforcing the status quo through reproducing it.
What are your 3 favourite places in The Netherlands?
What are your 3 favourite Instagram accounts?
What have you recently seen that you think is great creative work?
Lately I’ve gotten quite into the video work of Peter Christopherson, who was a member of Throbbing Gristle and did music videos for groups like Erasure and Front 242. The video he did for Tainted Love by his own group, Coil, is really terrifying.
What are your plans in the near future?
I plan on continuing to work freelance for the time being, as well as making more music and playing live. I want to pursue a master’s degree eventually but the time should be right.
Can you give one piece of advice to future students?
Be aware that your study should in the end benefit you—in other words, don’t push yourself beyond what is healthy for too long in terms of work. Realise also that you don’t necessarily have to level or agree with everything that is being put forward by your school—in many ways, finding out what you really want to do is a process of negation.
Find out more about Jan's work on his website and Instagram.
Portrait photo of Jan by Melissa Schriek