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The poetry of the sketch Schrofer sketches The sketch and the printing process Index Biography, Credits and Imprint


Schrofer sketches

Text Frederike Huygen Design Studio Joost Grootens


The poetry of the sketch

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‘As I watched the pencil race across the page, I would look on it in amazement, as if the drawing were the proof of another presence, as if someone else had taken up residence in my body. As I marvelled at his work, aspiring to become his equal, another part of my brain was busy inspecting the curves of the branches, the placement of the mountains, the composition as a whole, reflecting that I had created this scene on a blank piece of paper. My mind was at the tip of my pen, acting before I could think; at the same time it could survey what I had already done.’ This passage from Orhan Pamuk’s novel about Istanbul describes the magic of drawing. The pencil glides across the page as if by itself, ‘like a boy sledding in the snow’. The artist’s drawing hand takes hold of his mind. There is a wondrous trade-off between thinking and doing, so disarming even that Pamuk ascribes it to a second person, an independent and spontaneous doppelgänger. This other person in fact is called creativity; drawing is essentially thinking with the hands and the pencil, thinking on paper. The head, however, his brain, enables him to distance himself from his creation and observe it objectively. Drawing, he then concludes to his surprise, brings to the surface talent and audacity, qualities whose existence he may have suspected before then but not actually experienced. All at once, he is aware of a miracle. Is this me? Is this mine? The discovery that he could draw a design seems to have surprised graphic designer Jurriaan Schrofer just as much. He might have been the son of an artist, but that didn’t automatically mean he had a talent for drawing. When he began as a designer for the Meijer printing house in the early 1950s he thought ‘this business of drawing, designing and thinking up ideas won’t come that easily. Now if I were to get to grips with that Monotype [typesetting machine]. That might work for me. I doubt if I’ll ever design a cover.’ 1 But soon enough he was designing one cover after the other, books, pamphlets and countless other printed works. And he would keep up that high rate of productivity throughout his career. The sense of wonder and joy attested to by Pamuk also overcame Schrofer whenever he succeeded in something he had not envisaged beforehand. He loved experimenting, for example with three-dimensional effects on the flat surface or with grids. He was in his element when working as a craftsman and trying things out, that much is clear from the numerous models, hand-cut letters and paper objects. While he seemed to be doing everything simultaneously during his career and constantly heading off at a tangent, he was in fact working purposefully and with infinite patience in his studio. ‘There’s nothing I find more relaxing than being engrossed in what I’m doing. Just making things.’ 2

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Peter Ruarus, ‘De gulzigheid van Jurriaan Schrofer’, Graficus 69 (1987) 45, pp. 30–37, p. 32. Bibeb [Elisabeth Maria Lampe-Soutberg], Jurriaan Schrofer, Nijmegen: Thieme, 1972, unpaged.


Originals reproduced at � 100% �� 75% �� 50% 2� 25%

Photographic reproduction

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Sketch for a figure to be used in an advertisement for Polyzathe, 1972–74, pencil

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Drawing for a figure for the annual report of the Dutch Post Office Savings Bank, 1970, pen and felt pen

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Drawing for a New Years’ card for department store de Bijenkorf, 1955, pencil


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Sketch European Journal of Social Psychology, 1971, felt pen


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Contour letters for panels indicating the floors in buildings of the PTT and CRM, 1975, watercolour paint, felt pen and a sheet (detail) with stickers used for these panels


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Sketch of an R, c. 1974, felt pen

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Several drawings of an R, c. 1974, pen


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Coloured-in prints for the covers of the journal Cognition, 1972, felt pen


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Figure for an unknown project, undated, pencil

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Drawing of a trademark with arrows for Bouwcentrum, 1968, pen and felt pen


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Art work for a trademark with arrows for Bouwcentrum, 1968

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Drawing and art work for the figure on the magazine Filmstudies (details), 1972


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Alphabet developed for the signage in the town hall of Hoorn, 1976, designed with AndrĂŠ Toet


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Alphabet with shadows, 1960s, pencil

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Lettering for the Rotaform company (detail), 1983, pen and felt pen

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Block letter alphabet on film, 1960s

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Sketches (details) for a calendar for Kampert and Helm printers, 1973, felt pen and art work


The sketch and the printing process

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The things that graphic designers can now do singlehandedly with a press of a key were quite impossible in days gone by. Then, they were endlessly engaged in physically cutting, pasting and calculating, and getting everything to fit. It all took much longer and they were more dependent on an array of other specialists in the prepress and printing processes, for example for typesetting and making plates for illustrations. In the 1950s and ‘60s, however, graphic designers went through major changes when letterpress (relief printing) made way for offset (planographic printing). The advantages of offset were that it enabled designers to work with finer screening on all kinds of paper and that it was quicker and cheaper for large runs. This photomechanical process effectively put paid to hot metal typesetting. Now, text and images were shot into film, assembled and then copied to a thin metal plate. The image to be printed was transferred to the paper using a rubber cylinder. Armed with Schrofer’s archive we put together the following illustrated archaeology of designing and printing. A graphic designer’s principal task is to make layouts for printed matter. This may consist purely of text, but often involves combining text and images. They choose the type, decide on the format and the paper and select the images in deliberation with the author. The designer makes a sketch, then a working drawing and assembles the layout by cutting and pasting the text (in galley proofs) and images into a dummy make-up. The designer guides the production process in close consultation with the printer.

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A hand-drawn sketch design and (right) with set text and pasted-in paper squares for the photographs. This is most likely the cover or a page of a brochure for the firm of Inteha. The design makes use of a felt pen, so it dates from the early 1960s.

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Watercolour sketch, basic working drawing and printed end-result: the cover of a brochure, entitled Introductie (Introduction), for the Central Social Employers Federation (Centraal Sociaal Werkgeversverbond or CSWV) from 1955.

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Designers often used watercolour sketches when visualizing their design at scale 1:1 for the printer. Further examples: Design (watercolour sketch) for the logo of E’55, an exhibition on Dutch post-war welfare and the reconstruction period (Rotterdam, 1955), with corrections in zinc oxide.

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Watercolour sketch (design) for a booklet about Theater (a theatre company) from 1962 and a detail clearly showing the holes made by the dividers.

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Design (watercolour sketch on cardboard) for a programme booklet for the Arena theatre company, c. 1960; right, the end-result.


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Schrofer sketches  

Frederike Huygen

Schrofer sketches  

Frederike Huygen

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