Our brand new Reading Room is a paradise for design lovers

500 books make a library. And at Graphic Matters, we certainly have those! With the Reading Room, we share our book collection with anyone who would like to browse through it. Students, designers, design critics: welcome to the Reading Room.

Where previously the Monsterkamer in Amsterdam functioned as the gathering place of knowledge about paper, we see ourselves as the gathering place of graphic knowledge. In an approachable way, we make information and literature about visual communication accessible. You will be personally welcomed by us and given time to find the perfect book for your question. 

We use the large, growing book collection for our own research and inspiration. The selection consists of books acquired by Graphic Matters since 2008, but most books stem from the private collection of founder Dennis Elbers. He has therefore been appointed our official Reading Room librarian! High time to get to know him a bit better.

When did you start collecting books about design?
“Around 2006, I started as an independent curator. Initially, I worked a lot with artist initiatives. At that time, graphic design was mainly seen as an applied art. Based on a personal fascination with design, I involved designers not only in the design of the exhibitions, but also in the content. So it must have been around that time that I really started collecting.”

Do you remember your first design book and why you specifically bought it?
“Now that I think about it, it must have been the book ‘Open Here’ by Paul Mijksenaar and Piet Westendorp. I came across this while studying (painting and graphics) at De Slegte around the year 2000. The book contains a collection of visual instructions, something that fascinated me because of my interest in Pop Art.”

Photo by Joost van Asch

Which book from this collection made a big impression on you?
“In terms of content or execution? For example, ‘Walls of Peace’ by Basma Hamdi made an impression in terms of content. The book is about the role of murals during the Tahrir Square revolution. It is perhaps especially impressive to me because she explained the book in a lecture during the 2015 Graphic Design Festival. The book ‘Branding terror’ about the logos of terror groups by Arthur Beifuss made me realize how elementary graphic design is. But the collection also contains many beautifully designed books, such as the ‘Sketch Books’ by Hansje van Halem or the book that Team Thursday and Henning Wagenbreth made for Vlisco.”

What book should every design enthusiast own?
‘History of Graphic Design for Rainy Days’. A ‘children’s book’ about what design is and what a designer does. Useful for explaining to your grandmother what kind of work you do.”

Why does Graphic Matters make this collection available to others?
“Over the years, we built a huge collection of books around the themes we worked with. Many of these books were published in limited editions. You won’t find them in regular bookstores or libraries. Not even in the media library of the average art school. The books contain knowledge, but above all, many different views on the profession. Therefore, they are very suitable for those who seek meaning in their daily work or do research on very specific subjects.”

Who is the Reading Room intended for?
“We hope to host students of graphic design or cultural studies soon when they are working on their thesis. In addition, of course, designers or others who are professionally involved in visual communication and want to explore beyond the ephemeral online media.”

Photo by Joost van Asch

How important is the knowledge found in these books?
“I think the different attitudes of designers are especially interesting. How do you relate as a designer to a society with major challenges? Such questions are expressed in essays, case studies and publications.”

Can’t you just find everything on the internet these days?
“Not nearly everything! After all, the internet is primarily a volatile medium with a very different information structure than a book. Google determines what you find, while in the Reading Room you can take a very unexpected path. In this regard, the librarian’s role as a guide is also relevant. I am eager to welcome people and help them on their way.”

What does Graphic Matters hope to accomplish with the Reading Room?
“Our goal is to inspire designers and make them aware of their transformative power. The projects we organize contribute to this, but are often temporary in nature. The Reading Room, in addition to being a future online platform, can become an ongoing offering that will help us achieve our goal. I also hope to meet many people with a shared passion here. Who knows, maybe future exhibitors, employees or participants will be among them!”

Photo by Joost van Asch

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