Where I'm @
Graphic Design

A Synergy Between the On- and Offline World

Niels Vrijdag
Mon 15 Apr
Function Free-lance graphic designer
Year 2016
Major Graphic Design
Practice Autonomous Practices

Nominee: Henri Winkelman Award 2019

On 29th of May 2019, the annual award show of the Henri Winkelman Award will take place at the Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA). The Henri Winkelman Award has been created seven years ago by the Stichting Ondernermersbelangen Rotterdam. This foundation supports young innovative entrepreneurs on their way with two incentive prices of € 10,000 and € 5000.

What is your occupation now?

Since my graduation in 2016, I have been working in Rotterdam as an independent graphic designer. Whilst I was graduating I decided to rent a studio space, which I now still share with my two former classmates. Choosing to work in a studio instead of my living room might be one of the best decisions I made during my study.

My focus at the moment is on designing of publications and visual identities, but as I still try to find my way this may change over time. I am kind of living from one project to another. When I am not working on a commissioned project, I am often designing posters and once in a while, I get this strong urge to silkscreen something. Besides my ‘regular’ job I also work one or two days a week as a freelance designer for the newspaper. I find this change of scenery very enjoyable.

Niels Vrijdag

Since my graduation in 2016, I have been working in Rotterdam as an independent graphic designer.

The most valuable lesson I learned at the WdKA is the importance of persistence

What expertise did you gain at WdKA?

The most valuable lesson I learned at the WdKA is the importance of persistence. Designing is about trial and error, failing, not knowing what to do and starting all over. During my final year, I worked on several projects for the WdKA (as a client). This helped me a great deal to acquire confidence in getting things done. I had to work on a tight schedule and with an even tighter budget, and for the first time, I had to come up with ideas that had to be approved by several parties instead of being rewarded with a grade. These were relatively small and short projects but they really did spark my creativity and helped me to gain confidence in the ‘real world’ designer needs.

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

For me personally, the great challenge lies in the future of publishing. How do the new technologies and developments change the way we publish content?

My graduation project The.Total.Library is an experimental publication which is a hybrid between on- and offline publishing. And I think this is still a good case of how we as designers must think of the new ways of publishing and look for a synergy between the on- and offline world. New technologies and ongoing changes in media-landscape will bring all sorts of opportunities for different fields of design. But one thing is for certain: there will always be a need for people with creative and innovative ideas.


In the short story The Library of Babel, Jorge Luis Borges constructs a metaphorical replica of the universe. A vast library that has no circumference and no centre. It contains an infinite number of texts, many of which are imperfect copies of other ones. Some who use it believe that it includes everything, eternally, while others see it as a feverish library in which texts are in danger of changing from one day to the next.

The.Total.Library is an online platform the generates the books for this very library from the twitter data. The platform collects all the tweets with the hashtags related to Luis Borges en the Library of Babel with an infinite life-stream as a result. This project received the nominations for both Drempel- as well as Research Award.

The.Total.Library, graduation project
Niels Vrijdag TTL research

You never leave your house without…? Besides your laptop or smartphone :)

In my first years, I used to be the type of student who was always late in class and missed the deadlines. A trait I really disliked. I spent a lot of time in the library and one day I came across a beautiful and elegant watch in a book about product design. It turned out to be a design classic by M&Co, which I ordered a few days later. I am not quite sure whether this was the turning point for me becoming the student that was never too late and always ahead of schedule. But I am wearing it ever since and never leave my house without it.


WdKA's Artists in Residence

Identity Design

Any words of advice to future students?

Do not sit and wait for the opportunities to present themselves to you but try to create them. During my minor, I volunteered to design the poster series for our graduation exhibition (2016). I asked a lot of people at the academy (students, teachers and staff) to help me write a code that could generate these posters. For a week I worked day and night and once it was finished I was so confident about the series that I asked the Autonomous Practice coordinator (whom I’d never met before by the way) if I could take a minute of his time to show him the posters and explain the concept. I had no agenda, I was just proud of the work I’d done. A week later he called me and my first ever paid assignment became a fact.

WdKA's Artists in Residence space
WdKA's Artists in Residence space

Name your favourite recent project

Every now and then I participate in poster competitions. Although I think designer's work should pay the bills, it does not hurt to get extra practice and create something just for the fun of it. Recently I came across a competition called ’Mut zur Wut’, an open call for political posters. With the competitions of this kind, I only decide to start designing once I have a great idea. And in this case, I had one :-)! I have turned the American flag into a brick pattern by combining the red stripes with vertical stripes. It is perhaps the most simple design I have ever made but certainly one with the strongest visual impact. The poster was chosen from more than 3000 entries and is now on display in several European cities. This project is due to its simplicity definitely a favourite!

Design for ’Mut zur Wut’ political posters competition

The poster was chosen from more than 3000 entries and is now on display in several European cities.

If you are curious about the projects Niels is working on, visit his website to get the whole picture.

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