Nervous Tension

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

When I hear someone complain about a project, I like to remind him or her that every project can be great. You can imagine how many of these people would then like to beat me senseless. In fact, the project that I have in my head when saying this is Piet Zwart’s 1925 catalogue for NKF. Nederlandsche Kabel-Fabriek Delft was an insulated high-tension cable manufacturer. Zwart worked with NKF for ten years. Now, the catalogues should have been dead dull; so dull that you’d slit your own wrists for excitement while reading them. But, Zwart’s work is dynamic, aggressive, clear, and bold. It makes me want to buy insulated high-tension cables.

Zwart pioneered modern typography. He used ideas from de Stijl and constructivism in his graphic design. If you think the insulated cable company was dull, you should see his work for another glamorous and high-end client, the post office, although it was Dutch.