Interview: Michiel van der Born

Michiel van der Born (1975) is a typographic artist living and working in Amsterdam. He graduated cum laude from the Academy of Art in The Hague. He is a proud member of the Dstruct Collective.

Michiel, have you always been interested in typography or was it something that grew on you?
When I was fourteen graffiti was really big in my hometown Leiden. I never was a hardcore graffiti artist myself but I was always drawing letters and fonts.  I thought a spraycan was quitte a clumsy and rough tool that didn’t enable me to get my letters on the wall properly and detailed enough. I probably didn’t invest enough time and practice to master it properly and back then they didn’t make spray cans especially for graffiti like they make them nowadays. Before I got accepted at the academy I didn’t even know designing letters and fonts was an actual craft. At the academy we started drawing font with a flat brush, after that a flat pen and finally a pointed pen. I loved these lessons. When we ended up sketching and digitalizing I was sold.

Which artists inspire you?
I have a lot of sources for inspiration, here are the first that come to mind:
Seb Lester, Jessica Hische, Alex Trochut, de Speedball lettering guides, Rob Roy Kelly’s book, Underware, House Industries and ofcourse Erik van Blokland.
Jeff Soto, Mars1, Jeremy Fish, Chris Mars, Mark Ryden, Femke Hiemstra, Josh Keyes.And ofcourse many tattoo artists (Domme Joris!) and graffiti artists.

How would you describe your work and your style?
It’s always difficult to describe your own style. I try to combine painting and typography as much as possible. This for the very simple reason that I really digg both disciplines. I think the craftsmanship of painting and drawing letters appeals to me, The monks work, keep screwing around with curves and painting in endless amounts of layers. I truly enjoy that.

What is your favorite font?
‘Palatino’ from Hermann Zapf is my old time favorite. Not because of the shapes of the separate characters but how the characters behave in a text. I love the grayscale of a page filled with text set in ‘Palatino’. It reads well and radiates a certain nostalgia and craftsmanship in a subtle way. I also like some of the newer fonts. One of my new favorites is ‘Eames’ from House Industries. I’m also very into fonts from Underware. Untill the butcher down the street starts using it, then I can’t use them no more without thinking of pork chops. Damn those fonts are always a hit! Respect! Before I forget, how about that one from Laura Meseguer, the ‘Rumba’. That’s a cool font! I could continue this for quitte a while…

Last year you finished your alphabet series. Are you already thinking of new big projects or are you gonna take it painting by painting?
Usually I work with a theme. Something that strikes me in society or somethink I find interesting. The goal of my alphabet series was to give all of the 26 characters a unique personality. Really make them into ‘creatures’, in the way people talk about letters. Letters can be strict, kind, formal etc. Some letters have a belly (b), others have legs (m). I just finished a series on ‘green email signatures’. Right now I’m working on a series of paintings on watching television and the amount of time you lose doing that. In between series I keep working on individual paintings and lettering.

Do you think dutch academies focus enough on typography?
That’s a difficult question. There are always students that are really into typography and students that don’t think it’s interesting. For me personally typography was one of my most important classes. By studying typography I also learned a lot about lay-outs, balance, and shapes, basically the core of graphic design. By drawing letters is definitely perfected my skills in other disciplines like illustration and painting. Luckily some of my teachers are still prepared to answer questions about letters and fonts. In short: typography can never be teached too much.

You’re also part of the Dstruct Collective.
Can you explain what this is, who is part of it and what type of work you do?

The Dstruct Collective is a group of friends with similar music taste. Hardcore acid and Tekno wasn’t being played in the regular clubs and so they began organising their own underground parties. Usually illegal in an abandoned building or office space. To announce the parties we hang posters in the streets of Leiden and Rotterdam. These posters had practically no information on them (cause of the illegal nature of the parties), just ‘Dstruct Soundsystem’ and an illustration. Flyers with phonenumbers on them were then distributed by friends and acquaintances. The impact of the posters was huge. You didn’t see much posters with just a slogan and an illustration back then. Street art was a logical next step for us. Street art, graphic design and typography became increasingly important to us. Important enough to make me and Thijs (another member) sign up for art academy. Nowadays both of us still work as artists.

What are your plans for the future?
That’s hard to say. Right now I’m very charmed by tattoos. Maybe learn how to tattoo? I don’t know yet. For sure get better at painting and lettering!

Contact Michiel to order his limited edition portfolio booklet.

About typofille

I'm a graphic designer, art director and allround design enthusiast. I'm also the owner of Ontherockz Concept & Creatie, provider of marketing based creativity and wodka red bull lover.
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