Nikki:For us, something really changed when there was a political murder in 2002 in the Netherlands. And that was really a big change for us, because we always thought that the Netherlands is a very small country and things like that never happen. For us as designers, we felt that we had to do something in politics and we really wanted to work in that field.

Hi, I'm Nikki Gonnissen, I'm a Director and Designer at Thonik together with Thomas Widdershoven.

Activism in Design


Nikki:So we started to work for the socialist party, and we redesigned this logo in a more neutral image; you see here the tomato. And it was more neutral and positive, because they really wanted to bring an alternative in politics; they didn't want to be against anything any longer. But for us, it was really important that they bridge the gap between politics and the people. And he went into the streets, out of campaign, and you then really saw that was bridging the gap between the people, because he was offering tomato soup, and that was a good thing.

We did—Jan Marijnissen, the party leader, in his suit, as a real statesmen behind all those images, but on the other hand, he was this warm Dutchman in his jeans, and offering his soup. So you always try to find juxtapositions in these things.

I think we tried also to use a sort of activism in our work. Also for instance, the socialist party, we made a protest movie for them, and there was this law and homecare... normally people, they get one person in their home to take care of them. But suddenly because of budget cuts, to save money, ten people came in their house. One to do the stockings, one to do the cleaning, one for the medicines, and that really felt like an invasion. So we wanted to make a movie to show the politics, that this was not a good way to move forward. It's maybe about engagement. You know, if you engage [with] something serious, you can really make a difference when the people you work with also engage [with] this project, and that we are questioning this world. Personally I want to meet the world with a… with an open attitude and an open mentality.

The Holland Festival was established in 1947, so right after the war. And it's a very esteemed festival for performing art, and it was to bring more joy and passion after the World War, into the world.

And it became a very good festival with high names, like Stravinsky, or Abramovic or Robert Wilson. So we were really proud when we were asked to do the coming four years of Holland Festival. And for Maureen Mooren and Daniel van Der Velden, it was easy to only take the 'H' and the 'F' because Anton Beeke, he had took out the vowels, so they compressed it even further to make the 'H' and the 'F'. And the Holland Festival 'HF' was very well known already for a lot of people, so we wanted to stick to that.



Nikki:We always like to work on sort of a legacy, and then for Boijmans van Beunigen, we wanted to do the same strategy. You can see this sort of use of three lines as a tribute to Lance Wyman. He is one of the— he did one of the most beautiful designs for [the] Mexico Olympics in 1968. And we are a big fan of him, so it's a tribute to this design, our Boijmans project.

What we often do is that we try to pick out one thing and make that extremely visible. That's the process of change.

And from there, it is always important to play around again, because you don't want to pinpoint yourself in only one image. So we go back to the basics, we make a sort of clear message, or simple logo or whatever, and from there we try to broaden the rules again.

Bridging Community


Nikki:It's not only about a logo; it's also about all the things surrounding it. Also the people who work in a company or an institution, they are changing with you and it's often... like for instance with the socialist party, they didn't have anything. They really looked old-fashioned. And when we made all those merchandising and campaigns, radio, television, and you know, it starts with the tomato but slowly it grows. You saw that they were growing as well. So it really empowers a group of people or an institution.

I'm very passionate about the world we live in, and I feel a responsibility for the world, and I also think I have a very strong feeling of what is right and what is fair. So that's why for me it's important to connect people and to bridge—build bridges.