Key Note: The Rietveld-Schröder House

Nick Evans


De Stijl – Phillosophy and People

Truus Schröder – Life and Character

The Rietveld-Schröder House

Some Questions

The house in question  is in Utrecht, Holland. It is a listed world heritage sight.

Image result for Schröder House

De Stijl  (The Style)

 Originated in Hollands in 1917 after the publication of the De Stijl magazine (more like an academic journal). It was believed that it would be the be all and end all of design. No other style would be necessary. It began in response to WWI, a creation of perfect order through minimalist design.

With the dawn on mass mechanization the armies of the world had the ability to murder one another more ruthlessly than ever. The nature of the war had been not only to cause massive death but destroying utterly the areas in which it was staged. Shelling bombardments reducing ground to a pock marked wasteland, carnage and disarray. De Stijl sought to oppose this.

M.c.Escher 1898-1972

His work is mathematically precise as a result of his response to the chaos and disorder that WWI brought. He retreated into a world of order and became a hallmark of what De Stijl stood for.

De Stijl manifesto was created to express the point about what practitioners believed and what they aspired to achieve. Often they are written in a dogmatic style ‘we believe this, and you should too.’

Extracted quotes

‘The old is connected with the individual. The new is connected with the universal.’

– reduce the opportunity for individuals the act irrationally and lash out at one another-

‘They have eradicated that which blocks pur artistic expression.’

-a style without using forms from nature-

‘Artists of today have been driven by the universality of art.’

-everyone agrees with this-

Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944

Wassily Kandinsky took to the ideas of De Stijl in th post WWI era, inspiring many with his simplistic geometric re-imagining of the world.

Dancers 1916

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Composition VIII (the cow) 1918

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Bart van der Leck 1876-1958

Bart van der Leck was a prolific artist during the late 19th and early 20th century who was a source of inspiration for Kandinsky’s ‘Composition III’. He went so far as to re-imagine one of his famous pieces in the distinctive De Stijl minimalism.

Piet Mondrian

Pier Mondrian was heavily influenced by Van Gogh. His work becomes more and more abstract as time went on with the below pieces (left to right) red tree -grey tree-flowering apple tree.

Mondrian became entirely  abstract. Reducing image to black and white, straight lines both vertical and horizontal, primary colours and shades of grey.

Image result for mondrian composition original

“Neo-plasticism is a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form.” – Mondrian

Neo-plasticism and de Stijl are much the same.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld 1888-1964

The red blue chair – an attempt to take a chair and reduce it to its barest components in the spirit of De Stijl. He went on to build the Schröder House.

Truus Schroder Schrader (1889-1985)

Truus Schroder Shrader was the one to commission Rietveld to buld her house. She was a radical. An atheist free thinker and did not get on with her traditionalist husband. She wanted to use the design of her house to reflect and enforce this. She had it designed to be extremely plain and simple as a form of protest against the general opulence of conventional life with her husband.

The House

  • Designed to be built out of new material – concrete. But it wasn’t practical so they made it out of bricks and rendered it to look concrete.
  • Open plan which was contrary to planning permission. The idea being to be truly transparent, you can’t hide things from people with no walls.
  • The ideas of neo-plasticism are quite communistic, Shroder wanted everything to be available. She would watch banned movies at home with her family.
  • Shroder wanted to be as close as possible to nature. Living accommodation of the first floor to be away from the road. Big corner windows to open out to nature.
  • She had a speaking tube and a hatch so people could deliver goods to her without her seeing them. This seems to suggest that for all her ideals, she was not above acting as an elitist.
  • The planning application had to be altered drastically and filled with miss information to guarantee it would be aloud to go ahead as such  modernist concept would not be looked kindly upon.


My Thoughts

As I progress through my first year of study into Graphic Design I’ve come to realise the interlinked nature of all the work and research I have undertaken. De Stijl is a revolutionary art style, not perhaps because it was particularly good or nuanced, but because it was a reaction to circumstances.

De Stijl wasn’t simply a nice or beautiful style, style is subjective. But it was a form of protest against the chaos its practitioners felt surrounded them. It was a product of the times. Without the influence of WWI De Stijl wouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy.

In my Constellation lectures I have been studying fashion trends. Many of these have appeared ridiculous on their face, until you delve deeper and come to understand the message those involved were trying to convey. Design as artworks, clothing and architecture are all tools to convey messages. As renowned designer, Matthew Shannon said “Design isn’t just about making things pretty, anyone can do that.”

I personally don’t think much of De Stijl, its philosophy suggests minimalism, yet the Schroder house, one of its greatest legacies, is a complex angular mess that seems highly impractical as living space. But knowing the context in which is was created. I’ve learned about its value as an idea.


Constellation SLTS 4/8 – Zoot Suits and Teds

In this lecture we began to look further into the motivations of certain groups within society and culture to cultivate styles and fashion statements. We looked at examples of fashion being used as protest, as activism and as way to challenge hegemonic values.

The Zoot Suit

Fashion is weird

The Zoot Suit emerged during World War II in inner city America. It was a style created and worn by African American and Latino minorities. It is a resignification (Clark, Hall and Jefferson 1975, p110) of the traditional suit. The suit is about as establishment as an item of dress can be. Worn by gentlemen associated with class, success and  acumen. Middle or upper class, mainstream members of society.

What the Zoot suit did was to take the traditional notion of a suit and turn it on its head. Where a suit tends to be unassuming and smart (often grey, black or navy), with practical fittings and accutrements. The Zoot Suit was often depicted in garish greens and yellows, in an attempt to stand out. This combined with exaggeration is every aspect of the ensemble. Flared trousers, large collars, oversize hats and chains and excessively long suit jackets.

The intent behind this manner of dress was to some degree, conspicuous wealth. Wearing impractically exaggerated clothing to show that you could. However it was also an act of rebellion. Firstly, the concept of the suit had been altered dramatically, breaking with generally accepted rules of dress. Not only this but by 1942, rationing of fabric dictated that excessive outfits such as a Zoot suit, were now effectively illegal. They were considered unpatriotic as were their wearers.

All of these connotations were purposefully designed. The garments were designed as protest against America’s hypocrisy in fighting Jewish repression in Europe while actively segregating at home. and using African American and other minority troops to fight. The Zoot suit was a method of expressing ones convictions through clothing and style. It was more than clothing, it was the way you walked and the way you talked. African American Jive was a movement at the time within music and Zoot Suit wearers employed its slang to define themselves against White Americans.

The key to a movement such as this is that they do not invent new apparel, but instead employ clothing with a given meaning and corrupt or alter it to suit their needs and upset the establishment in doing so.


The Teddy Boys

At the outset of the 1950s working class boys and young men began to adopt a new style of clothing. As they begn to earn disposable incomes they created a pseudo ‘unifrom’ based on the Edwardian Gentleman’s attire, recently reintroduced by Saville Rowe .

The Teddy movement was a revolution is fashion and social norms as rough street kids were now dressing in the manner of the aristocracy and creating a negative associatin with the style. Crimes by ‘Teddy Boys’ were widely reported and polite society was deeply wary of them. This had connotations for the upper classes who did not want such negative associations.

This act of resignification of a brand or style is in the same vain as the chavs adopting Burberry. Burberry wanted nothing to do with the new trend but had no control over who bought their clothing and how they effected the brand perception.

Where Zoot suits and Teds share ground

  • Both trends were fundamentally linked to existing hegemonic styles. They did not invent a new style. They simply invented a new expression by changing the meaning of that style. Resignification through exaggerating, enhancing and adapting items of existing styles.
  • The lower rungs of society (Racial Minorities in America and Working class British lads) adopted items of clothing from the higher rungs (White middle class Americans and the British aristocracy. They owned them and made them theirs.
  • Both movements were at some level, protest movements. The Zoot Suit wearers protesting the social injustice of segregation and the Teds the entrenched class system that had placed them at the bottom of the heap and discriminated against them for their roots.

Clothes provide the instruments that empower the body to counteract a dominant ideology”

-Tulloch, 2006, p304

This quote exemplifies the important role of dress in society. It is a method within the overarching practice of design that can bring about societal and cultural change through challenging and rebelling against the norm.

My Thoughts

The further into fashion trends and societal subcultures we probe, the more I’ve come to understand that fashion is not simply an aimless and unguided series of people trying to stand out. Instead, it is a complex phenomenon of visual language wherein people attempt to convey sentiments without words. Anything can be a stimulus of a fashion trend. Anything can be incorporated into that trend. And any position can be demonstrated with that trend.


London Calling – 4 Designers Conference

Last Sunday we went to London to the Four Designers conference, hosted by Patrick Baglee. The conference was an eye opening look into the various careers that can be made through design, the challenges, rewards, opportunities and struggles. We heard from those who had set up successful agencies and earned notoriety for their work.

The conference took place over several hours and I heard a huge volume of advice, recounted experiences and examples of work. I couldn’t possibly recount everything but I’ve condensed my post into the nuggets of wisdom that drew me in the most.

Matthew Shannon – BRASH BRANDS


Matthew Shannon is a highly respected graphic designer who has, during the course of his career worked for Atelier Works, Addison Group, Meta Design and Getty images. Of his lecture his explanation of the complexity of the job of a graphic designer hit home for me most of all. He explained the process by which he helped re-brand the Skoda car company.

In 2001 Skoda was bought by Volkswagen. They gained much needed investment and began to innovate. They required a re-brand. Shannon explained how Skoda was often ridiculed for being a terrible car company, he gave us some examples of this:

“What do you call a Skoda with a sun-roof?    –    A skip”

The trick, he explained. Was to understand the audience for your brand. It was clear that people’s perception of Skoda was poor, so the key would be to work off that knowledge. This lead the team to create the tag line “It’s a Skoda. Honest.” The genius of this is exceptional to me. Acknowledge to the audience that Skodas of the past were as terrible as percieved. But these new vehicles? You can hardly believe they are made by the same people, they’re so good. Owning the stereotype and disarming consumer’s prejudice.

This level of work of the part of a design agency was something I had not considered until this point. I understood that to create a brand, research was required. But as Shannon said “for a brief while, a designer must become an expert in the field he is designing for”.

THINK    —    RETHINK    —    DO

This simple idea was very helpful to me. As Shannon said, once you have all the information and understanding you need (THINK) and have explored every avenue (RETHINK), the design stage itself (DO) is relatively simple. The trap some fall into is that they begin drawing up ideas (DO) first. Leaving them little room for maneuver and severely compromising the effectiveness of their work. I realise that I have been guilty of this in the past but now feel I can look at future projects with fresh eyes.

Other Good Advice

  • Learn as much as you can about other cultures, design does not exist in a vacuum. It is an ever changing, morphing phenomenon that is approached very differently across the world.
  • Be ready for change, at any moment your business model could become obsolete and you must adapt quickly.
  • Do not neglect anything. If a business has a positive aspect they are not capitalizing on, make sure it is utilized. If they have socially responsible schemes and non one knows. Highlight them to the public.
  • Don’t be insular. Get other people’s opinions, share your ideas, use outsiders to publicize. Use social media. Get feedback.


Joanna Davis – ZAK

Joanna Davies is the founder of ZAK. A design agency that she created from her own home. ZAK is an audience focused design agency that seeks to engage influential under 30s. Their main focus is on turning around struggling brands. They have worked with the likes of L’oréal, Vodafone, Southern Comfort and the BBC.

Her talk centered around an advertising campaign for New Balance Football. A small Football equipment brand in comparison to Adidas or Nike. As a result of this ZAK did a great deal of audience research. Asking young people interested in sports and sports wear what they wanted to see from a brand. What they discovered was that instead of placing footballing stars on pedestals, as was the norm. They wanted to see them as simply people. It’s easy to identify someone if you don’t see them as some form of Demigod.

The campaign brief was to advertise to types of football shoe. ZAK decided that on the very limited budget they were afforded, they should combine both shoes into one advert. Thus saving costs and setting the standard for such ads in the future. They also used a clever slogan. A signature of the NBFootball brand is that each shoe released is numbered. ZAK therefore incorporated this into the ‘NUMBERS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS’ campaign.

These are all simply anecdotes of past work. But they illustrate the real world role of a designer and a design agency. The the rich variety of responsibilities and tasks spanning every aspect of society. No two projects are ever the same. I learned an awful lot from Joanna about the uncertain nature of this profession. every problem has a unique solution.

Joanna’s Top Tips

  • Be clear on what sets you aside from the crowd. Your experiences give you a unique perspective and thus a unique outcome.
  • Street smarts, be adaptive.
  • Be innovative, stand out.
  • Ambition is key, always seek to improve yourself.
  • Learn to compromise and work with others.
  • Do all the research you can.
  • Don’t take failure to heart
  • Understand your client before anything else.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help





Matt Baxter is one half of the Brighton based design group, Baxter & Bailey. A small yet prodigious design company founded in 2012.  Matt began his lecture with a piece of insight I thought was very interesting. A quote.

“Anybody can be an expert in anything, given 10,000 hours of practice”

-Malcom Gladwell

I feel as though many at the outset of their undergraduate studies, including myself, were under the impression that their abilities in drawing and digital software were going to allow them an easy entrance to the world of Graphic Design. But this quote put that in perspective. There is no way to breeze through such a career. It is methodical and requires training and insight. Simply drawing nice looking things won’t do.

Matt’s top tips…And then the opposite tips.


Take every opportunity you can get, enter competitions, find placements, be commited to learning as much as you can and being seen.


In this line of work you will forever come up against challenges you have never faced before, you will always find yourself out of your depth at some point so just power through and learn as you go.


Visit galleries, travel, learn about design in other cultures. Not every culture has the same approach to design. Draw from every source you can.


Don’t devalue your own work by doing unpaid placements and giving away what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

The Counters


Be selective about who you work for, do your best to insure your client does not contravene your personal moral code. They may have dubious practices etc.


If you find you are no longer struggling to perform your role, then you may well have gotten complacent and you will quickly tire of your work. Don’t be afraid to work beyond your knowledge but you can ask for help.


Work for places in your area, try to revitalize local businesses and interests of yours.


Don’t be taken advantage of with unpaid placements. But by all means work for good causes and improve yourself in the process while being unpaid. Case in point, Baxter & Bailey did a piece for the Guild of Food Writers which still appears in top charts of all tie design work. A small project with little of no budget worked on during lunch breaks.

Image result for food writers guild logo

I absolutely love this piece. It’s like the visual equivalent of a perfect pun. It plays on image so cleverly in such a neat and minimalist way. I fully understand the attention this design has received. It serves as a strong reminder that the ‘doing’ process, actually drawing out a design. Is just a small part of the process. The idea needs all the effort. You need to work and work at finding the perfect idea before creation can begin.

My Thoughts

For fear of repeating myself, the Four Designers Conference was an hugely enlightening experience for me. In my work up to this point, I have been so eager to get to work and start putting pen to paper than I have possibly sabotaged myself and my final outcome by limiting my options for innovation. The first idea that may pop into my head may well be stimulated by a memory of something I have seen done before, rendering the product a copy, or at least something unremarkable.

The emphasis the designer I met was universally on the methodical process of research and just thinking about things. Read the brief ever so carefully and develop you ideas. Don’t rush into anything. My perspective has been entirely changed on Design and I am better off for it.

Improvement is always possible

The original

In a recent level 4 Field project. I, and my group were asked to create media relating to a Manifesto we had written, that spoke to the message of the manifesto and exemplified our views. Here is a link to that.

As part of the work I did for that brief. I created a series of anti poaching pieces, giving snapshots of the problem with poaching statistics form around the world. Here is an original piece of mine from that project.


While I was very pleased with the outcome of the piece. I felt I had been constrained by time limits and decided to work further on the piece in my own time. I wanted the poster to have more shock value and further enhance its three dimensional nature that I had begun to create with the use of bullet holes. 50 TIGERS POSTER BLOOD.jpg

The final product

In this final piece I made a subtle, but to my mind, important alteration. I wanted people to really grasp what the poster was telling them. When people hear of disasters in some far away place, either natural or man made, it is easy to become detached and not to comprehend the nature of what has happened. I wanted this poster to be informative, but also to have somewhat of a narrative. The poster is bleeding, as a lion no doubt bled when killed by poachers.

This porject was simply for my own satisfaction. This is a cause I feel strongly about and so I wanted to illustrate that in the quality of my work.

Constellation SLTS 3/8 Hip Hop Styles

Best Practice in academic writing

As our constellation work would involve essay writing, we were asked to paraphrase academic quotations, the need for paraphrasing is simply conveying the message of what can be a long winded and overly complex statement in as simple terms as possible. Until now i hadn’t realised that paraphrasing required citation.

Direct Quotation requires: Quotation marks, author, year of publication and page number.

Paraphrasing requires: Author, year of publication.

Additional: All sources and materials used must be collated into a bibliography.

Key Terms in the study of subculture

Construction: Putting a style together through a selective process. Picking and choosing from all manner of cultural and social influences to build a look.

Our job is to analyse this process piece by piece and understand the significance of and motivation behind the choice of each accoutrement.

Resignification: A term coined to describe the inflection of given meanings and alter them for them. Can be achieved by Modification, Intensifying, Exaggerating or Isolating the item.

1980’s Hip Hop Style

Image result for 1980s hip hop style

We were provided academic quotes from Whitely, Z and Kellner, D regarding their work on the Hip Hop culture and trends of the 1980s and asked to paraphrase and condense the information.

During the Capitalist boom of the 1980’s the focus of many became conspicuous consumption. People felt the need to demonstrate their wealth by the way they dressed. The ideal way to achieve this was to wear as much expensive jewelry and accoutrements as possible. This quickly became competitive. Who was the biggest and the baddest? Who could spray their graffiti tag in the busiest area? Who was the most popular music artist? Who wore the most gold and jewelry?

Brands and their associations were co-opted into the Hip Hop style. The intent was to emulate the perceived associations a brand carried. Juxtaposition of items demonstrated the fashion taking precedence over functionality. Heavy gold chains paired with Adidas sports wear. Trilby hats that demonstrated wealth and social position in past eras of fashion were incorporated.

Image result for beastie boys hood ornament

At one time the need for brand association in the style lead to people wearing car hood ornaments of expensive manufacturers such as mercedes and VW. As seen in this image of the Beastie Boys.

Context is everything to fashion. Every item, the way it is worn, what it is worn with, when it is worn. Many African Americans in the hiphop movement of the 80s teamed what by then was the established Hip Hop look with African garb to show solidarity and pride in their heritage and support for those in South Africa fighting Apartheid.

Style is a fluid and ever changing phenomenon. Anything can be a catalyst for change and bring about the emergence of a new look. In the 2000s lower income people, seeing that Burberry was highly regarding by wealthy celebrities, began buying into the brand. A brands identity is vital to its success. An expensive brand works through exclusivity. A consumer pays extra to wear something few can. Burberry suffered under this new trend as middle and working classes started buying their clothes and copycat companies began making knock-off versions. Brands influence consumers, but consumers influence brands in return.

Who wore it better?

Emma Watson endorsing Burberry
Burberry ‘Chav’


An example of the negative associations ‘chavs’ created for Burberry’s brand name.


This work has helped me to sculpt my process as a designer. Graphic Design is something I’ve always considered to be largely subjective. Different styles and different approaches appeal to different people. One person might like a brand or a logo and another may find it entirely unappealing. But the analytical nature of the Smells Like Teen Spirit course has helped me to understand a scientific method for understanding why things in fashion and equally in design are the way they are.



Constellation SLTS 2/8 Goth Subcultures

In our second constellation we again focused on a specific cultural statement, its birth, its definition and the tributary styles of the past and influences that lead to its creation. We learned that anything in culture can be inspiration for an art or fashion movement. With an fashion or trend, there is no fixed point. It is constantly evolving and changing as people alter items and objects to create an ensemble that is unique.

The main tenants of street subculture is that it is something not commercially available. It is a living thing created by individuals on a day to day basis. Once a look or a trend becomes established, it becomes commercially available on the high street and becomes a parent culture, a mainstream idea. In our lecture we sought to understand the reasons and analyse the processes behind various offshoots of the Goth culture.

The Goth Look

Image result for goth

With any popular fashion or trend, most people can identify a rough estimation of the main tenants of that look. Goths tend to wear pale make-up, dark clothing, studs and crucifixes. The overall look is sickly and pale. The reasoning for this is the basis for the trend. Goth was inspired by Gothic literature, Dracula, Frankenstein etc. The occult and the undead.


Victoriana is a subculture of the Goth style which incorporates and reappropriates elements from Victorian high fashion. Referring to past styles is nothing new to fashion, as we saw last week with Jean Paul Gautier’s vintage style corset and pantsuit designed for Madonna.

Victoriana, as with many styles, is an amalgamation of previous looks. There is no attempt to appear authentically Victorian. Simply to utilize items of fashion from the period. In the above image, the woman is wearing traditional mourning wear, the dress, corst, long sleeves and fascinator (futher association with death) and carries a parasol. However she is also wearing white makeup with black lipstick, known as ‘vamp’ makeup.

The key to this lecture was the constant evolution of dress. Anything can be used to create a look regardless of its original purpose or time period. These sub-cultures could not be manufactured. Individuals  had to create their own outfits, either with sowing machines or by trawling charity shops. Additions such as makeup, cobweb or skeleton jewelry were unique to the  wearer. If the look is mass manufactured. Then it is no longer a subculture and quickly it becomes the thing that it attempted to be seperte from. The cycle then continues with subculture branching away from it.



Constellation SLTS 1/8

In our first constellation lecture of the term we were introduced the the concept of analyzing fashion in its cultures and subcultures . The deep connotations and significances of each item of clothing or jewelry. Our main focus in the lecture was on Madonna and her outfit worn on her 1990 ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour.


In the tour Madonna wears an outfit created by famous fashion designer Jean Paul Gautier. Our task was to analyse what styles the outfit drew from and what elements were original to it. And explain the likely reasons behind these choices.

We first looked at the pinstriped, navy pantsuit. A classic symbol of traditional masculinity, a working man’s outfit. The implication is clear, a feminist statement on the part of Madonna, she is wearing a man’s clothing. The cuts in the chest of the outfit are also significant. They slightly reveal the undergarments, highlighting Madonna’s breasts and revealing femininity.

Part way through the show, Madonna removes her pantsuit to reveal what’s been lurking beneath. A pink, silky corset. It radiates femininity in sharp contrast to the pantsuit. However, it does not conform to the traditional context of a corset. A corset was an undergarment to pull in a woman’s waist and lift her bosom leaving her chest rounded. Madonna is sporting a conical bra which achieves precisely the opposite effect. The sharp aggressive appearance denotes feminine power.

Another aspect of fashion is style over substance. The suit is a statement. The holes cut out serve no practical purpose and actually inhibit the practicality of the item. The same goes for the corset that does not function as a corset would traditionally and does not function at all as underwear as it is clearly being warn over the trousers.

Everything in fashion comes to the fore within a cultural context, an outfit such as Madonna’s was a controversial talking point in 1990. But in a more conservative era, it would never have been permissible. Fashion pushes boundaries but can only reach so far before it is quashed. Fashion is also a response to current cultural, social and political shifts. In this period, rights and acceptance for the LGBT  community were in their infancy and Madonna was a powerful advocate on their behalf. Her outfit reflects this, confusing and muddying the waters of what are given to be traditional gender roles.

Despite never being particularly in tune with fashion, being a generic jeans and t-shirt kind of person. I feel this topic can relate to my practice in that fashion is a constantly evolving phenomenon in culture and is encompassed in the broad spectrum of design in the same manner as Graphic Communication. The ability to analyse the reasons for change can translate into my area of design and allow me to better understand the field I am entering into.