Preface History
December 2008
The texts below are two old prefaces to our website, as they appeared previously in the 'About this site' section. The first text explained the website as it was launched in 2005, while the second text was an introduction to the site as it was updated in 2008.

With the most recent update of this website (an update that took place in May 2013), we felt that the two texts lost some of their relevance. That's why we decided to remove these texts from the 'About' section, and place them in the 'Archive' section. Which is where you found them now.

Preface to the 2008 relaunch

First, a short bit about ourselves. We are Experimental Jetset, a small, independent graphic design studio based in Amsterdam, consisting of three persons: Marieke Stolk, Danny van den Dungen and Erwin Brinkers. We have been collaborating as Experimental Jetset since we graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (in 1997, 1997 and 1998 respectively), and in our work we focus mostly on printed matter. We often describe graphic design as "turning language into objects". With this website, we are in fact doing the opposite: we are trying to turn objects into language. Or better said, we are looking at the objects we have produced during the last ten years, and we try to describe them.

An earlier version of this website was launched in the beginning of 2005. Rereading the foreword we wrote then (see 'Preface to the 2005 launch', shown below), we noticed that, in that text, we went to great lengths to make very clear that this website would not be an ordinary portfolio site. Now, almost four years later, we still don't see this place as a typical portfolio site. The word 'portfolio' suggests a selection of work that is easy-to-carry, simple to digest, smoothly streamlined. Our website is far from that. It is a monster of an archive, in which we neurotically try to describe everything, not only our greatest hits, but also our biggest failures. In that sense, it will be never finished, although it certainly is our goal to come as close as possible.

Basically, this website is divided in five sections: Home, Archive, Preview, News, About and Contact. There's also a link to our MySpace page, and a search function. Some short descriptions of these sections, one by one:

1. The Home page shows a row of four random files; in other words, a selection of four items from the archive, shown in random order. Just refresh the homepage to get another selection of items. Try it, it's fun.
2. The Archive is the core of the website: a chronological review of all our work until now. We are trying to make this archive as complete as possible, although we realize it's a mission impossible; at any given moment, there are always hundreds of projects still waiting to be filed, described and photographed. But step by step, we are moving forward. It's a long march.
The archive can be grouped in several ways: on the right side of the archive page, you'll find a column from which several categories can be selected (Books, Badges, Exhibitions, Graphic identities, etc.).
3. An interesting category is the Preview function, which transforms the whole archive into an image-based interface, basically a collection of thumbnails. Again, you should try it, it's fun.
4. The News page is basically a message board in which we plan to post announcements of recent activities (events, publications, etc.). In an earlier incarnation of this website, we used this section also as a sort of weblog, reviewing books and albums that we found interesting. Unfortunately, we never had the time to fully develop this. So for now, we will just focus on short news items, concerning our own activities. Maybe we'll return to the weblog concept later.
5. The Contact section speaks for itself, while the About section is the page you are reading right now. And that basically sums up all the different sections of the website.

As we are writing this, we realize that there are still some technical bugs haunting this site. For example, when viewed on a PC, some of the used images might appear to be bitmapped. We are working on fixing those problems right now. In the meantime, the recommended way of viewing this site is on a Mac, using either Safari, Firefox, Explorer or Opera.

We hope you'll enjoy our work. A few last instructions: when we write 'folded-out' we mean 'unfolded', when we write 'buttons' we mean 'badges', and when we say 'mupi' we are talking about a large outdoor showcase to display posters in. And that's all you need to know, basically.

As we did in our previous preface, we would like to thank the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture for their support throughout our career.

As for dedications, we would obviously like to mention our friends and family; without their ongoing encouragement we would be nowhere. We would also like to thank some of our clients for all the trust they have given us throughout the years; clients such as Guus Beumer and Yoshi Kawasaki have been with us from our early start, and we really appreciate their support. Thanks also to all the people we've met over the years: teachers, students, fellow designers. It has been a rollercoaster ride so far, and it feels as if we've only just begun.

2008 has been a very rough year for us, both personally and professionally. No matter how stressful some of these projects might have been, the death of a loved one overshadows everything. We hope that 2009 will be kinder to us. The fact that we finally managed to update this very website is a good start.

Experimental Jetset, 30 December 2008

Preface to the 2005 launch

So, what is this site about? We aren't exactly sure ourselves. What we do know is that this isn't a typical portfolio site, displaying case studies to attract potential clients. This site would sooner scare clients away than attract them. We see this site more as a collection of tiny 'The Making Of...' documentaries, or as one of these extra DVD features, where you can hear the director talking over his/her own movie. Information only intended for the small group of people really interested in our work. Who are these people? Mainly students sending us questionnaires, classes wanting to visit us in our studio, and people requesting specific information about specific projects. It has been our wish for quite some time to have all the background information written out, in an easy accessible format, so that we'd never have to repeat it again, sounding like a broken record-player.
Added to that, we thought it also might be an interesting process, describing our own work. Whether you call it re-evaluation, post-rationalizing or simply navel-gazing, we feel we can gain some insight through it. We can easily imagine that some of you are quite allergic to this kind of outpouring. If you are, you should leave this site immediately, as it will be pure torture for you. As we already wrote, we intended this for a small group of people anyway; it's an acquired taste.

As for the specific way in which we show our work on this site (the whole "this is the given problem, and this is our solution" rhetoric), we'd like to mention that we were quite influenced by Bob Gill.
As students at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (Amsterdam), we discovered in the library a dusty copy of 'Forget All The Rules You Ever Learned About Graphic Design – including the ones in this book'. This book had an immediate impact on us. What impressed us most was its consistent use of the 'problem/solution' model. It's a dialectical model that some might find outdated, rigid, one-dimensional, didactic, archaic. To us, the problem/solution model is most of all beautiful. Of course, it has a tragic side, as every solution only brings forth more problems; and besides, we all know there is no such thing as an objective solution, let alone one perfect solution. But it is exactly this inherent tragic dimension which makes this model so beautiful to us. (In a way, the 'problem/solution' model reminds us of a quote from Jorge Borges: "Nothing is built on stone. All is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone". We think this perfectly sums up our view on design in general: building on sand, as if it were stone).

You'll notice that (in the description of our designs) we often mention the names of printers or other parties that were involved in the production. This is not because of some shady sponsorship deals. We just want to give people the credits they deserve.
We live in a society where there is already too much of a separation between manual work and intellectual/artistic work. It's a separation we are strongly against. So, wherever possible, we tried to include the names of all parties involved. (Also, it is our opinion that including this kind of information adds some transparency to the object, and underlines its 'thingness').

While we're handing out credits, we'd also like to thank the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (and also the Mondriaan Foundation and the Materiaalfonds). Their grants helped us through some financially pretty miserable times in our past. It's a shame that it's nowadays quite fashionable to claim that these subsidies breed a generation of spoiled artists and designers. Those who say these things know absolutely nothing about the way these subsidies work, or about Dutch social-democracy in general. For now, let's not get too deep into this matter; we just want to say we're proud to have received these grants, and we're equally proud to live in a society that enabled us to get these grants.
And now that we're thanking people, we also like to mention our friends, and especially our parents. Without their moral support, this site would be quite empty. Finally, we like to dedicate our work to the memory of Rob Stolk.

Experimental Jetset, 9 March 2005


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