Paul Schuitema / Graphic Design / About Design

Paul Schuitema – typography

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Paul Schuitema was a great pioneer in the field of typography, and mastered other areas such as photography and filmmaking. His designs were fresh and innovative for the time and still is very influential designers of today. He was one of the ‘founders’ of modern typography, setting the building blocks for a typographical revolution,


Geert Paul Hendrikus Schuitema, born on February 27, 1897 in the Netherlands. He initially studied painting at the ‘Academie door Beeldende Kunsten’ in Rotterdam. It wasn’t until the early 1920s before he transferred his interests and thoughts to graphic design.

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After World War I, Schuitema left painting and adopted early modernism: his interest in mass production and technology prompted him to apply the principles of De Stijl, Constructivism and Bauhaus, as well as advertising and print media.

He was a member of Kurt Schwitter’s “The Ring of New Faith” (“The Circle of New Advertising Designers”), which included his contemporaries: Piet Zwart, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, and Jan Tschichold.

Schuitema, Zwart, and Gerard Killen were known for their experimental use of photography in the printing house and soon became the leading Dutch teachers in this field. With his experimental use of photography, Schuitema made a significant contribution to the “New Photography” movement, later becoming one of the first teachers at the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. He also taught design and photography there.

He wasn’t active during the World War 2. Starting at 1945, he focused more on furniture design.

Van Berkel Patent

Paul Schuitema received most of his recognition by working for NV Maatschappij Van Berkel Patent company in Rotterdam. He gained his fame thanks to the original design of stationery and promotional materials, often using only black, red and white colors, and bold font.

One of the most famous works for this company was his Berkel scales advertising. In this work, he has already switched to using photos in his projects in the same way as his colleague Zwart, who developed the same methods.

The photo takes up most of the space because it advertises the product, and is supported only in a small font. A good example is the Toledo Berkel Snelwegers brochure.

The shape and location of the machines creates a stimulating pattern. The distinction between red and white colors is created by a series of machines, which facilitates faster transmission, while the photo is two-sided, which means that the white color is more easily absorbed. The inscription is far in the left corner, away from the main active images.

Red color immediately draws attention to the contrast of the photo, so you see the image, but it soon turns into the image on the left, because it is more legible. Bold font was also a part of this work The short distance between the letters makes them easier to read. Black color creates a nice contrast to make it easy to read. You get all of the information without unnecessary data, which means that it is more efficient and understandable to read.

In any case, the font, which runs at an angle through the center, is much more exciting. It is printed in red, so it contrasts with the black metal of the car and the white table, while keeping the color style as simple as possible. He wrote this inscription in thicker and bold type because it indicates the USP (unique selling point) of the product: it has 3,000,000 weighing operations. This is the most important part of the font and this is the reason for buying these scales, because it conveys the capabilities of the product and shows that it is a long-term solution. This is a great example of his work and shows the printing at the time in Netherlands.


After Dolle Dinsdag (September 5, 1944), he officially joined the resistance forces, taking the lead in the National Film and Photo Report Service. After the war, Schuitema and his three partners founded the Dutch Film Production Association (Nederlandse Werkgemeenschap voor Filmproductie, NWF) in Haarlem and gave impetus to the formation of the Dutch Filmmakers Guild (Beroepsvereniging van Nederlandse Cineasten). In each case, membership was limited to those artists whose behavior during the occupation was impeccable. In 1946, Schuitema presented his short film “Les Ponts de la Meuse” at the Cannes Film Festival.

His first American exhibition took place in March 1993 at the Prakapas Gallery in New York. He designed brochures and advertisements for Dutch companies such as Philips, Boele & Van Eesteren, De Vries Robbé and ENCI.

Paul Schuitema has taught several generations of Dutch designers, who continue his tradition of graphic design, developed for public service, and which gave the Netherlands the value that they retain today in the history of graphics.

He died on October 25, 1973 at the age of 76.