Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook are the publishers of Unit Editions, a progressive publishing house producing high-quality, affordable books on graphic design and visual culture. A recent book of splendid typography is Jurriaan Schrofer (1926-90): Restless Typographer. I had never heard his name or viewed his work before. I asked Shaughnessy how he became familiar with it.
Were you aware of Schrofer’s work before this?
Yes, mainly through his work at Total Design in the 1970s. Like Wim Crouwel, a great admirer of Schrofer, he trained under the Dutch designer Dick Elffers. During his career, he was responsible for a huge range of work: logos, identities, book covers, brochures, journals, and signage. He was also well known for some fabulous ‘photobooks’ – souvenir volumes done for big Dutch industrial companies.
Why did you publish this monograph? Or rather what about Schrofer’s work do you feel is worth reviving?
We have concentrated purely on his typography for this book. Frederike Huygen, who wrote the text, is working on a full monograph containing all his work for a Dutch publishers. But this was an opportunity for us to produce a book that showed Schrofer’s brilliance as a manipulator of letter forms. Nearly all his geometric multi-dimensional lettering was done painstakingly by hand – with the occasional use of photography. But as Frederike says in her text – he was a computer designer before the computer.
How did you get such a rich archive?
Tony Brook, my partner in Unit Editions, is an avid collector of graphic design, and he has a great many specimens. Schrofer’s son Gilian Schrofer, a prominent Dutch architect, kindly gave us access to a lot of other material. And we also got material from the Schrofer Foundation.
Was he a major or minor figure?
Definitely a major figure. He was a polymath designer: a thinker, an educator, a pioneer in identity design, and an active force in the organization of the Dutch professional design scene. But most of all he was an experimenter – which is why we called the book Jurriaan Schrofer (1926-90): Restless Typographer.