Archive for December, 2013

Boek & Glas antiquarian bookshop

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Special emphasis on typography, history and literature from the 1880′s through fin de siecle ( Here are some pictures:

View of bookshop window in dark street, with stained glass above show window.

The shop in the Agatha Dekenstraat in Amsterdam.

Old newspaper setting table, repurposed.

Old newspaper setting table, repurposed.

Books from approx. 1900 - 1940 on shelf.

Whole shelf of books chosen only for beautiful cover designs.

Book cover designs by Albert Hahn, Jr.

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Organic and balanced like the Jugendstil, but trimmed down and made calmer, playing within typographic constraints. Many of his book designs can be seen in, a blog about ‘fin de siecle’ design.

Red and black cloth cover with embossed title designed by Dutch artist Albert Hahn.

Cover design by Albert Hahn for book ‘Jacqueline Vrijlieff.

Theo Thijssen: ‘Het taaie ongerief’

Thursday, December 26th, 2013
Book cover: Het taaie ongerief by Theo Thijssen

Cover of the 1932 Arbeiderspers edition of ‘Het taaie ongerief’. Design by Albert Hahn.

The semi-biographical works of the school teacher Theo Thijssen immerse you in early 20th-century Amsterdam.

The title translates roughly as ‘the enduring hindrance’. The book is about the physical and psychological torment caused by cheap clothing, at once the most intimate and most public expression of the poverty the main character Joop (pronounced ‘Yope’ in English) and his family can’t seem to escape.

We follow Joop from childhood in a slum neighborhood with his mother and four siblings (teasing, fights), through to the teacher’s college to which he is admitted with a rare stipend (humiliation in class, fear of attention), military service (gruesome inspections), and working life (lying to avoid admitting he can’t afford a jacket).

Thijssen intended it to be a light satire about bourgeois values and the feelings of shame and insecurity they create.

But to a contemporary reader, the suffering stands out. As Joop talks about his struggles with a deformed hat or a disintegrating pair of pants, you see what’s at stake: the ability to go to a cultural event, to court someone he loves, to give an important speech, to find work. “Not fitting in” meant losing the chance to navigate his way out of poverty into an emerging middle class.

You also see how he and his peers combine forces to invent ways around the enduring hindrances. Young people were organizing into clubs with rules of their own making. The Almanac of the Teacher Trainee Union of 1911 gives us a glimpse of the kind of society they must have had in mind. Here are some scans of the pages:

Cover of almanac.

Cover of the Almanac of the Teacher Trainees Union of 1911.

kwekeling almanak 1911 augustus

Engraving showing nude young woman in forest, with smaller figure in background.

Calendar page from teacher trainee Almanac, 1911. The quote at the bottom translates roughly as: Our movement creates a rustling like the wind in the woods: ‘We are the young’.

kwekeling almanak 1911 november

kwekeling almanak 1911 oktober

The ad pages are also interesting:

kwekeling almanak 1911 advertenties_003

kwekeling almanak 1911 advertenties_002

Advertising pages.

Advertising pages.

And there are even a couple of black and white photos pasted in, describing a vacation:

kwekeling almanak 1911 vacantie

kwekeling almanak 1911 sunny home

Story about a vacation trip.

Story about a vacation trip.

Learning = creating

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Reading about Arne Dietrich’s 2004 paper ‘Cognitive neuroscience of creativity Reprint CNC PB&R‘, I was struck by the similarity of the four categories to Kolb’s model of ‘experiential learning’. They kind of map to one another. Kolb’s model proposes a ‘cycle’ which can be started at any point, and positions ‘types’ of learners in the quadrants defined by the two continua (processing and perception):

Diagram showing model of experiential learning created by David Kolb

Diagram of Kolb’s model with the four ‘types’ of learners

Dietrich’s model also can be expressed in four quadrants, defined by the axes ‘deliberate – spontaneous’ and ‘cognitive – emotional’:

Diagram of Arne Dietrich's model of 4 types of creativity.

Diagram of Arne Dietrich’s model of 4 types of creativity copied from Susan Weinschenk’s book (see below).

The ‘cognitive and deliberate’ type of creativity sounds much like Kolb’s ‘theorist’. The other four ‘types’ also fit almost one-to-one:

Diagram showing how Dietrich's four kinds of creativity and Kolb's experiential learning seem to match.

The two models combined.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read Kolb’s original work, only the explanations of it by various other authors. So these are only tentative ideas, but here goes:

- Maybe this validates Kolb to the extent that if learning is creating new knowledge and abilities, then the four kinds of creation he posited have some basis in neuroscience.
- Maybe this also invalidates Kolb’s idea of a ‘cycle’. The path one takes from one kind of creation to another is probably nothing like his neat model seems to suggest.

And there has not been any validation of the idea of ‘learning styles’ based on the experiential model (they don’t predict how well someone will learn).

One thing: it explains why my first-year students all seem to have the same learning style (activist – pragmatist). In her book ‘100 things every designer needs to know about people‘ Susan Weinschenk explains that for Dietrich’s cognitive and deliberate creativity, one needs a pre-existing body of knowledge. Coming from miserably bad high schools, lazy and distracted, these kids don’t have any knowledge and aren’t about to put out the effort to acquire it. Whereas the other kinds of creativity (emotional – spontaneous, etc.) seem to take less effort.

Conclusion: forget the ‘learning cycle’ and force them to do the cognitive-deliberate ‘theorist’ bit relentlessly, so they actually develop the capacities they’re missing. Without them, the students will never become real solvers of ‘wicked problems’. I also suspect that the deliberate cognitive creativity is underestimated as a way of ‘priming’ the unconscious to enable the other kinds.