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Staging the message – public lecture by Jan van Toorn

Visual designer and critical thinker

Public Lecture
Tuesday 26 September 2017
16.30 – 18.00

BA Visual Communication – Camera Arts
Lucerne School of Art and Design

Viscosistadt, 745, 1. OG, Camera Arts
Nylsuissseplatz 1, 6020 Emmenbrücke


Image: Video still from Staging the message' – The open work of Jan van Toorn, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2014

Jan van Toorn (1932) studied graphic design at the Institute of arts and crafts in Amsterdam where he maintains a practice in communication design since 1957. The emotional charge and open character of van Toorn’s design work stems from his interest in investigating visual meaning and the social role of design in the media as opposed to purely practical requirements.
For many years Jan van Toorn taught visual communication at a range of academies and universities, including Gerrit Rietveld academy, Amsterdam, the Department of architecture of Technical university Eindhoven and the Multi-media department of the State academy of fine arts in Amsterdam. As associate professor he taught in the MA programme of design at Rhode Island school of design, Providence USA. From 1991 until 1998 he was director of the Jan van Eyck academy in Maastricht, transforming it into a postgraduate center for fine art, design and theory.
An internationally recognized master of graphic design and visual essay, his radical teaching and practice were highly influential on the younger generation of Dutch designers, image makers and visual communicators.

See Jan van Toorn’s contribution to CA Positions

Staging the message in communication design on strategy, method and language use

Communication – vital in all aspects of life – is the ‘core business’ of design as meaning production. Since meaning is generated in a mutual process, mirroring relations between participants in the social, political and economic field, it is by its very nature unstable and provisional.

Communication design deals with the image and its mediation as a narrative argument, with which the public can actively engage. Concentrating on the critical ‘journalistic’ tradition that works in between representation and presentation, the lecture by Jan van Toorn will focus on critical tools for visual storytelling as well as analyzing the mechanisms when staging of the (visual) message in present day media context.

This lecture is part of the workshop ‘staging the message’, which will be taught at the Camera Arts program in September 2017. This workshop originates from the communication design programs of the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (USA). More recently, the workshop was conducted at, among others, St. Joost Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Breda, Kunsthochschule Kassel, London College of Communication UAL, Hogeschool voor de Kunsten PXL-Mad Faculty, Hasselt, and Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe.

The field of visual narratives and visual storytelling is a main focus of various study programs and research initiatives at the Lucerne University of Sciences and Arts, School of Art and Design. In particular the BA Visual Communication – Camera Arts program focuses on contemporary photographic media and image practices.


Calendar Page 8, June, 1972. Glamor
From a video portrait of Jan van Toorn, produced by Submarine, Femke Wolting & Bruno Felix
, Commissioned by DutchDFA
. 2013

Rick Poynor: Jan van Toorn: Critical Practice, 2008, nai 010 Publishers
Book design by Simon Davies, Rotterdam

Jan Van Toorn: Design’s Delight: Method and Means of a Dialogic Practice, 2007. 010 Publishers

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