Focus On: Shifting perspectives in graphic design history



Shifting perspectives in graphic design history

When BINGO started to investigate private and public archives in order to research the history of graphic design, we wondered which stories we wanted to tell.

Compared to its neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands or France, graphic design in Belgium is a subject which has poorly been researched or exhibited in the past. While visiting archives across the country, the quality and the diversity of material is impressive and inspiring. We realised the importance of the work that was still to be accomplished in the making of a Belgian graphic design history.

However, this absence of previous research also brought more freedom today to explore which way we would like to explore and present this history. On the other hand, with few historical sources, we also faced some difficulties to find reliable information. The Focus On series rassembles a first research through different private as public archives. We sometimes had the chance meet the graphic designers of the selected works. In a few cases, we didn’t manage to find more information than a name. The exhibition presents this first research as a work in progress which can hopefully develop further in the coming years.

This series brings the spotlight on graphic designers who have been out of the radar of the professional history and furthermore in this case a focus on female graphic designers. Through this first case study of Belgian graphic design, we realised the importance of researching graphic designers not only as individuals but as a part of a larger network of associations and cultural organisations. FOCUS ON was a first step for BINGO to take contact with graphic designers and associations, as well as to present works publicly.

With this series of posters, the Institute undertakes a contemporary perspective on figures which have shaped the graphical environment of Belgium. While looking on the selection of posters, we can notice how these posters resonates with what is being made today.

Shopping centres, through the identity of Westland and Woluwe shopping, have received colourful and smooth forms through the creations of Sami and Sophie Alouf. The iconic logo of Jazz Middelheim from Frie Soomers convinces the audience to hear the music throughout its visualization, an identity that had been resonating for 15 years. Passing by the cinema, the documentary film’s poster ‘The War of Mummies’ made by Anne Delcoigne brings attention to the Chilean class war in 1974. While going to the S.M.A.K museum when it was under the directory of Jan Hoet, Marleen Deceukelier was responsible for the graphic design of all activities organised by the museum, like for example the book of the famous exhibition Chambres d’amis of 1986, but also had an international reputation. She designed the wonderful poster for Documenta IX which was set in Kassel from June to September 1992. From sculptress to photographer, Jeanine Behaegel has also been in her earlier role as the graphic designer for De Korrekelder theater in her home city Bruges.


Jeanine Behaeghel, Paradijs, Korrekelder, 1963 ©Letterenhuis.

Jeanine Behaeghel

Today Jeanine Behaeghel (1940-1993) is best known as a painter and sculptor, but has been present in many ways as a photographer and graphic designer.

She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Bruges, then in Düsseldorf and London, after which she returned to Bruges. She designed the identity for De Korrekelder, the famous theater on the Kraanplein in Bruges in 1961. Jeanine Behaeghel made many posters, theater programs and advertisements for De Korrekelder. After this period as graphic designer she had her first exhibition as a painter and focused more on her career as an autonomous artist.

S & S Alouf, Le Cirque Echanté de Saint Nicolas/Het Tovecircus van Sinterklaas, Woluwe Shopping Center, 1974.

Sophie & Sami Alouf

The Sinterklaas poster was designed in 1974 by Sophie Alouf and her husband Sami Alouf for the Woluwe Shopping Center. The poster was screen printed to 50 copies. Sophie Alouf studied Visual Arts at la Cambre in Brussels. She worked as a freelance graphic designer for various companies and organizations, both nationally and internationally.

In Belgium she worked for the Museum of Fine Arts, the Design Center and the Woluwe and Westland shopping centers. Her graphic work is a collaboration with her husband, graphic designer Sami Alouf, together they operate under the name S+S Alouf. In addition to her career as a designer, Sophie Alouf was responsible for the Graphic Design Atelier in Saint Luc Brussels and taught at La Cambre in the typography department.

Frie Soomers, Jazz Middelheim, 1976.

Frie Soomers

Frie Soomers was appointed in 1974 as the graphic designer for the Antwerp jazz festival Jazz Middelheim. She succeeded designer Frans de Jonck and used his design as the basis for her new contribution. Between 1974 and 1989, the period in which Soomers worked for Jazz Middelheim, the visual identity of the jazz festival remained unchanged. In its strong design from 1974, each edition was changed only a few elements, such as the year and sponsors.

The green background reflected Park Den Brandt, where the festival has been taking place. The idiosyncratic logo, which makes the initials of Jazz Middelheim with musical notes, has grown into an icon and was a landmark for the festival for 15 years.

Anne Delcoigne, Der krieg der mumien, 1975 ©AMSAB

Anne Delcoigne

We have very few information on Anne Delcoigne. It is by researching the posters conserved at AVG-Carhif, the Belgian Archives and Research Center for Women’s History, that we gained more insight into her practice as a graphic designer.  ‘Abortion, the woman decides!’ Is a poster in a series for Women’s Day in 1976 which Delcoigne designed and which attracted our attention in the archives. Later on, we also found posters designed by her at the Institute for Social History in Gent (AMSAB), such as this beautiful poster for the movie ‘The War of Mummies’  from 1974.

Documenta IX, Marleen Deceukelier 1992. (Drawing Dietmar Guderian Leibniz, Newton and Displacement)

Marleen Deceukelier

During Marleen Deceukelier’s career at the S.M.A.K. Museum in Ghent, she was responsible for the graphic design of all activities organised by the museum. Among other things, Deceukelier also designed the catalogue for the famous exhibition Chambres d’Amis in 1986, as well as the poster for Documenta IX. This ninth edition of the five-yearly exhibition took place from June to September 1992 in Kassel and was curated by Jan Hoet. Marleen Deceukelier sometimes worked under the pseudonym eMDé.